First rehearsal with the chorus for Kommilitonen! (this term's RAO production, a première by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, jointly commissioned by the Royal Academy of Music and the Juilliard School). A real ensemble opera, this work relies heavily on the chorus input, both musically and in terms of staging. The music is extremely complex but also very exciting; a real challenge worth getting teeth stuck into.
The Juilliard School will present the opera in Autumn 2011 in New York, and it is based on a libretto by director David Pountney. The title Kommilitonen! means ‘fellow students’; and the opera consists of three interlocking stories of students involved in political action. One follows the activities of the group known as Die Weisse Rose at the University of Munich in the 1940s, who produced leaflets protesting against the Nationalist Socialist government until they were arrested and executed. The second follows two young people involved in the Cultural Revolution in China, in which they found themselves on opposite sides. The third is the story of James Meredith, who battled against racial prejudice to become the first black student to enrol at the University of Mississippi. The three stories unfold in parallel and eventually come together, in a climax of devastating emotional impact.