King of Hearts

King of Hearts

Year: 1993

Heading: opera for television

First Performance:
26 February 1995
Channel Four broadcast, United Kingdom
Hilton McRea, Lynne Davies, Omar Ebrahim

Stage Premiere
27 July 1996
Aspen Opera Center
Ed Berkeley, director
Michael Torke, conductor

Main roles: S.T.B; small roles 2male.2female.treble chorus fl(=cl, ssax).cl(=bcl, asax).hn.tpt.trbn
perc:timp/vib/xyl/mar/BD/ tgl/shaker/SD/sandpaper/gslp/clavespft.synthstrings

Duration: 52'

Libretto:  Christopher Rawlence

King of Hearts is arguably a decisive breakthrough, and I think it is a gem. Torke, 34, is a bright American hope, a vitally inventive composer...His artful variety serves the dramatic action perfectly, and the way it is generated provides musical fascination for attentive ears.
—David Murray, Financial Times

There was much to relish in Michael Torke's King of Hearts...the score, a delicate, subtly inflected and imaginatively orchestrated species of minimalism—often pleased...—The Musical Times

Torke's music provides a kind of buzzing Broadway recitative, occasionally breaking into a show-tune for the schoolkid chorus, and providing a climactic soprano aria, "How I need the heat of transgression." —Opera

I like this score. The music is inventive, and when the plot turns on Bovary's attendance at the opera, it becomes splashy and extroverted, swinging stuff—a comment on popular music then and now.—Denver Post

Program Note:

HELEN Soprano
WOMAN (also EMMA BOVARY) Soprano
LEON Tenor

Time and Place
Now- place not specified

Antoine, a physics teacher, collects fragments of notes from the streets and tries to assemble the lives that produce this “emotional flotsam.” As the story’s many layers unfold, Antoine falls for a fellow teacher, Helen, whose life with her lover Charles is in decay. She attempts to interest her eager but unruly class in Flaubert's Madame Bovary, into which the opera also steps, in turn leading to another story, that of Lucia di Lammermoor, an opera that shows an emotional truth missing from Emma Bovary’s life.