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Golden “Boys”

“Who knows what to expect from an opera about the Internet? But when Nico Muhly’s Two Boys evokes the complex mysteries of cyberspace in a series of shimmering choruses, it’s easy to think this is the most gorgeous music you’ve ever heard.” [New York Post]


  • Will says:

    Wow! We just had a strong production of Dark Sisters here in Boston which made me even more anxious to see Two Boys next month. Nico has seemed to me to be the real deal for a while now, and I hope he’ll become able to be more consistent across a whole operatic score.

  • antikitschychick says:

    great review by JJ and love the re-vamped version of the NY Post website as well!

    Am excited about the Norma tomorrow! Will Casa della Cieca be open?

  • alejandro says:

    I agree with JJ’s review entirely. I wish Muhly had had a better librettist to work with.

  • 98rsd says:

    Saw the opening and, while some of the music was attractive, and Coote and some of the other singers quite wonderful, I can’t imagine buying a ticket to see it again. I was mostly bored.

  • MarioCav says:

    I listened to the first half hour or so on Sirius to “Two Boys” and couldn’t listen to any more.
    What a total piece of garbage!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    The “music” was nothing more than an hodge-podge of sound effects randomly thrown together. There was no continuity, no flow, no climaxes, just aural junk!
    Muhly is a third-rate hack pop composer and nothing more, and certainly not an opera composer.
    Why the Met and Peter Gelb thought this was an opera that the Met audience wanted to hear is beyond me.
    There are many, many other neglected operas that the Met could have done instead.
    This thing was just awful.


    • tannengrin says:

      Rufus -- is that you?

    • alejandro says:

      I’m not sure what sort of pop music you’re listening to, but Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry sound nothing like Nico Muhly’s music.

      Yeah, Muhly has worked with Bjork, Grizzly Bear, The National and Antony and the Johnsons . . . but these acts make sophisticated and intelligent music that is as moving to me as Bellini and Puccini.

    • operaassport says:

      It was to be expected that the old fogeys would show up clutching their pearls and old 78s lamenting the second rate trash they don’t even attempt to understand. God forbid one should listen to the whole work before making a judgment.

      JJ is spot on in his review. The libretto needs work but the music is often affecting and first rate.

      • 98rsd says:

        You combine nastiness with illiteracy: In defending Two Boys you inadvertently call it “second rate trash”.

        I sat through the whole thing and it’s a one-time only experience.

        • kashania says:

          Um… Before flinging accusations of illiteracy, it would help to understand that operaassport said “second rate trash” as the “old fogeys” would perceive the opera, not as his own opinion.

        • operaassport says:

          That wasnt my phrase I left out the quotation marks. I stand by my comments. There are people who hate anything that challenges them to hear something different.

          Stick to verismo.

      • Benedetta Funghi-Trifolati says:

        Wow! The snarky, mean-spiritness (I originally used a different, cruder word), to say nothing of ageism and blanket assumptions here is breathtaking, offensive and rude. I date back to the Old House on 39th Street but somehow managed to drag my feeble, Jurassic carcass to the prima of TWO BOYS. P.S: Gasp! I attended Adès’ THE TEMPEST last year too, as I firmly believe contemporary opera (and all arts) must be supported, and I also try to stay au courant after a lifetime of countless TOSCAs, etc. I enjoyed TWO BOYS, am thrilled the Met presented it, but thought, even with a cyber subject, it is already somewhat out of date (Chatrooms?!?) and succeeded more as an effective theatre piece than a purely musical one. I have my doubts whether it will truly enter and maintain a permanent spot in the repertoires of the lyric theatres of the world. Maybe I’m wrong. Time will tell. It always does. And speaking of Time, everyone eventually gets old. Some even become fogeys. The trick is to try to stay young inside and up-to-date, operatically and otherwise. Age doesn’t automatically earn respect but neither does it merit automatic condemnation. Don’t make snide generalizations about an entire demographic and assume the world for all seniors consists only of ABC (AIDA, BOHEME, CARMEN). Now please excuse me while I go clutch my pearls, fondle my dusty 78s and have an opera queen bitch session with the other old fogeys about how Riccardo Stracciari would have been infinitely more effective in the role of Jake than Christopher Bolduc and how Alice Coote couldn’t hold a candle to Ernestine Schumann-Heink. Sheesh! Young whippersnappers! Now get off my lawn!

      • Clita del Toro says:

        Opera ASS: Ageism is what can be expected from you: ASSHOLE is your name.

