Muhly likes to shine, but opera plumbs dark side

Thu Jun 23, 2011 5:42pm EDT
 
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By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters) - Nico Muhly, 29, says he likes shiny objects, but his first opera, opening in London on Friday and headed later to the Metropolitan Opera in New York, is about the murky world of Internet impersonation and underage sex.

"Two Boys," based on a true story, is about an Internet liaison between two teenagers, one of whom, in a failed attempt to get himself killed, adopts a female identity on the web in order to lure the other boy to stab him to death.

It's the kind of world Muhly says the younger generation, himself included, must deal with in the Internet age, though rather than happening in some lonely cubicle at an Internet cafe, his musical version is being brought to the stage by the English National Opera (ENO) with the kind of fanfare normally lavished upon Lady Gaga's latest outfit.

"There's been a lot of press about it being an Internet-themed opera and I think that's true in as much as something like (Mozart's) 'Cosi Fan Tutte' is a marriage-themed opera," Muhly, dressed in T-shirt and slacks, said following a dress rehearsal in the ENO's home theater, the Coliseum.

"I mean the Internet is a delivery system for a much more old-fashioned story about yearning and longing and things that are quite standard to the operatic themes and repertoire -- the Internet is a sort of vessel for this emotional content that's been around for quite some time."

In other words, opera, as well as classical music, is being reinvented for the Internet age, and Muhly, who was born in Vermont and is the son of a painter and a documentary filmmaker, is doing his bit.

Even though he's not yet 30, the Juilliard graduate has been at it for a while now, ever since the release of his first CD "Speaks Volumes" in 2006, but reaching a much wider audience for his highly successful "Mothertongue" of 2008.

He also wrote the soundtrack for the movie "The Reader" and his latest album, "Seeing is Believing" with the Aurora Orchestra, was released this month.   Continued...