JERRY HADLEY on the music of THE CONQUISTADOR
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Excerpts from a telephone interview with Jerry Hadley during which he graciously shared with FanFaire his insights on The Conquistador and incidental thoughts on other matters musical.


Part 1. On the music of The Conquistador

Why do you think The Conquistador is a terrific piece?

I think for one thing, it's a terrific piece because it's real, because it's human. Because both the composer and the librettist believed in the story of Don Luis Carvajal 150%.

And I think Myron Fink writes incredibly theatrical music, incredibly heartfelt music, and incredibly accessible music. Certainly it is in a modern tonal vocabulary but considering some of the nonsense that some composers write today, Myron's work is rather neo-romantic, very accessible and very tuneful.

I think he is one of the rare people writing opera today who understands that music is about an expression of the human condition. We are not machines, we are not computers, even though we're living in a technological age. And his music is very much based on the human experience and not upon some theoretical nonsense that often gets on the audience.

There's this attitude among a lot of composers today - that if the audience can understand what they've written, then there must be something wrong. And I think that's nonsense. The idea that one can not write something that's interesting and creative and at the same time accessible to an audience makes absolutely no sense to me.

All of the great people who have written works for the lyric stage in past centuries, from Mozart to George Gershwin and everybody in between, wanted to reach people and touch them. And most composers who attempt to write music for the stage today, particularly operas, push the audience away by talking down to them. Myron didn't talk down to anyone, but he certainly didn't pander to the lowest common denominator either. His music is very sophisticated music. His music is very beautifully crafted music. And I must say it was a joy to perform Myron's music.



Myron Fink's music has been described as dissonant and angular. Do you agree?

I think what is meant by that is that the canon of operatic literature is rather diatonic and romantic 19th century and post 19th century music. Myron's vocal lines, much like a lot of modern composers, have sometimes large dissonances. But when you say dissonance, it depends on the context in which you're defining the word dissonance, because most of the words we use to describe whether music is consonant or dissonant are based upon largely 18th and 19th century definitions of what music should sound like.

Yes, there are some angular lines; but you know, the thing that's interesting about it, most of the best composers of the 20th century - people like Stravinsky and Benjamin Britten- like Myron, even when they wrote angular music it was not for the sake of being angular but for an expressive purpose. I never at any moment found any of Myron's music to be difficult to sing or unnecessarily awkward. It was always, always expressive. And there was nothing random about the way he wrote those lines.

I think that people who expect to hear the kind of tune that Mozart or Puccini would have written will be disappointed. However, we have lots of composers who have since the beginning of this century written angular music, people like Janacek and a host of others. I think the angularity of the music is there in many cases because of the terrible dramatic context that we often find ourselves in.

The characters in The Conquistador lived in a very angular, distorted world. And Myron found a way to be angular and dissonant, but it was always to make a dramatic point. It wasn't random. And you can find moments of dissonance but you can also find moments of what I think are just transcendent beauty - the two duets that Don Luis sings with Don Elena I think are just incredible moments of lyric beauty - "You are a well spring..." moment in the 1st Act is just unbelievable. And you can't get any better than that.



Do you find that there is a cinematic quality to Myron Fink's music?

I found Myron's music a joy to sing. Myron has an ability that most composers for the stage today don't have - he has the ability to evoke exactly what's happening dramatically through his music. The people that know how to do that today are writing film scores mostly - because film scores are very atmospheric and very evocative of the dramatic situation. But we often don't pay much attention to film scores, because we have an additional stimulus there.

In an opera, in a piece of musical comedy or whatever, you can't separate the music from the action. It's all part of the same fabric. I find that Myron writes music that is so direct and so uncontrived that one cannot but respond to the honesty of that music. And I think it is a very rare quality. Excerpts from a telephone interview with Jerry Hadley during which he graciously shared with FanFaire his insights on The Conquistador and incidental thoughts on other matters musical.

CLICK the links below for more of the interview:

The Music  /  The Story & The Role  /  Working with San Diego Opera & the Composer  

JERRY HADLEY sadly passed away on July 18, 2007. Let us remember him in our prayers.

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