The composer, the author of opera "Leithian" and the Metropolitan Opera tenor
Part by Vaylei:
1. As I have noticed, a lot of Tolkien adaptations have been made in recent times - both the musical and scenical ones. What strikes me is the fact that the great majority of them was created ´after´ the ´era´ of Peter Jackson and his movies. Is his screening some kind of impulse that made Tolkien popular again (what gave the Middle Earth-inspired art better chances for gaining a success) - or maybe it has rather pushed this ´Tolkien industry´ forward by giving the old fans courage needed to share their passion with the world? How would you explain this fenomenon?
I would say the great enthusiasm from the millions of people reached by the Peter Jackson movies, at least in the USA, is what has caused this surge in popularity. Most of these people never read the books, and many of them never will, because most Americans don´t read, they just go to movies. I prefer reading and making my own pictures in my head from the story, thank you very much. I saw a publicity picture from the opera based on "THE HOBBIT" and of course the Hobbits have pointed ears. That´s because Peter Jackson put pointed ears on the Hobbits. They should not have them. Anyone who reads the books carefully enough would know that.
I have not heard this Hobbit opera. I only just this week learned that it existed. It certainly was written after the movies came out, but my opera and Paul Godfrey´s operas were written many years before. The international popularity of Tolkien´s name since the movies were done, however, bay be the best thing that happened to our operas becaus esuddenly everyone wants Tolkien this and Tolkien that, and opera companies might be interested in producing them simply because they see audience appeal in them that would never have been there without these movies.
This is my opinion, and I want to say I don´t know all I should know in order to call it a well-informed opinion. So you may take it for what it´s worth.
2. In one of his letters Tolkien wrote that it was his desire to have the history of Beren and Luthien transformed into the opera by some composer. If Tolkien hadn´t described exactly that he meant this very story, would you writethe opera based on "Leithian" or would it be another one?
Which letter is that? I tried to find it in my copy of The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien but couldn´t. I remember choosing Beren and Luthien out of several possible stories including Turin and Tuor, after reading a letter that said he hoped someone would write music to his stories, but he didn't specify which ones.
If there is a letter where he said he wanted LEITHIAN specifically to be turned into an opera, I want to read it.
3. As far as I am concerned, while writing libretto to the LEITHIAN you had to fill the original (but highly incomplete) Tolkien´s text up with your own verses. Was this task someway hard to you? Which concrete scene was the most problematic?
I was able to get a lot of words out of The Lays of Beleriand, but still nowhere near enough. I was very disappointed when I found how litte of the Lay of Leithian Tolkien actually finished. Because of this most of the second part of the opera (not on the website yet) is my own words, but even in Part One I would say more than half of them are mine, for instance the whole text of Luthie´s aria.
Was it hard to do? I enjoyed trying to write words that sounded to me like Tolkien so much that I didn´t notice whether it was hard. I love languages anyway, speaking them, playing with them, using older English when it still had the familiar person "thou, thee" forms. I wilh they would come back.
4. Your elvish name intrigues me. Is ´Aldaron´ a name of some Tolkien character - or maybe it was you who invented it? What are it´s origins?
Aldaron is one of the names of Oromë. It means Lord of the Trees and is a Tolkien-himself-invented word. This causes problems on Tolkien websites that require that your Elvish name NOT be one made by Tolkien. I have been Aldaron since 1980 or so. I can´t pick another name, and why should I? So I didn´t join that site. Hall of Fire had no such restriction, and I just joined there as Aldaron.
However I have invented a lot of Elvish names. If you look at the photos of the itstruments on my website (click the Luthier button-- Luthier has nothing to do with Luthien, it means maker of stringed instruments, from the original word Lute.) you will see names like Cormalindë and Sennamelë. I invented those. What I need now is a word for rabbit. I don´t think Tolkien invented one and I just don´t know Elvish well enough now to come up with one. If anyone has already invented a word for rabbit, I´d like to learn it.
