THE SIXTH ANNUAL EXCELLENCE IN OPERA (AKA THE FREDDIE) AWARDS
Fred Plotkin | December 17, 2018
OPERAS NEW TO ME
“The most impressive new opera I saw was THE ROSE ELF, with music and lyrics by David Hertzberg based on a dark and frightening tale by Hans Christian Andersen… I think this work could have a rich life outside of a cemetery.”
NEW YORK'S MOST MEMORABLE CONCERTS OF 2018
David Patrick Stearns | December 1, 2018
“In June, The Rose Elf sealed David Hertzberg’s reputation as one of the most notable up-and-coming composers with his lush, dramatically alert Hans Christian Andersen adaptation.”
THE ROSE ELF
Arlo McKinnon | September, 2018
THE ROSE ELF
“In early June, The Angel’s Share presented what was billed as the “world premiere” of David Hertzberg’s The Rose Elf, a compelling and welcome addition to the operatic canon.
Hertzberg’s music is vital, colorful and dramatic.”
THE BEST CONCERTS OF 2018 (SO FAR)
David Patrick Stearns | June 27, 2018
OPERA EVENT OF THE HALF YEAR
“…The Rose Elf, a long-in-the-works opera by David Hertzberg, opened the new concert series The Angel’s Share in June at the unlikely environs of the Green-Wood Cemetery catacombs. But the venue novelty was the least of it: The opera is based on a Hans Christian Andersen tale of a murder-avenging elf that sounds potentially silly. But Hertzberg is a masterful dramatist with a particular ability for building long dramatic arcs with saturated harmonies — like some imaginary, phantasmagorical flower. Even more than his much-acclaimed opera The Wake World (which I've only heard on recording), this one signals the arrival of a major compositional personality. The opera was directed with up-close intensity by R. B. Schlather.”
AN OPERA TRAGEDY UNFOLDS GLOOMILY - INSIDE A CATACOMB
David Patrick Stearns | June 15, 2018
“Much in line with harmonically lush, neo-Impressionistic past works by Hertzberg, this adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen’s short story “The Elf of the Rose,” with a self-authored libretto, was compelling on every level throughout its one-hour running time.
Hertzberg (born in 1990 in Los Angeles) wrote and workshopped The Rose Elf prior to writing The Wake World – in record time – for the O17 Festival of Opera Philadelphia, where Hertzberg has been a composer in residence. I didn’t see The Wake World, though I have heard sound files of the piece that left me not only enthralled with the composer’s dreamy post-Impressionist, Kaija Saariaho-influenced harmonic language but also wondering about his storytelling acumen. No such reservations were possible with The Rose Elf, whose score had exactly the right touch at every turn with an unerring sense of pacing.
The lushness (often reminding me of the little-known Dutch composer Alphons Diepenbrock) provided the basic dramatic canvas for the story, conveying the story’s extensive floral life – intoxicating but often emotionally neutral, as is the plant life it portrays. From there, the well-crafted, dramatically apt vocal lines rode the piece’s waves toward some sort of resolution but were constantly hijacked by new harmonic avenues. Yet never did the piece meander. Hertzberg is a master of the slow dramatic buildup that starts gathering force almost imperceptibly, until you realize the music has insinuated itself into your soul. A passage about grief, for example, began with what sounded like repeating tubular bells, and then climaxed with a more relentless percussive piano in a similar musical gesture. You wonder how a composer so young achieves such psychological depth.
Each of Hertzberg’s slow buildups has a distinct character, though sometimes with a kinship suggested by recurring motifs. Also, below the music’s surface luster is a Puccinian streak. In contrast to, say, Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande, which implies more than it states, Hertzberg isn’t at all afraid to be more frankly passionate or to write effusive, rhapsodic vocal lines in a genuine love duet. Some of the opera’s more arresting moments, though, came with dramatic excursions into musical starkness that felt harmonically naked, with loud, slashing gestures. The smartly orchestrated ensemble sounded at least three times bigger than it was.
[...] As the couple, Kyle Bielfield and Alisa Jordheim sang a love duet that convinced me that this music is at least the equal of Puccini.”
COMMUNING THE DEAD AT THE PREMIERE OF DAVID HERTZBERG'S THE ROSE ELF
Rick Perdian | June 15, 2018
For a young composer deemed ‘opulently gifted’ and ‘a twenty-first-century Ravel’, David Hertzberg is a rather modest fellow, cheerful and friendly, but then he has a lot to smile about. He was the Composer in Residence with Opera Philadelphia and Music-Theatre Group for the 2017-2018 season, commissions seem to flow his way, and his works are performed in major venues across the country.
IN REVIEW: THE ROSE ELF
Vivien Schweitzer | June 10, 2018
“Stories featuring murder, suicide, necrophilia, and cannibalism have inspired both staples of the operatic repertory and contemporary works: a grisly legacy continued by the gifted young American composer and librettist David Hertzberg. His engrossing chamber opera The Rose Elf is based on a grim fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, about an evil brother who murders his sister’s lover and buries the decapitated body, the horrors witnessed by a tiny elf sheltering in a rose. The sister unearths her beloved’s head and plants it in a flower pot.
Where better to stage such a bone-chilling work than a cemetery?
Teddy Poll deftly conducted a kaleidoscopic score whose luxuriance contrasted with the spartan surroundings. Flickers of arpeggios and soft filigree alternated with luminous Messiaen-like piano chords and darts of percussion color. A whispered, mournful cello line morphed into voluptuous outbursts. The expressive vocal palette ranged from the gruff declamations of the brother, portrayed with sinister conviction by the bass-baritone Andrew Bogard, to the soaring vocal lines that concluded the work. The music stopped as the brother dragged his victim’s body along the floor, his contorted movements riveting in the silent, close quarters.
While recent operas by George Benjamin and Charles Wuorinen have seemed too chilly and cerebral for their gruesome and tragic subject matters, Hertzberg has turned a morbid fairy tale about a shattered love affair into a suitably full-blooded and passionate opera. The catacombs were cold, but the music and singing certainly generated plenty of heat.”
DAVID HERTZBERG'S ROSE ELF LEAVES HAUNTING, EVOCATIVE IMPRESSION
Rebecca Richardson | June 11, 2018
"Powerful, disturbing, and clocking in at just an hour in length, The Rose Elf was captivating and intoxicating from start to finish, fueled by the lush orchestration and illustrious singing.
This succinct opera holds an enormous amount of weight and splendor. Hertzberg’s soaring vocal lines and orchestral richness as well as the cast’s commanding performances have stuck with me since departing the catacombs last night, and I expect that they will continue to do so for some time.”