Sunday, June 26, 2011

Instant Sensation: Nico Muhly's "Two Boys"

The world of opera is always looking for the next great piece that will squeeze its way into the standard repertory. The Met premiered John Corigliano's masterpiece twenty years ago and perhaps only a few operas have enjoyed such instant acclaim in the last two decades. Some that come to mind are Henze's "L'Upupa," Brett Dean's "Bliss," Mark Adamo's "Little Women," Birdwhistle's "The Minotaur," Saariaho's "L'amour de Loin," Ricky Ian Gordon's "The Grapes of Wrath," Heggie's "Dead Man Walking" and "Moby Dick," Philip Glass' "Hydrogen Jukebox" and "Appomattox" and John Adam's "Doctor Atomic."

Those have been outnumbered by some memorable flops led by Howard Shore's "The Fly" and Michael Daugherty's "Jackie O." So we were overjoyed with the critical acclaim that has greated American composer Nico Multy's "Two Boys" at the English National Opera. There is nothing that we could possibly add to Norman Lebrecht's spot-on review in The Telegraph, which you can read in its entirety HERE. Lebrecht's article is a "must read" for a number of reasons, including his views about what opera needs to do to succeed and, in particular, appeal to young people.

Jonathan McGovern: Jake in Two Boys
The story of "Two Boys" begins when a teenage boy is stabbed. An older boy is caught on CCTV leaving the scene. An open-and-shut case, it would seem. But, as Detective Inspector Anne Strawson investigates the older boy's story, she uncovers a bizarre nexus of chatroom meetings, mysterious internet identities, supposed spy rings and disturbing cybersex, leading to a stunning conclusion.

Critic William Robin said the opera deserves its place on the Metropolitan Opera's 2013-14 schedule. He perfectly described the music in her review:

Muhly composed several tender, brief, solo arias for the principal characters, and engaging dialogues both online and off. Though his music suggests the throbbing postminimalism of John Adams, his most clear influences come from this side of the pond — the English choral tradition of Herbert Howells (evoked in a somewhat out-of-place church scene) and the operas of Britten. “Two Boys” teems with references to Britten, from the pealing gamelan-style gongs of “Death in Venice” to the finale, an ornate passacaglia straight out of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

The baritone role in the opera is sung by Jonthan McGovern who is new to this site.  He was the winner of the 2nd Prize at the 2011 Kathleen Ferrier Awards and graduated with a first-class honours degree in Music from King’s College London. He completed a PGD in Vocal Studies at the Royal Academy of Music and continued his studies with Royal Academy Opera. He was winner of the gold medal and 1st Prize at the Royal Over-Seas League Annual Music Competition 2010.

Recent operatic roles include Wu Tianshi and Pokayne in the première of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’ opera Kommilitonen!; Shane Postcards from Dumbworld at Belfast Grand Opera Hosue; Delfa in Cavalli’s Il Giasone; Sid with Royal Academy Opera in John Copley’s first Albert Herring; Fiorello and Figaro cover Barber of Seville on tour with Armonico Consort Opera and Don Parmenione L’Occasione fa il ladro for RAO.

In September McGovern will join the Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme to reprise the role of Sid for the Britten Festival in a new production conducted by Steuart Bedford and directed by Oliver Mears.

Click HERE for ticket and performance information.


  1. OMG! The number of factual errors in this post verges on the absurd:

    1. To suggest that the you are "overjoyed with the critical acclaim" is absurd as the overwhelming reviews & opinions of this piece have been extremely negative. 2. The Telegraph article you link to is not a review and was written by NORMAN Lebrecht, not NICHOLAS. 3. The ACTUAL Telegraph review by RUPERT CHRISTIANSEN called it "a bit of a bore". 4. The review credited to Anne Midget was actually written by William Robin.

    If you spent more time checking you sources and less time salivating over "barihunks" we might take you and your opinions a little more seriously. Thanks for your highly entertaining and absurdly biased reporting!

  2. I love Anonymous posts. How much do you want to bet that he/she is in the business and a jealous colleague? I saw the show and loved it. I appreciate Barihunks promoting new works.

  3. UK Kate. I agree with you about the bitter colleague. What Multy had done to attract young people to opera is amazing. One of the videos has over 1 million hits. I don't see that ANYWHERE else in classical music or opera. Let the bitter old farts rot.

  4. RE: Anonymous. What a bitch! I don't know about others, but I visit Barihunks to do just what he mocks - "salivate."

    Keep up the good work. I haven't seen Two Boys, but I love all the singers you bring us. Keep it up.

  5. Amersham: How about this:
    or this:

    the ENO video with 1 million hits didn't mention Two Boys once, let alone Opera in general.