I am performing with the Pine Mountain Music Festival this week, in Houghton, Michigan, and we are premiering an opera. Rockland, by Jukka Linkola, is about a 1906 mining strike in the Upper Peninsula.
As is often the case when I play opera, I have only half a sense of the piece. I know what is going on in the pit, and I can more or less hear the singers, but certainly I can’t catch enough words to follow the story, and I can’t see any of the stage action or sets.
What I know is that the music is very listenable. It sounds kind of like a Sibelius-influenced John Williams without the catchy hooks. There are some really beautiful moments. The orchestration is a little heavy and we have to work a bit to play softly enough for the singers, but it’s not terribly difficult now that we’ve been through it a few times.
What I know is that although Rockland may not be the next La Boheme, I am so pleased to be a part of this project. It is wonderful to me that even in this age of electronic music and self-produced albums designed for iPods there is still room for a large-scale work of classical music. There are still people who believe in opera as a living art form. There is enough support to get a brand new piece conceived of, written, rehearsed, and produced, with professional singers and musicians, and real sets and costumes. The piece has been six years in the making – opera takes that long – and is deeply interwoven with the history and the people of this beautiful area.
What I know is that as much as a hassle as it is to get up here – ten hours of driving with a two-year-old – and as much as I wish we were making more money or gaining more fame by being here, I am so grateful to be at this festival. This is a working week that feels like a vacation because of the spectacular surroundings, light schedule, and friends old and new. Steve and I have come up almost every year since 1998, and although we only stay here on the Keweenaw peninsula for a week or two each summer it has become a very special place for us. Long may it last!
Performances are Friday night and Sunday afternoon, and more information is available HERE.