DAVID HERTZBERG SHORTLISTED FOR NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
THE NEW PHILADELPHIA OPERA STORY
Lewis Whittington | January/February 2018
"The Wake World
Music and libretto by David Hertzberg
The premiere of The Wake World at the Barnes Foundation on Ben Franklin Parkway was on September 18. I saw the fifth performance on the final night of the festival, inventively staged by director RB Schlather on a runway that ran through the middle of the museum’s Annenberg Court. With a dizzying mash of characters portrayed by the chorus, it dealt with sex, love, torturous temptation, alienation, and dramatic (sur)realness. The music and libretto by Curtis graduate David Hertzberg concerns a central drama about Lola and a Fairy Prince, but is an untethered moveable feast of art rendered by the chorus in full-body color make-up and visual allusions from some of the pieces in the expressionist galleries.
Hertzberg’s score is a torrent of classical and abstract ideas that charge forward and backward, like a gushing orchestral stream, as his libretto unfolds in fragments of plot, character exposition, and enchanting imagery. American soprano Maeve Höglund was electrifying as the tortured Lola; mezzo Rihab Chaieb was fiery as her volatile Fairy Prince.
Best of all, it was a chance to see Opera Philadelphia’s brilliant Chorus Master Elizabeth Braden in front of her singers, conducting a thrilling score with a muscled sextet of violin, French horn, trumpet, piano, and percussion. It was indeed a high point of the festival. As the chorus moved around the crowd in the gallery, for a moment we heard each voice before they trailed, physically and aurally, back into an ensemble.”