Kentucky Opera couldn’t be more proud or excited to present A WOMAN IN MOROCCO this month, as part of our Kentucky Opera Composer Workshop and in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of the Festival of Faiths. This week, we were fortunate enough to communicate with Daron Hagen, composer of A WOMAN IN MOROCCO, and get his insights before the opera’s Louisville premiere later this month. The interview is below.
Kentucky Opera: For those who don’t know already, you are the composer of our featured contemporary opera, A WOMAN IN MOROCCO. Can you speak to the process of composing contemporary opera?
Daron Hagen: Composing Opera is the Mount Everest of musical challenges: you must combine the skills of a poet with the craft of a dramaturge; the wiles of an impresario with the practicality of an engineer; the inspiration to be able to give birth to a good tune with the passion for social change of a political activity. It takes years to write a full length opera, see it through development and production, and then turn around to revise it having learned what it is like on its feet before its next outing.
KO: A WOMAN IN MOROCCO is an adaptation from a play by your co-librettist Barbara Grecki. How did you know that Ms. Grecki’s play would translate successfully into opera?DH: Barbara Grecki’s play contained elements crucial to serious contemporary opera: psychologically complex, grown up characters grappling with important moral and ethical issues, emotionally gripping situations, lots of questions, and no pat answers.
KO: Are there any specific challenges in adapting a narrative, story, or production for opera?
DH: Turning an existing narrative into an opera involves deciding what the emotional and psychological ‘nuclear reactors’ are in each scene, and then organizing them into a coherent dramatic structure suitable for musicalization that helps explicate them.
KO: A WOMAN IN MOROCCO addresses the global atrocities of human trafficking and sexual violence. Can you speak to the role of A WOMAN IN MOROCCO in raising awareness for these issues in local and regional communities like Louisville?
DH: Anywhere humans interact one can find people capable of exploiting the weak, the powerless, and the vulnerable. The scourge of human trafficking manifests in even more forms than immediately come to mind: any time someone is coerced or manipulated into doing something that they know is wrong out of fear for their own safety, or that of their loved ones, trafficking is occurring. I wrote this opera to raise peoples’ awareness of that face, to fight, in the way that I know best, for trafficking victims.
Daron Hagen is one of our century’s foremost composers, with over 300 compositions in a wide variety of styles to his credit. Mr. Hagen has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, as well as an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award, and two Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Fellowships.
We hope you’ll join us for this special presentation of A WOMAN IN MOROCCO, made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts. Tickets are available here.