Part by X:
1. Can you describe us your "adventure" with Tolkien literature? How (and when) did it start, and in what way (if any) has it changed your life?
I first heard the words "Minas Tirith" while making snow forts on Long Island NY USA when I was about 18 years old. This would have been early 1978. Karlin, the boy who said them, had read the books and I asked him what Minas Tirith was, and very soon I had The Hobbit and LOTR in my hands, small paperbacks, and did nothing but eat, sleep and read them for about 4 days. Then I read them again. And later again, and then when The Silmarillion came out I bought it, hardcover, and then got the deluxe bound edition of LOTR (looks like a Red Book of Westmarch, and no illustrations to cloud my mind´s eye: I like illustrations but prefer to see them after I´ve made my own pictures while reading the stories) and the big Hobbit with Tolkien´s pictures in it. All USA editions; I´ve never seen the original British ones.
I made a map of Arda including Middle-earth and extending it eastward to the Eastern Sea and naming all the lands and peopling them with Men, Elves, Dwarves and giant frogs (my favorite animals are frogs). Since I found no Elvish word for frog, I invented one: gan (in Sindarin), and their big swamp land was called Ganidor. There´s a frog in the USA whose call sounds like "Gan!" That´s probably where I got the idea. I created a family tree for one of the other Dwarf-houses. I think it was the House of Bor, but I don´t remember.
I wrote melodies to Legolas´s song and Galadriel´s Farewell that no one has ever heard. Just single tunes, no accompaniment. When The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien was released, I read a letter he wrote to a composer who asked if it was all right if he wrote a piece called something from one of the books, and Tolkien wrote back that he´d always hoped that his stories would inspire composers to write music. (This is what makes this ban on using Tolkien lyrics so very perplexing to me. Tolkien himself wanted it!) I decided to write something, which became LEITHIAN.
I couldn´t use any Hobbit-stories because I didn´t see how you could get anyone to look like a Hobbit on an opera stage without using children who wouldn´t be able to sing it and Hobbit-children are even smaller. The movie Hobbits were still too big. I wasn´t convinced they were Halflings at all.
I couldn´t use the Tale of Turin because it was too close to Wagner´s Ring Cycle (which I am participating in here in Toronto as I write this: I´m understudying the role of Mime the Dwarf. I stand five foot ten, but the Loge is a good six foot two and so is the Wotan, so I guess it looks OK. Besides, everyone is wearing Victorian era costumes anyway.). I loved the story of Tuor, especially when Ulmo appears to him, and might still consider it if this ban were ever lifted and someone commissioned me for it.
But I settled on the Tale of Beren and Luthien over Tuor probably because of the character of Luthien, since an opera is better if it´s not all Men. I wrote the first themes in 1982. I put it aside in 1985 while I studied music composition in college, and took it up again in 1987. I finished writing it in 1992, which I believe was the centenary of Tolkien´s birth, and got permission from the publishers to use the words, got it copyrighted in the USA, and made a demo recording of Part One, which several opera companies received but none took any interest in. Then my singing career started being profitable and I put LEITHIAN aside.
Then I heard that someone had written a Ballet called LEITHIAN, and then the Peter Jackson movies came out, and still LEITHIAN sat on my shelf. One day I was in New York auditioning for the Des Moines Metro Opera company, and I sang Beren´s Farewell from Scene 9, and my accompanist stood up and asked me "when are we doing it?" By this time I had suffered through many productions of new operas with bad librettos and usually worse music, and I thought, "why not?" So we produced a concert on July 1 of the opera from the Prologue through Scene 7.
THEN the lawyer from England wrote me telling me the agreement I had with them had expired and my putting on the concert was something they could sue me over, but they thought it was an honest mistake and proposed to reinstate the agreement for one year. Now, I don´t know how many concerts I can put on in one year, what with my singing career taking most of my time, but I´m going to try. At least I will produce Part Two next spring and then the whole thing will be heard, and then we´ll see what the Publishers say. I never wanted to make money off it, I just wanted to write the music. I think they smell money, or they think I smell money, but as you can see my association with the literature goes back way before Peter Jackson went to New Line Cinema and then New Zealand. It´s just such great stuff, it NEEDS to be put to music. Who would know the story of Madama Butterfly today if Puccini hadn´t written his opera?
