Phillip Kennicott, in his review of Osvaldo Golijov's opera "Ainadamar" [" 'Ainadamar': Agony and Ecstasy in Santa Fe," Style, Aug. 15], said that "new operas continue to come from older, established artists, and opera companies continue to make the hefty and often under-appreciated investment in new work." But "fresh voices," he said, "are sadly few."
Perhaps the problem is not that such fresh voices are rare but, rather, that young composers are not afforded opportunities to develop in the operatic field. Opera companies, when they perform and commission new works at all, often will not risk as expensive a proposition as an opera on untested talent. They generally prefer to commission and produce work by "older, established artists." Often, however, these artists are not necessarily established in the field of opera, and their works may fail at many of the same structural and dramatic issues that Mr. Kennicott decried as so rarely done well.
Opera is as complex an art as they come. Many of its greatest composers did not prove themselves until their second, third or fourth attempts. As towering a figure as Wagner had to get his feet wet with "Die Feen," "Das Liebesverbot" and "Rienzi" before achieving his first mature success with "The Flying Dutchman"; Mozart wrote about 10 operas, all rarely performed today, before succeeding in the medium with "Idomeneo" at the tender age of 25.
Composers today are rarely, if ever, granted opportunities to get their feet wet in opera, no matter how talented or gifted they might be in writing for the human voice and understanding the dramatic needs of the medium. It is this lack of resources, adventurousness and opportunity that should be decried, not the apparent lack of composers who could be competent in the operatic medium.
The writer is a composer, pianist and conductor.