        • La Cieca says:

          It is perfectly possible to be old without being an old fogey. I think it is observably true that many fogeys are old, so I think operaassport’s usage is fair enough.

          Young fogeys are no fun either.

    • shoegirl says:

      Well things are worrying if you have a night without a climax …

  • Rory Williams says:

    Totally agree (Ed Droste, yes!!)

  • aulus agerius says:

    I also (like Mario) listened to the first half hour or so and turned it off. I wouldn’t be quite so definitive in my dismissal as he, but I did turn it off.

  • Feral Colin says:

    I’m with MarioCav. The opera is more like a play with incidental music that people sing to. There’s no emotional depth to the music at all. No sense that there was any collaboration between librettist and composer. The music failed to provide any interest in the characters at all.
    That said, except for the silly dancing, I enjoyed the visuals.
    But really, the Met didn’t have to take an interesting story and ruin it with second-rate music.

  • pasavant says:

    You might want to consider a substance abuse program.

  • operacat says:

    I so agree with the review. I liked Muhly’s scoring for the internet. I wish that the libretto had focused on the inner workings of Brian and Jake and hadn’t even bothered with the detective. Duets, arias, ensembles about the inner compulsions driving these boys to become so lost into the unreality of the internet. Their quest for love, their insecurities (sexual and otherwise) . . . I think would have been better suited for what Muhly has to offer as a composer and would have made a far more interesting and potentially lasting opera.

  • 98rsd says:

    For those who weren’t there or didn’t listen, the detective is by far the largest role (I think), so that is telling…

    • armerjacquino says:

      Wait… you’re saying that the detective is the largest role in an opera about a police investigation? That BLOWS MY MIND.

      • 98rsd says:

        Perhaps it was blown sometime earlier. This was in reply to operacat (immediately above my post) who liked the opera, but thought the detective should have been left out of it.

    • La Cieca says:

      I would say the roles of the detective and Brian are about equal in length. She gets more “soliloquy” time, but he’s singing all though all those chat sessions.

  • shoegirl says:

    I liked the music. I listened online so it was all I could grab hold of, as most of the text was indecipherable. The choruses and orchestration were definitely muhlys forte. Would certainly like to have more muhly. Somebody commission some chamber choir works please. Or else I’ll get my group to…

    Can see why people bemused at libretto though: dated plot, 1990s attitude to net, total faux pas on details like police use of IT circa 2001 (I was in and out of police stations in UK in later half of 01 and both networked mainframes and PCs were plentiful), and adoption was a feature that died out in the NW 10 years before the plot suggests, the detective a conflation of stereotypes that distracts from rather than adds to the plot. On the other hand, the choirboy as manipulator: love it. But it’s the music that matters.

    • Sempre liberal says:

      Listening at home, one could be aware of the banality of it all. It was painful to listen to, large passages with nothing captivating. Some of the choral stuff though, did attract brief attention.

      I just wonder how much better it would be in house. I have tickets for next week, and I am debating just exchanging them for something else.

      For those who found the soundtrack to be tepid, banal, derivative, and slapdash, did the visuals of the production redeem the evening? Were you able to tune out the music and just watch other aspects of the show?

      • Salome Where She Danced says:

        Go see it--if only for Appleby (he will wreck you). So much is cliched, outdated, or derivative, but PA is out of this world.

  • Avantialouie says:

    I am as old a fogey as exists on this forum. I am neither clutching my pearls nor considering “Two Boys” to be second rate trash. I enjoyed the challenge of hearing something new. I enjoyed what I heard. Am I waiting with bated breath to hear it again? Not particularly. The opera rates with me as a modest success. I consider it fully worthy of being done by the Metropolitan, but I am not standing in line for a ticket to the revival.

    • operaassport says:

      Then you’re obviously not the kind of “opera fan” I was referring to. Good for you.

  • La Valkyrietta says:

    I will go to see this, it is only two hours and a half long, they have cheap family circle seats, and nothing is better than to hear music live, and avantialouise and La Cieca’s remarks are encouraging. But please, don’t knock the old foggies. Nothing wrong with yearning for a Verdi hardly ever done, or for the glorious voices of yesteryear.

    • operaassport says:

      There is something wrong with it if that’s all you yearn for to the exclusion of anything new and challenging. I’ve been going to the opera since the mid 1960s but I don’t live in the past. I’m always interested in the new and different.

