Dinner at Eight: Advance press and praise

Advance press and reviews from Minneapolis Star Tribune, MinnPost, Twin Cities Arts Reader, Lavender Magazine, Opera Wire set the stage for Bolcom's new opera.

Star Tribune Review: Depression-era Manhattan sets tempo for Minnesota Opera's 'Dinner at Eight' 
Minnesota Opera's version of the classic story boasts a sparkling, imaginative score by William Bolcom and a deft, astute libretto by Mark Campbell. 
Michael Anthony, March 14, 2017 

...Typical of Bolcom’s work, the score draws on a wide range of idioms — marches, waltzes, tangos — along with tangy harmonies and atmospheric etches. Although “Dinner at Eight” is definitely an opera, Bolcom’s music feels in places like a Broadway musical of the early ’30s. 

Twin Ciites Arts Reader review: Dinner at Eight‘s Splendid Comic Melodrama (Minnesota Opera)
Basil Considine - March 14, 2017

Bolcom’s clever score is written in his later idiom, with the melodies living somewhere not too far from but outside of common practice tonality. The vocal writing is frequently lyrical and beautiful, although where it ends up might surprise you – some passages recall Debussy’s use of the whole tone scale, for example. The orchestra frequently interjects rhythmic pulses and sardonic comments, as in the duet “Our Town” (this piece seems destined to be known as “The Money Duet”).

Twin Cities Arts Reader review: Dinner Dinner at Eight, Performance Edition (Minnesota Opera)
Basil Considine - March 14, 2017

One of the features of the score is that it provides each major character with small moments of arioso passages within the larger scenes. As businessman Oliver Jordan, for example, Stephen Powell captures well the pathos and insecurities of a man haunted by the economic collapse around him. Susannah Biller, as Kitty Packard, is gifted with some of the most playful and memorable moments in the score as she musically teases and manipulates. ,,, The central narrative of Dinner at Eight revolves around Millicent Jordan (Mary Dunleavy)’s sometimes frantic party planning. Dunleavy is an engaging hostess, going for broke on the more melodramatic passages (of which there are many) and milking them for comedic gold.

Star Tribune: Minnesota Opera's 'Dinner at Eight' is distinctly American 'Broadway/opera hybrid' 
Minnesota Opera's latest world premiere is a distinct hybrid with American music and characters. 
Terry Blain , March 9, 2017 

Bolcom’s “very American” score features a colorful mix of different idioms and influences — think Broadway swagger and brassy marching band rhythms, interspersed with more intimate passages. 

Bolcom is known for his refusal to adhere to a single musical style, which can be a frustration for those charged with assessing his work. “It has been the bane of critics,” he said. “They don’t know where to put me.”

MinnPost Advance Feature: Minnesota Opera's latest: Bolcom, Campbell transform 'Dinner at Eight' 
Michael Anthony, March 10, 2017

...When Bolcom suggested “Dinner at Eight,” Campbell read the play. He hadn’t much liked the movie. But the play impressed him. “There were so many different characters I could write text for,” he said. “It was a story about survival during the Depression. And I also wanted to work with Bill. This is a piece that allows him to do what he does better than anyone else, and that’s to explore his American sound. I don’t think anyone can write opera the way he does, by that I mean having an American inflection in the music.”

Twin Cities Arts Reader: Preview - Dinner at Eight (Minnesota Opera) 
Basil Considine - March 10, 2017 

Campbell noted, it “features marital infidelity, financial ruin, social opportunism, a fatal disease, and a suicide.” Suicide? Well, this is a Great Depression-era piece, albeit humorous overall. As Campbell added, “Naturally, it’s a comedy.” If you can’t laugh at your troubles, you can laugh at others’.

Lavender Magazine 5Q: Dinner at Eight - Interview with Mark Campbell 
Shane Lueck March 9, 2017 

The audience will hear real tunes in this opera and real tunes are always built from structured lyrics, often using traditional song structure forms. I also use rhyme in this libretto, but often limit it to the final couplet of a musical moment so that the work won’t sound too much like a musical and we keep the balance between the two forms.

Opera Wire: Q & A: Director Tomer Zvulun on ‘Dinner At Eight’s’ Comedic Drama & Contemporary Importance 
David Salaza, March 8, 2017 

I think that the genius of “Dinner at Eight” is that it isn’t just a comedy. It isn’t just on the surface and entertaining. It is a profound comedy with a lot of darkness in it. …. The music connects great American Opera with Great American musical theater. Will [Bolcom] and Mark [Campbell]’s connection to great American music really comes through. There are some great tunes in it.