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A few years ago, if you had told me I’d be writing opera, I would have said you were crazy. I had seen and heard the clichés—the soprano with horns, the preening tenor, the pile of bodies at the end of the show—and I had chuckled right along with you.
Besides, I’m not a composer. But my friend Anthony Plog is. Tony is one of the leading brass composers in the world, and he has moved beyond brass to chamber pieces, symphonic works, vocal music, and, yes, opera.
Tony had been after me to collaborate with him by writing an opera libretto, but I had turned him down, fearing it might damage a great friendship. So Tony took the soprano by the horns and wrote an opera by himself, basing the libretto on my short fable, How the Trumpet Got Its Toot, a family opera about the mutant son of two brass candlesticks who loves music and, through his friendship with other instruments, discovers his voice. The piece was successfully premiered by Utah Opera, and the premiere went so well that I decided to try collaborating with Tony.
A few years later, Tony and I have written two more operas: our holiday comedy A Letter to Santa, telling how an ambitious elf tries to take over the North Pole and how Santa Claus, Blitzen the reindeer, and a little girl named Molly rally to restore the spirit of Christmas; and Sweeping the Stars, the inspiring story of Caroline Herschel, the first female professional astronomer. I also helped Tony with Spirits, his opera about a close quartet of friends during a Holocaust event.
In January we took those four operas to the annual conference of the National Opera Association in Phoenix. NOA is a wonderful, welcoming organization made up mostly of people from university opera departments, who are passionately devoted to opera and the young people who seek to explore and embrace it.
They also love new operas, which is where Tony and I came in. We spent four days meeting NOA members and sharing our work. There was plenty of interest, which we will follow up.