Roger Rudenstein is not what many people would expect from a classical composer and musician. Not for him the polite, white-gloved bowing and strict adherance to convention, nor even the generic inspirations of stately events and environment. Instead, for the last few years, he has been systematically documenting his views on the political climate in America both in streams-of consciousness blog posts and the less 21st Century method of opera.
His impressively populated back catalogue is creaking at the seams with piano sonatas, concerti, string quartets and symphonies but it’s his grander, more epic works which have really got tongues wagging in America.
In the wake of the 9/11 tragedy, Roger set about documenting his observations of the chaos in the corridors of power. The title and idea for this opus is based on a Goya etching entitled “The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters” which depicts a man who sleeps while monstrous forms fly about. Collectively titled State of the Union, his septet, Nightmare of Reason, uses George W Bush’s actual state of the union address text and puts it to Roger’s composition, which utilises 3 voices as well as perhaps the world’s leading clarinetist, Richard Stoltzman.
Having dealt with Bush, it is perhaps no surprise that current Leader of the Free World comes next under Roger’s microscope, the thinly-veiled The Rise & Fall of Ronald P. Glumph, a Faust-inspired exploration of Donald Trump’s ‘activities’ over four operas. On a completely different tac, Roger also composed an opera based on the effects of the AIDS virus on people’s lives, to great critical acclaim.
Roger is now ready to inspire European audiences with an opera based not on political satire but classic British literature, James Joyce’s classic epic, Ulysses. The source material is an ever-twisting tale of early 20th Irish folk, with much of the dialogue being the internal thoughts of the characters, a perfect device for opera to exploit.
Ulysses is not short of what might politely be called ‘bawdy’ language and behaviour, much of which, you’ll be pleased to hear, is left intact, Roger being keen that the original text by Joyce is undiluted and can reach an audience which may not be familiar with the work, but which is as hilarious today as it was nearly 100 years ago. Ulysses is begging to be heard by a new audience, combining the tragedy and humour of the novel with Roger’s brilliant music, which echoes his very European influences of Richard Strauss, Stravinsky and Schubert.