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April 22, 2005
Fried Musical Theater Work to Premiere
Rock of Angels called innovative, modern oratorio
by Jon Burlingame
Rock of Angels, a musical-theater work that may also become an animated feature film, will have its premiere in Santa Fe, N.M. on Saturday, April 30 and Sunday, May 1.
©2005 Jon Burlingame
The composer is Gerald Fried, whose film and television scores rank among the most memorable of the past half-century. He won a 1977 Emmy for his powerful music for Roots and a 1975 Oscar nomination for his score for the documentary Birds Do It, Bees Do It. His music for the original Star Trek series and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. have earned the respect of a generation of TV buffs and spawned numerous albums in recent years. He also scored five Stanley Kubrick films including the classic Paths of Glory.
Rock of Angels is being described as "an original, cross-genre piece that vividly portrays two of life's fundamental concerns: love and peace. It tells the story of Gia and the archangel Gabriel, whose love for one another is powerful enough to stop wars. The composition takes its inspiration from traditional oratorio but the musical language is flavored with the improvisational rhythms and harmonies of bluegrass and jazz."
Fried also wrote the libretto and will conduct an 11-piece ensemble and 16-voice chorus.
Woven into the story – also written by Fried – are Joshua and the Battle of Jericho, Helen of Troy, Joan of Arc and the Duke of Bedford, Satan (trying to steal Gia's first kiss), Heaven's gatekeeper and numerous glory seekers, all intertwined with the love afffair of Gia and Gabriel.
The work won the Riverside Opera's New Works Competition in 2000.
Ed Hastings is directing the Santa Fe Pro Musica production, to star Jake Simpson (Gabriel), a tenor with a three-octave range that garnered him the top prize on Star Search in 2004; and Eleanor Ranney (Gia), who has performed in numerous operas and as a soloist around the world.
Also in the cast are three performers well-known to Santa Fe opera audiences: Kristen Lear (Gatekeeper), John Elwes (Storyteller) and Tim Willson (Satan). Legendary studio harmonica player Tommy Morgan is among the players in Fried's orchestra.
Fried's score has been described as "smart and humorous" and "an energetic and innovative piece." Hopes are high for its eventual transformation into an animated musical for the screen.
Fried, who is now retired from the Hollywood scene, moved to Santa Fe five years ago. He has written an oboe concerto, which was performed last year with himself as soloist in Santa Fe, and has conducted his suite from the 1984 miniseries The Mystic Warrior in both Santa Fe and Los Alamos. He has also written a number of plays and screenplays.
The performances are scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday, April 30, and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 1, at the Lensic Performing Arts Center, 211 West San Francisco Street in Santa Fe. Tickets are available by calling the center at (505) 988-1234, Santa Fe Pro Musica at (505) 988-4640, or online at www.santafepromusica.com.