      • La Valkyrietta says:

        Nothing wrong with people having different preferences. I love the sister who wants the most avant garde piece as much as the one who demands a complete Vivaldi opera be produced, or the fun one who still enjoys thinking of Grace Bumbry rolling down the church stairs in Zeffirelli’s Cavalleria :)

  • bergbag says:

    The choral parts were the best. Not too long ago Trinity Church had a night of Muhly’s choral pieces with Anglican works he loves (Howells, Tallis). A good evening.

    Otherwise, it was pretty boring. Not particularly challenging or interesting. I think he’s a good composer, but he might not be best with opera.

    • thirdlady says:

      yes, exactly! i thought “two boys” almost came off more as an oratorio than an opera…but i guess oratorios are less…marketable?

  • Belfagor says:

    As Verdi said of Gounod ‘talented, but he does not have the fibra drammatica’ -- which here is demonstrably true -- and it could be said of Ades, Turnage and others. Frankly, can’t think who does- among those writing presently…

    • phoenix says:

      But do audiences today still expect la fibra drammatica in the music itself when attending contemporary live opera performances -- as they did in Verdi’s time? Has the art of opera in live performance become primarily a visual representation -> the drama expressed through staging, sets & costumes -- secondarily enhanced by music? Have the changing times brought on another dimension of performance style, one that at present eschews direct emotional contact through the music itself? Could this be why the music is the way it is now? Even the best I’ve heard recently on the internet streams -- Sebastian Rivas’ Aliandos -- leaves it up to each listener on their own to weave together la fibra drammatica:

      • Indiana Loiterer III says:

        Well this is the composer of Faust, a not entirely unsuccessful opera of the period, Verdi was talking about.

        • phoenix says:

          Well Indiana, sorry. In spite of the incredibly beautiful music in Faust I have to agree with Verdi -- Gounod’s masterpiece does not encompass la fibra drammatica. Still it is a masterpiece -la fibra drammaatica is not necessary for that. The thing I miss about performances of Faust nowadays (a tradition younger opera goers may never develop) is the omission of the complete Walpurgisnacht ballet. Whether it was written by Gounod himself or someone else -- doesn’t matter to me. I used to love to go to the old, old production at Met to see Faust -- Fenn, Montserrat C., Kabaivanksa, Corelli, Tucci, Freni, Pilou, Gedda, etc. all sang it and they always did the complete Walpurgisnacht ballet. Now I have read here and there that most contemporary stage directors cut the ballet nowadays with excuses that seem to boil down to: it interrupts la fibra drammatica. How can you interrupt la fibra drammattica there isn’t any fibra drammatica in the work itself? There are scenes depicting magic, crimes & melodramatic situations, but they are not woven together into any fibra drammatica I can recognize. The ballet is fun and serves a purpose -- to distract the audience’s attention from Gounod’s less than inspired writing for Acts 4 & 5 of the opera -- particularly in comparison to the brilliant lyricism of the first 3 acts.
          - Indiana, also sorry to loiter off onto the subject of contemporary opera performance -> the original subject of this thread.

      • Belfagor says:

        the problem is, Muhly, Ades and Turnage adhere to the 19th/early 20th century prototype of opera -- so they are similar to the masterpieces of yesteryear in aesthetic, and are all found wanting in terms of operatic craft. The new(er) wave -- the Glass pageant prototype is different, the music functions in a totally different, less event driven dramatic interventionist way -- yet in terms of narrative, story telling psychology, all these essential ingredients, there is so much that music can’t do…….

        It’s hard, or possibly irrelevant to find a new path -- I mean the most modernist scene I can think of that seems to take lessons from film construction, jump cuts, close up and panorama, and all in 15 thrill packed minutes, is the opening scene of ‘Rigoletto’ vintage 1851……….top that!

        • grimoaldo says:

          I mean the most modernist scene I can think of that seems to take lessons from film construction, jump cuts, close up and panorama, and all in 15 thrill packed minutes, is the opening scene of ‘Rigoletto’ vintage 1851……….top that!
          With that comment, You Win the Internet.

  • Camille says:

    Last night…
    I was in the lobby looking at the previews of Dos Muchachos, and the ballet swinging the laptops around mit looked like more fun than a barrel of monkeys, so, whether I like the music, (and I do think I heard something similar in some boys churchy music I’ve heard of George Benjamin’s, now I think of it) this old fogey is goin’!

    Tickets can be had at a sixpence, so why the hell not? Help the kid out.