Nico Muhly's Internet Opera: Two Boys

Interview

Friday, November 08, 2013

The 32-year-old composer Nico Muhly is a Juilliard-trained wunderkind who worked for Philip Glass for nearly a decade. He’s got a solid portfolio full of unpredictable work — his long roster of collaborators and clients includes the Choir of Jesus College, choreographer Benjamin Millepied, rock band Grizzly Bear, R&B artist Usher, and illustrator Maira Kalman. This eclecticism has landed Muhly with the rather predictable label of “indie composer.” And that bugs him. “Having an opera at the Met is literally the least independent thing you could do. It’s not indie.”

The Metropolitan Opera commissioned Two Boys six years ago, making Muhly the youngest composer to receive that honor. The opera is based a true story that made headlines in England. In 2003, two teenaged boys from Manchester engaged in an intense chat room drama that ended with the elder boy stabbing the younger — allegedly provoked by a chorus of chat room personae invented by the younger boy. “Essentially what happened is this little boy composed an opera, ” Muhly tells Kurt Andersen. “You have the damsel in distress, that’s the spinto soprano, you have the menacing bass baritone, you have the seductive contralto … I mean, the writing was basically already done.” Muhly’s opera (with libretto by Craig Lucas) shifts between that story and that of the police, who worked for years to untangle the crime.

The story unfolds in a time before Facebook and smartphones, and the lead investigator on the case is practically internet illiterate. But Muhly says his aim, and that of the opera, is to tell the timeless story of the human attempt to connect. “The technology is just a delivery system, but the motor of the thing is this fundamental loneliness that hasn’t changed. That will never change.”

 

Nico Muhly's 3 for 360

    Music Playlist
  1. Working Title: The Mob Song
    Artist: Nico Muhly
    Album: If a Lot of Bands Play in the Woods (Original Album and Covers/Remix Album)
    Label: Beverley Martel
    Purchase: Amazon
  2. Climax
    Artist: Usher
    Album: Looking 4 Myself
    Label: RCA Records Label
    Purchase: Amazon
  3. I Saw You In Algebra
    Composer: Nico Muhly

    From the opera Two Boys.

Guests:

Nico Muhly

Produced by:

Posey Gruener

Comments [1]

Rob Wheeler from Vashon island wa.

I have a small research project for one of your interns. I listn to several podcasts. I have noticed that more and more people start sentences with "So". I was wondering when and where this started. It is infecting almost everyone. It seams that the scientific programs do more of this. My girlfriend has started lots of people at work have adapted this speech anomaly and I have to fight hard to resist. So••• I was hoping you might take on this task. Thanks. Rob Wheeler.
P. S. So I love your show.

Nov. 08 2013 12:28 AM

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