Author: Burkhardt, Ellen
Date published: April 1, 2011
A Hollywood tale, via Minneapolis
If you've seenPsyc/jo, Vertigo, North by Northwest, or just about any other mid-century Alfred Hitchcock film, you've heard Bernard Herrmann. His suspenseful scores helped make them classics.
But hardly anyone has seen or heard Herrmann's sole opera, a twisted take on Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights fig. 2 i. It's been produced only once since its completion in 1951. And almost no one knows he finished it far from Hollywood- in Minneapolis.
"It's one of those cult operas that everyone talks about but nobody stages," says Dale Johnson, the artistic director of the Minnesota Opera. Herrmann forbade all attempts to edit the opera during his lifetime. But this month, Johnson will give a second, shortened staging of the opera he calls "cinematic, romantic, hypnotic, and a little threatening"- not unlike, it seems, Herrmann himself.
"He was obsessive and difficult," Johnson says of the former child prodigy. "He was attracted to the dark side of things. In many ways, he was living the story." Which explains his Midwest pit-stop: He was bunking here with his pal Di mi tri Mitropoulos, the former conductor of the Minneapolis Symphony (now the Minnesota Orchestra), to escape marital problems, having recently divorced his wife.
As it happens, the music wound up as spooky as ever. "It sounds like his movies," Johnson says. "Beautiful melodies, a complex, harmonic foundation-it's brilliant." * Wuthering Heights runs April 16 to 23 at the Ordway Center, mnopera.org