So in what way has my adventure (there and back again? I don´t think I´m back yet!) with Tolkien´s stories changed my life? Life goes in one direction, so I would say rather it has SHAPED my life as it is. For instance I call George Bush the Mouth of Sauron for I hope obvious reasons, just as Tolkien referred to Hitler´s Army as that of Morgoth, or was it Sauron? Some Dark Lord, anyway. I learned a lot about writing an opera from writing LEITHIAN. I´m now working on an opera about Darwin´s theory and its consequences, which will be easier because of LEITHIAN. I hope this answers the question.
2. As far as I am concerned you were working upon your opera, "Leithan", for something about 10 years. Can you relate us how did this period of your life look like? I mean the way that the idea was born and the next steps that was needed to reach the final result.
Oh, I think I mostly answered that in the previous answer to Question One. Sorry. The steps needed to reach a final result were simply time enough to write it, which I had between 1988 and 1992 since I wasn´t getting many singing jobs yet- I´m a tenor, by the way, and that´s me singing Beren- and someone to support me while writing it, that is, give me food and shelter. This was done by my ladyfriend at the time, Patty, and then my parents Howard and Pat. (Patricia Windrow is a painter and did the illustration on my LEITHIAN webpage. Howard Klein is a musician, retired from the Arts Administration world, and plays piano for himself, his f amily and friends.) Patty also sang Luthien´s music for me while I wrote it. I dedicated the opera to her. Tami Swartz sang Luthien at the concert, and her voice is really perfect for the part: strong, with very high and very low notes, and a great actress. I apologize, I´m not sticking to the subject of the questions.
3. For the next 14 years you were settling all the formalities needed to show your opera to the wide world. Can you describe the problems you were facing and the way of overpassing them?
As I said in answer to Question One, the problems were mostly with lack of interest in anyone putting the opera on stage. My favorite answer was Lyric Opera of Chicago, something like "very impressive, but the likelihood of our putting on a four-hour opera by an unknown composer, or any composer other than Wagner, is slim at best. " This is not an exact quote: I´m not home to read the original letter.
The publishers and the Tolkien Estate were hesitant at first. They required that I send them something of the work to see if it was worthy of permission. I guess it was, because we reached an agreement which I thought was permanent, though it clearly states that it was renewable by mutual agreement. I guess I thought that meant if no one said anything it was still in effect. In fact, if I had been aware that it was expired and had tried to renew it, permission would not have been granted due to the moratorium. So the concert only happened because of my ignorance.
4. During 26 years of life devoted to this project you had surely lots of memorable experiences. Can you describe us the funniest and the most emotive one? And what was especially satisfaying to you?
The most emotive experience was hearing Tami sing Luthien´s aria and the Chorus sing the Prologue at the first rehearsal I heard. Putting it on paper is one thing, but an opera is not alive until it´s performed, just like any piano piece of Chopin, arguably the best composer of his time. Certainly better than Wagner.
The funniest? That´s hard to say. It´s been mostly a tale of disappointment, hearing other people´s works get done while mine sat gathering dust. Probably the funniest was that answer from Lyric Opera of Chicago. Or perhaps more than that, the letter from Harper Collins´s lawyer telling me I shouldn´t have put the concert on in the first place, but since I did I´m now allowed to put more concerts on. That´s pretty funny.
5. I saw a great photo of all the team that was working upon LEITHIAN and read an information about them in your program. What I wonder now is how did your cooperation look like. I´m especially interested in your informal contacts and some special events that took place "behind the scene". Can you describe them to us?
