The Classical Style

An Opera (of Sorts)

Steven Stucky

Libretto by Jeremy Denk
Publisher: Merion Music, Inc.
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

An opera based on Charles Rosen's famous scholarly work about Classical music with three famous composers wandering the earth in search of their faded glory, and with subplots about music theory and Don Giovanni and a hapless young musicology student as a villain? A dissolute chord, escaped from a Wagner opera, warns other harmonies of the modernist chaos in store for them. A verbose and annoying musicologist ruins Don Giovanni's scene with Donna Anna by overanalyzing it. Improbable, to say the least. When pianist and writer Jeremy Denk invited me to join his creative team for The Classical Style, I hesitated. The idea seemed more than a little crazy, but his writing proved so irresistibly funny that I was quickly hooked.

The sheer range of musical situations and styles called for is a dream assignment, but also the hardest job I've ever taken on, from parodies of eighteenth-century music, to inside jokes about music history, to a slapstick fight among Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven marooned in heaven, to sizable chunks of learned discourse directly from Rosen's book, to a lament on declining audiences for Classical music, to a Mozart opera gone wrong, to a satirized symposium on sonata form set to music composed in sonata form(!), to a Wagnerian fantasy and an unexpected appearance by the greatest of Romantic composers. Remarkably, in just 70 minutes Denk's libretto calls for all these and more. And the challenge is not simply to pull off each of these musical stunts, but to get them to flow together coherently and make musical and dramatic sense to a general audience. Thus The Classical Style has been not only a fascinating challenge, but also a fast and furious education.

Ultimately, it's not the brilliance of Jeremy's many jokes (delicious as they are) that has made the deepest impression on all of us involved in the project. It is his profound love of Rosen's elegant, original thinking, and of the (literally) immortal music that is its subject. It is the pleasure of spending a year or so in the operatic trenches with a collaborator of deep, subtle intelligence. And it is comedy of the best kind: not just slapstick, and not mean-spirited, but humane and loving. The real takeaway is not the jokes, it's the lump in the throat.

Available on Rental

Scores & Parts

The Classical Style - Piano Reduction/Vocal Score

Additional Information

Cast Voices Soprano (2), Mezzo-Soprano, Tenor (2), Baritone, Bass-baritone, Bass, Spoken role
Commission The Classical Style: an Opera (of Sorts) is a co-commission of the Ojai Music Festival;Cal Performances, University of California, Berkeley; Carnegie Hall; and the Aspen Music Festival and School.
Composition Date 2014
Duration 01:20:00
Librettist Denk, Jeremy
Orchestration 2(dbl. 2Picc) 2 2 2 - 2 2 1 0; Timp. 1Perc. Hpsh.(dbl. Pno., Cel.) Str.
Premiere June 13th, 2014. Ojai Music Festival, The Knights, conducted by Robert Spano; Ojai, CA.

Score Preview