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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

In Context: Savage Winter

Director Jonathan Moore’s Savage Winter paints a vivid portrait of a man at the end of his rope. Set to Douglas J. Cuomo’s electric score, which reinterprets Franz Schubert’s brooding Winterreise for our contemporary moment, the opera investigates human emotion in its most raw state. Savage Winter is a fiercely evocative opera, asking both its protagonist and its audience to confront the depths of despair and possibilities for redemption. Context is everything, so we’ve provided a curated selection of articles and videos for you to engage with before seeing the piece. After you’ve attended the show, let us know what you thought by posting in the comments below and on social media using #BAMNextWave.

Program Notes

Savage Winter (PDF)


Street Sounds (The Guardian)
“I had discovered an amazing art form - a powerful synthesis of music, acting, poetry, design and dance - and I wanted everyone to share it.” Director Jonathan Moore’s passion for opera, music, and community shines through his desire to make the medium more accessible to everyone

Decoding the Music Masterpieces: Schubert’s Winterreise (The Conversation)
Associate Professor in the Collaborative Piano Unit at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music Jeanell Carrigan breaks down the historical context behind Franz Schubert’s intensely dark suite Winterreise, which is reimagined for contemporary times in Savage Winter.

Watch & Listen

Indie Opera Podcast #54: Douglas Cuomo and Savage Winter (Indie Opera Podcast)
Composer Douglas J. Cuomo discusses his work in Kathmandu, the importance of innovative opera, and how he came to develop the music for Savage Winter.

Now your turn...

How did you enjoy the show? Likes? Dislikes? Surprises? Tell us what’s on your mind in the comments below and on social media using #BAMNextWave.

© 2018 Brooklyn Academy of Music, Inc. All rights reserved.


  1. This was the first time I have been disappointed by a show at BAM. I had seen Cuomo's opera and thought it was very effective. This piece was puerile musically, and made worse by the embarrassingly juvenile staging that had some poor, under-voiced performer thrashing about for 75 minutes in his underwear. Only the final number, referencing Schubert and original text, had a modicum of dramatic intensity or credibility.

  2. I'm happy to have attended the performance on Thursday, November 8, 2018. It was compelling, engaging, and for me ultimately unsatisfying. The basis poetry is great poetry, some of the music was quite compelling, the performance was certainly committed. There were certain moments in the Tenor's voice that were beautiful and sweet, certain purely vocal expressions that were awesome. Here and there the music seemed to support the text and together those moments were transporting. Too often though, for me, the shifts from piece to piece were simply jarring. Too many different kinds of 'things' being used to convey the meaning/experience that simply didn't work well together (for me). While there, sometimes drawn in completely. Now, I can't remember a single tune or passage or part of a musical phrase? This piece required such attention to detail and an all-in effort from those who shared it with us. Maybe if I knew more about what the goal was, I'd get more of it. The spitting-up, the using of the toilet, things meant to bring us into the performance (stuff off of us do), seemed to me contrived. I didn't learn the why or how of this man's life that would lead to the moment of the performance? Without backstory/context hearing text after text of the results of 'whatever' happened lost me again and again. What drew me back, a phrase here and there in the Tenor's voice that was quite beautiful. While his is a tenor voice that I'd not ordinarily find attractive, because the piece was what the piece was, he was critical for me in making it the distance. Not sure how wide spread or in what other context performance of this work would work? It seems particularly crippled by its intimate nature? Still, glad I attended and had the experience.

  3. The music was beautiful, but I didn't enjoy the production. The set was very boring and the visualizations were a bit too on the nose. (Oh, visualizations of ice and fire portrayed ice and fire? come on!) I didn't believe that the Tenor was "at the end of his rope" and his voice was beautiful and pure, yet far too light to carry the role. He also wasn't much of an actor. I didn't understand why he was in the room and who was bringing him all of the beer. Also I wasn't sure if this was a magical realism performance or what? I don't think the production knew either.

    There were beautiful and unexpected moments, like when the orchestra was revealed behind the stage. But overall, I didn't get the intensity and creativity and acting chops that a 90-minute one-man operatic performance of insanity in a hotel room demanded. The videos were more intense and compelling than the actual performance.


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