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John Harbison

Publisher: AMP

Darkbloom: Overture for an Imagined Opera (2004)
Associated Music Publishers Inc
Sub Category
Large Orchestra
Year Composed
7 Minutes
Programme Note
John Harbison Darkbloom: Overture for an Imagined Opera (2004)
Composer Note:

DARKBLOOM: OVERTURE FOR AN IMAGINED OPERA is what persists of an opera project I chose not to continue. I am as reluctant as any artist to part with good material and… I am very fortunate to be able to collect up strands of the music in this overture.

Vivian Darkbloom is a secondary character in a famous and infamous American novel. I borrowed DARKBLOOM as a title because it effectively conjures up the mood of this overture. It serves as an emblem or anagram for the complex tragicomic spirit of the story and its author.

The overture begins with a theme, actually a weave of themes, associated with the male protagonist. Soon a long melody with simple accompaniment, allied with the young female lead, spins out until interrupted by a brief obsessive dramatic interlude, which concludes by alluding to the music of the opening.

Then comes a short balletic scene, in which two young women play tennis, interrupted by laughter, and eventually invaded by the observing, controlling presence of the man. The opening music is then, for the only time, elaborated, until replaced by the long melody, attenuated, interrupted by the obsessive outburst again, eventually dissolving into a frail epiphany.

— John Harbison

John Harbison's DARKBLOOM is an overture to an opera based on Vladimir Nabokov's LOLITA that he decided not to write, for obvious reasons....The music does the job an opera overture is supposed to; it offers a promise of what's to come by creating a distinctive color, atmosphere, texture. The music opens with a seductively swaying rhythm, and melodies associated with the not-exactly guileless heroine and the not-exactly honest male protagonist. A playful later episode depicts a tennis game that is not-exactly innocent in the eyes of the man who is observing it, and ends with high, shimmering laughter, or what the composer calls "a frail epiphany." Sexy, funny, dangerous - quite a lot for 10 minutes to accomplish, but Harbison has the imagination and the chops to carry it off.
Richard Dyer, Boston Globe,01/01/0001
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