Pittsburgh Opera To Present World Premiere of ‘In a Grove’

By Dejan Vukosavljevic, Opera Wire

Pittsburgh Opera has announced that it will stage the world premiere of Christopher Cerrone and Stephanie Fleischmann’s opera “In a Grove.”


“In a Grove” is based on a short story of the same name by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa and follows seven witness testimonies to a murder, each clashing in perspective; the work is famously the inspiration for Akira Kurosawa’s legendary 1950 film “Rashomon.” The opera has been commissioned by the Los Angeles Opera with additional support from Raulee Marcus and Stephen Block, Pittsburgh Opera, and Metropolis Ensemble.

The cast includes Yazid Gray as The Woodcutter and The Outlaw (Luther Harlow), Andrew Turner as Policeman and The Man (Ambrose Raines), Madeline Ehlinger as Leona Raines and Leona’s Mother, and Chuanyuan Liu as the Priest and the Medium. Antony Walker conducts a production by Mary Birnbaum.


“In Akutagawa’s story, I found a complex and multifaceted tale where the whole notion of objective truth was impossible; we, the readers, are left to decide for ourselves what happened. I thought this story, with its unique structure, would make the perfect opera. The shifting perspectives and changing repetitions of a single event would allow me to use the language of music to create an opera where the events are told and retold in pristine emotional detail; where the shifting and faulty memory of characters can be reinforced by vocal distortion and reverb,” said composer Christopher Cerrone in an official press statement.


“Having been introduced to Stephanie Fleischmann’s lyrical and impactful libretti, I enlisted her to join the project. She brought a new nuance and complexity to the story – coloring in the details of our characters’ lives. Now set in the Pacific Northwest in the rubble of a wildfire, our adaptation – a feminist retelling – focuses on the tragedy of conflicting personal truths. Every main character confesses to the murder of a man named Ambrose (a nod to the American writer Ambrose Bierce, an inspiration to Akutagawa); it is their inability to communicate with one another that drives the engine of the opera’s conflict. As the subsequent years have passed, our society feels at a precipice where basic facts can no longer be agreed upon. As a result, the tale of this opera feels increasingly urgent,” added Cerrone.


The opera opens on Feb. 19, and runs through March 3, 2022.


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