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“Fellow Travelers”: New Opera Tells of Two Gay Men Tragically Caught Up in the “Lavender Scare” of the 1950s

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The New York Times today reviewed a new gay-themed opera from composer Gregory Spears set in the 1950s, at the height of the McCarthy era.

It tells

a tragic story of two young men: Hawkins (Hawk), a State Department employee, and Tim, an idealist from New York. They have a love affair and become ensnared in the “lavender scare,” the hysteria that purged gay employees from the federal government.

I’m already sold on the premise, but it’s The Times description of the music that is intriguingly odd:

[The musical language combines] two disparate styles: American minimalism and the courtly, melismatic singing of medieval troubadours. Mr. Spears’s evocations of troubadours sometimes sound, intriguingly, like they have come by way of Ravel, or Britten, or Judy Collins. There are hints of neo-Classical Stravinsky, stretches of Baroque-like dance, a red-hot clarinet. Whole stretches of the score are driven by pulsing rhythmic figures and repetitive riffs that envelop Tim and Hawk in scary bliss, or, more menacingly, tap into the hysteria gripping the government.

Minimalism meets medieval troubadours meets Ravel meets Judy Collins… with a red-hot clarinet?

Um, seriously, wtf? All that’s missing is some Klezmer music, a bit of Krumping, and some Belgian Witch House and you got yourself a show.

Read the whole review here.

Fellow Travelers premiered last week at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice as part of this year’s Prototype Festival fostering the creation of innovative opera.

 

 


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