Well, let´s see. The Band, as I´m calling them now, was made up mostly of our friends and their friends, and we were all good musicians and everyone liked the music, so the atmosphere at rehearsals was very congenial. There were remarks that it was such a "good group" meaning everyone was easy to work with, which I like to think had something to do with them liking the music, though I can´t be sure.
Liz, our conductor and music director, and piano player, I have known since 1994 when we did La Traviata and Entführung aus dem Serail in Florida together. But I knew her partner Nate Bahny (in the chorus of Leithian) since 1984 when we were in Don Giovani together in Brooklyn. However, outside of jobs and auditions I haven´t spent any time with them.
Tami our Luthien stay my wife on Sept. 16. Here is a fun piece of history for Tolkien lovers. Our first date was not planned as a date, but it really became one when I noticed she had the new Lord of the Rings collector´s edition at her apartment and learned she hadn´t finished reading it yet. I started reading aloud while we were drinking some Tullamore Dew (Irish whikey), and the rest is history. So the Tolkien connection in our lives was there very early on. (the other connection besides music was Star Trek, and we´ve found many others since then.)
David Moore (Celegorm) whom I call Hawk has been a close friend of mine since 1996 when we worked at Central City Opera together. He brought in Keith Harris (Huan/chorus) and also recorded the concert, but I don´t have a copy of his recording yet. The one you have all heard is my recording from the rear of the hall. I was able to eliminate some mistakes made during the performance with splices from the final rehearsal, which would not be possible with Hawk´s recording, and I´m not sure I want the world to hear the mistakes.
Dianna (Melian) and I met in Edmonton, Alberta, during a production of La Boheme in 1999, I believe. We have been email pals since that time. Since she moved to New York we have had parties together and plan to do more recitals.
David Gagnon (Finrod) was a late addition to the Band. Finrod is very hard to cast, since the singing is very difficult. There was one person I had asked who took forever to decline the opportunity, and then my opera agent helped me find a replacement, through another agent he´s friends with. But actually I met David in Central City in 1997 when he understudied my part of Sam in the opera Susannah, so I know what he could do. But I hadn´t seen him since then.
C. David Morrow (Sauron) answered a post a friend of mine put up for me on an opera singer web bulletin board, as did Eowyn Driscoll who brought in Stefan Paolini, who in addition to singing tenor played C. David´s keyboard in the performance. C. David is the only cast member who auditioned for the part, because I didn´t know him at all and Sauron is really hard to sing. We were very glad to get him, and at such a low price! (no one was paid anything for their part in the performance, not even travel money.) He would have even played oboe in Scene One, but we discovered that the oboe part I had written is playable either only by a seasoned professional oboist or not at all. I think I have to rewrite that solo.
I knew Walter Du Melle (Thingol) since 1991 when we were both at Chautauqua Opera together. But he was the last member of the cast to join, because the person who was planning to do Thingol had to back out very late in the schedule. But if I´d known Walter was available, he would have been my first pick. I´ve worked with him also at Dicapo Opera Theater in New York and in a small production of Carmen put on by IVAI (International Vocal Arts Institute) in White Plains NY. But I hadn´t seen him except at those jobs. The cool thing about Walter being Thingol is that his vocal color reminds me a lot of Tami´s, and she plays his daughter.
Anita Lyons (chorus) came to us by way of a mutual friend who is a member of the Plainfield Curling Club, of which Tami and I are also members. I wish there had been more soprano roles in the story because our soprano section was really, really good.
