Opera audiences are well acquainted with all manners of intrigue — whether political, romantic or psychological. The exciting American composer Nico Muhly is updating that paradigm to the 21st century with his opera Two Boys.
This work, commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera, is loosely based on a true story from the 1990s, just at the birth of online culture. It delves into a curious and still very timely tale: a detective's investigation into the stabbing of one teenage boy by another, a crime that unspools within a web of chat room activity. Upon the piece's world premiere at the English National Opera in June 2011, New York Times critic Zachary Woolfe described Two Boys as "Muhly's best work yet." Two Boys arrives for its American premiere at the Met in October.
On May 14, Muhly teamed up with a spectacular group of friends for an intimate evening performance produced by the Met and (Le) Poisson Rouge that anticipates Two Boys' American debut. The performers represented the incredible range of Muhly's musical fluency: tenor and Two Boys star Paul Appleby; soprano Jennifer Zetlan, who starred in Muhly's 2011 chamber opera Dark Sisters and is also slated to sing in Two Boys at the Met; indie folk singer/songwriter Sam Amidon; frequent Muhly collaborator, violist (and Q2 host) Nadia Sirota; and duo violinists Angela and Jennifer Chun. With Muhly's entertaining and illuminating running commentary — and many exciting performances — this was definitely an evening to remember.
All music by Nico Muhly unless otherwise noted
Hudson Cycle (Nico Muhly, piano)
Etude 3 (Nadia Sirota, viola; Nico Muhly, piano)
JOHN ADAMS: Am I in Your Light (Jennifer Zetlan, soprano; Nadia Sirota, viola; Nico Muhly, piano)
Two Songs: "Last Words" and "Empty House" (Jennifer Zetlan, soprano and Nico Muhly, piano)
"I'm Scared for My Life" from Two Boys (Jennifer Zetlan, soprano; Nadia Sirota, viola; Nico Muhly, piano)
Etude 1 (Nadia Sirota, viola; Nico Muhly, piano
SAM AMIDON: "Wild Bill Jones," "Short Life," "As I Roved Out," and "Saro" (Sam Amidon, voice, guitar and banjo; Nico Muhly, piano
Honest Music (Angela and Jennifer Chun, violins; Nico Muhly, piano)
"I'm Only Sixteen" from Two Boys (Paul Appleby, tenor; Nadia Sirota, viola; Nico Muhly, piano
Skip Town (Nico Muhly, piano)
PHILIP GLASS: Etude 12 (Nico Muhly, piano)