Evan Fein


Operawire: Opera de Poche to Preview ‘The Rat Came Back’ This Weekend



Opera de Poche is set to present a preview video of Emily Anderson and Eva Fein’s “The Rat Came Back” on Saturday, May 23, 2020.

The opera tells the wild story of a cowboy, a shabby château, an American with more money than brains, a love triangle, and a rat that sings.

Per Anderson, “it was inspired by the true story of a large river rat who night after night invaded my sister’s kitchen, despite the frantic attempts of her husband to outwit him. Concrete, metal screen, trenches—nothing fazed him. He even at one point fashioned a tool out of tinfoil and sprang the door of a humane trap. He became something of a folk hero to admiring neighbors whose watchword each morning was ‘The rat came back!’
“In the opera version, the four characters entangle themselves in a Byzantine web of trickery, only to realize in the ensuing chaos that all they ever really wanted was each other. The basic theme, as in all my libretti, is this: Love one another. It’s pretty much all we have.”

The preview will take place via Zoom starting at 2 p.m. EDT with attendees getting an opportunity to speak with the artists and creators behind the work. Among those that will be involved with the preview are Lucie Mouscadet, Isabelle Fallot, Vincent Billier, Arnaud Le Dû, and Anne-Marie Podevin.

Opera de Poche was founded by Bernard Mouscadet and has performed at numerous unique venues over its 15-year history including industrial waste sites, seafood processing plants, and even 17th century cavalry stables. The company has also made several yearly tours to China.

For more information, click here.

“Icelandic is a good language for singing” — (Austurfrétt, translated from the Icelandic)

Icelandic is a good language for singing

By Gunnar Gunnarsson

August 23, 2019

Iceland’s landscape and culture inspired the American composer Evan Fein when he composed the music for his opera “The Raven’s Kiss,” which will be shown in Herðubreið in Seyðisfjörður over the weekend. He says there is an interest in rare languages, including Icelandic, among singers from North America.

“We were staying with friends and family members in towns around the country when we were writing the opera. The landscape and local topography therefore entered into the text of the opera.”

“Then there are various pieces of people’s personalities and the interactions between us as well,” says Evan.

He composed the music for “The Raven’s Kiss” and is the director and conductor of the production of the work in Seyðisfjörður. Thorvaldur Davíð Kristjánsson is the co-librettist of the work. They met at The Juilliard School in New York, where Evan currently serves on faculty. He can certainly be placed in the category of “Íslandsvina” (“Friend of Iceland”) as he has come to the country annually for the past ten years.

Those visits have made a mark on his musical creations. “The landscape here is so different from where I grew up in Ohio. It is primal and barren but also incredibly beautiful. I try to evoke this effect in my music. It’s definitely safe to say that Iceland has had a great influence on my compositions over the past decade.”

Coffee-drinking Icelanders

In “The Raven’s Kiss” you will find references to Icelandic culture, for instance the scene with the traditional “Marital Bliss Cake,” the memory of a flirtation in the blueberry bushes, and the continual drinking of coffee.

“We tried to imagine things that the characters might have done or experienced. I remember being with some friends in the West Fjords. One picked a forget-me-not and stuck it to my sweater. I would never have thought to do that, but it seemed such a timeless gesture, I immediately decided to use it in the libretto.”

“We also depict coffee drinking. Icelanders are famous for their hospitality. I remember visiting Fáskrúðsfjörður with Thorvaldur for French Days (an annual festival weekend). His family is from that town, so we went around to each of their homes to pay them a visit. At each home, I was offered strong coffee and after some conversation, I would play the piano for a while to say “Thank you.” After five or six such visits, my hands were shaking so badly from the caffeine, I could barely play!”

The opera is in English, but there are Icelandic place and personal names. Evan points out that it was Thorvaldur’s job to choose or create the names (some of which refer to fictional places), but that they had to be suited for singing. “Some Icelandic names, such as ‘Hreinn,’ lend themselves poorly to being sung. We also considered that when the opera was first staged, we knew it would be by American singers. It came in handy to have also worked with Thorvaldur on some Icelandic songs so I could help coach the singers with their pronunciation of certain words,” says Evan.

An Interest in rare languages

Operas are often sung in Italian, French, or Russian. Evan says, however, that Icelandic is well-suited for singing and that there is an interest in “minority” languages among singers and vocal music enthusiasts.

“I think Icelandic is a good language for singing. The vowels are very clean and it follows clear rules. Certainly, there are sounds in the language that opera singers have not encountered in their studies of other languages. For instance, some elements of Icelandic appear German so many singers try those sounds at first, and these habits have to be unlearned. I hope someone takes the opportunity to write a book on Icelandic diction for non-native speakers, as such a resource exists for many other languages.”

“My Icelandic art songs are among the most frequently performed of my works, particularly by American singers. I hope Icelandic composers will make the effort to make their work more accessible to American singers and to promote their work to American artists, as they would find an enthusiastic audience there.”




Review: The Spoils of War – Marble City Opera Gives U.S. Premiere of ‘City of Ashes’

More Benjamin Britten than Shostakovich, Fein’s score is gently lyrical, both in the vocal writing and the piano underpinnings—a lyricism that, at first, surprises the listener with its non-aggressive tonality. While such tonal matter-of-factness seems at conflict with the harshness of the implied drama of the story, Fein’s musical style allowed the singers the tonal freedom to sculpt their characters gently, and, ultimately, to suggest hope and optimism from Anderson’s narrative.


Review: The Spoils of War – Marble City Opera Gives U.S. Premiere of ‘City of Ashes’

Opera is like sushi: Cultivating new tastes in East Iceland

Regional news outlet Austurfrétt details plans for the August 2019 performances of Fein’s opera The Raven’s Kiss in Seyðisfjörður, Iceland.  Originally premiered in New York in 2011, and created in collaboration with dramatist Thorvaldur David Kristjánsson, the opera centers on life in a small fjord town in the 1890’s.  The upcoming production is thought to be the first fully staged opera in Iceland’s East Fjords region.

Icelandic article here: https://www.austurfrett.is/lifid/opera-er-eins-og-sushi