The whole thing, rehearsals and performance, lasted only 6 days, plus some coachings between Liz and some cast members in the few weeks prior to that.The only social time we had was a party after the show, so I´m afraid I don´t have more information about what went on behind the scenes than what I´ve written, except that originally this was going to be just singers and piano, with most of the Prologue cut out since it makes no sense to play it just on piano, but Liz listened to the old demo I had of Part One and realized that the orchestral colors were an integral part of the music. While this is true of any orchestral music, LEITHIAN really suffers if you don´t get the interplay between piano and orchestra (there is a piano part in the orchestra and in the prologue it´s almost a piano concerto except that the orchestra does most of the solo lines.), or brass and strings, or guitar and banjo and sitar. So Liz asked if we could get some more keyboards into it, and she got David Mayfield, who she´d already asked to sing chorus tenor, to play some keyboard. On the recording he does most of the string sounds, the saxophone sound in Scene 1, the banjo sound in Scene 7 and several other solo lines throughout the piece. Liz also alked one of our mezzos, Elizabeth Fagan, to play her violin, and the simple addition of that violin changed it from a piano accompaniment to a small orchestra. And two other mezzos played flute. In fact, I don´t think there was a mezzo who didn´t play an instrument. We had the instrumentalists off to one side, some completely hidden from the audience, but now I think that was a mistake. In a concert version the most interesting visual aspect is the playing of the intsuments. So next time it will more resemble a rock concert than a classical recital. I mean, just look at what Elizabeth was wearing, that nice black cape, and when she played violin you couldn´t see it! Well, we couldn´t expect to get everything right on 5 days of rehearsal.
6. In what way was the opera welcomed by the public and the critics? Did this reactions reflect someway your own opinion on the final result of all your work? What is your attitude towards it [your opera and the reactions]? The public loved it. Listen to the applause at the end of Scene 7, you don´t need a report from me.
The only review was by Lesley Morrison, which I think you´ve all seen. None of the New York papers saw fit to show up to this world premiere. That disappointed me, but in the opera business the last thing you can afford to do is depend on critics to help you at all. Lesley's review was a gift from Varda herself.
The performance was far from perfect. I spliced in a few parts from the final rehearsal, where the perfomers´ mistakes were too egregious to ignore and where the rehearsal went better. But it was heartfelt from everyone who was in it, and I don´t fault anyone for any mistakes. I´m still working on a demo of the whole opera in which one will be able to hear the "Music played aright," but it won´t have the energy that this live performance did. You can only mote into a sterile microphone in an empty studio just so much, and you can only get a computer to play a synth module a little bit like a live Human. But the piece is scored for a 60-piece orchestra and 40-voice chorus plus soloists: where would I get the money to make that happen? So on balance I was very happy with what we did, and I hope to learn from the experience and make Part Two, which is much harder to do, that much better than Part One was.
My attitude toward the reactions was: very very happy. I wrote the piece and never thought myself a fair judge of its quality, but many people called me a great composer after the concert, so I´ve begun to think that my own assessment wasn´t too far off the mark. I´m also glad I took the chance to show it to the public, which is where the courage of a creative artist is tested. I have no trouble singing other people´s music because I´m only interpreting someone else´s creation, and if people don´t like it I don´t really care. But a standing ovation at the end of my own piece was pretty special. (Not the most emotive moment, however. I don´t thrive on praise.)
Now I´m worried that after all this work there will be no more performances of this piece after June 30 2007. I don´t want this opera to die just as it was really being born. But I don´t make the laws and those who hold copyright to Tolkien´s works can do as they please. One lesson to take away: make your ceations all your own: there will be a lot less trouble.
7. Can you tell us something about other operas you were taking part in?
Hmmm, I think this means operas I have performed in. If it means other operas I have written, so far there´s only one: GOLDIE LOCKS AND THE THREE BEARS, a short children´s opera that has never been performed. But I might put up some sound clips of the demo on my website. However, if the question refers to operas I have performed in, here is the text bio off my website. It´s the fastest, most complete way to do it. I´ve sung a lot more than this, for which I invite you to visit my website's Tenor pager and click on "curriculum vitae" www.adamcjklein.us/cv.html - HERE which has a full list of just about every opera and place I´ve performed in.
