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date: 04 July 2020

Sophie’s Choicelocked

  • Laura Macy


Opera in four acts with epilogue by Nicholas Maw to his own libretto based on the novel by William Styron; London, Covent Garden, 7 December 2002.

The première was conducted by Simon Rattle with Dale Duesing as the Narrator, Gordon Gietz as Stingo, Angelika Kirchschlager as Sophie and Rodney Gilfry as Nathan.

This extraordinarily ambitious opera was Maw’s first in 30 years. For the libretto, he drew his text almost entirely from the novel, rearranging the chronology to create the opera’s shifts between 1947, 1943 and 1938. The holocaust is, of course, extremely difficult subject matter for dramatic treatment, even more so for opera. Music may be the ideal medium for expressing what words cannot, but when it fails to do so it can fail very badly. Maw’s success, even with scenes as difficult as that of the famous ‘choice’, owes much to his superb orchestral writing. Less successful are some of the other Polish scenes: the prisoners’ chorus on the train to Auschwitz (3.ii) and the scene with her father, in ...

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