Michael Dellaira – The Death of Webern
Michael Dellaira (1949*) is an American composer who studied with Milton Babbitt, Goffredo Petrassi or Franco Donatoni among others.
This chamber opera was premiered in 2013 and recorded last year. It is in one act, featuring a small chamber orchestra (flute, clarinet, violin, Cello, percussion, piano / organ) and 14 characters.
The libretto is about the quest of the musicologist Hans Moldenhauer (1906-1087) on Anton Webern’s death, shot by “an American soldier” just after the end of WWII, on September 15, 1945. 13 scenes occur mainly in his study, with 2 flashbacks with Webern, a scene at Bell’s widow house (the American cook, alcoholic, who probably shot Webern) and a last one with Webern’s daughter, Amalie. The real story will never be found.
This one hour opera is very well written: the libretto (J. D. MacClatchy) maintains attention despite the lack of drama, in an operatic sense. Dellairas’ music is very efficient, colorful, superbly crafted. Some of Webern’s music is quoted, but mainly music written before his atonal pieces (Passaglia…). If I am more in contemporary operas like Lachenmann, Manoury, Holliger…, and thus find this music a little bit post-modern, this is a highly enjoyable work, a very vivid and sparkly music, very well played and sung, moreover with a super sound captation.