Tenor ADAM KLEIN, of Setakuet, N.Y., has sung opera since childhood, when he was chorister and soloist at the Metropolitan Opera, appearing as Yniold in PELLÉAS ET MÉLISANDE and Zweiter Knabe in DIE ZAUBERFLÖTE. Career highlights since then include Števa in JENUFA with the Metropolitan Opera; Elemer in ARABELLA with the Metropolitan Opera (opposite Renee Fleming); Don José in CARMEN, Cavaradossi in TOSCA, Polo in MARCO POLO, and Quint in THE TURN OF THE SCREW with New York City Opera; title role in OTELLO with OperaDelaware; Erik in DER FLIEGENDE HOLLÄNDER with Spoleto Festival USA and Atlanta Opera; title role in WERTHER and Des Grieux in MANON LESCAUT with Opera Memphis; Rodolfo in LA BOHEME with Edmonton Opera, Indianapolis Opera and Manitoba Opera; Pinkerton in MADAMA BUTTERFLY with The Dallas Opera and Fort Worth Opera; Canio in PAGLIACCI, Cavaradossi in TOSCA, Sam in SUSANNAH, the Duke in RIGOLETTO and Danforth in THE CRUCIBLE with Central City Opera; title role in LES CONTES D´HOFFMANN with Opera Pacific; the Chevalier in DIALOGUES DES CARMÉLITES with the Metropolitan Opera and Portland Opera; and Bacchus in ARIADNE AUF NAXOS with Spoleto Festival USA, Opera North and the Lake George Opera Festival.
Concert highlights have included Siegmund in DIE WALKÜRE (Act I) with the West Virginia Symphony; Tenor Solo in Mahler´s EIGHTH SYMPHONY with the Boston Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall; and Splendiano in Bizet´s DJAMILEH with L´Opera Français de New York.
Recordings include Mime in SIEGFRIED (forging scene) with the State Symphony of Russia on the Naxos label and the Doctor in Robert Ashley´s IMPROVEMENT: DON LEAVES LINDA on the Elektra/Nonesuch label.
8. You have mentioned a lot of operas, concerts and recitals you have been taking part in. Which of them needed especially much of your work / courage? Why?
The hardest operas I have had to do have been hard more for the learning of them than the singing. Once I learn to pace myself in a role it´s not hard to sing the notes. What takes the time is learning the words, especially in German and Russian. I love both, but I´m not fluent in either (yet) and so I have to spend a lot of time looking up the words in dictionaries, and then in Russian I have to spend a lot of time getting my mouth to pronounce it properly. I hear it in my head, but making my tongue do what it needs to do in Russian is very hard. I also do a lot of "difficult" "modern" operas (I put "modern" in quotes because some of these pieces are over 80 years old now) where the harmony is hard to hear and the melodies are hard to learn as well. So those things take a lot of work. In terms of courage, that´s mainly in the area of keeping my voice in shape so I can get through the opera. High things like Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto take a lot of stamina, just like being a tennis pro. The courage comes in when I´m not playing my best game vocally and I still have to go out there and do my best. Happily that doesn´t happen too often because I work so hard at keeping the voire in shape.
Another kind of courage was needed to produce LEITHIAN, because it´s my own piece. I was very happy that everyone so far has liked it, or loved it, but I didn´t know until we put it on what they would think. If they didn´t like the music that might mean somehow they don´t like me, so that was a bit scary. But I had many kids when I was a boy who didn´t like me just because I was different, so it wasn´t too scary-- meaning I´m used to it by now.
9. You have written about your admiration for the music of Chopin, our Polish composer. What do you think is so special in his compositions? And more generally: whom among other famous composers do you like the most and the least? What for?
Whereas music history teachers talk about the evolution of music through its major innovators like Wagner and Berlioz, they often ignore the contributions made by those who weren´t interested in being different to be nocited, but were just interested in expressing themselves through their music. On the surface Chopin´s music seems simply to obey the rules of harmony current during his lifetime, but in terms of deep structure it is much more complicated than Wagner, while at the same time being more passionate and prettier. Who could not love Chopin, knowing this? I wish he´d written operas, but then Schubert did write operas and they were never successful.
As for which composers I like most and least, let´s start with least. Meyerbeer, Gounod, Bruckner, Kurl Weill, John Adams and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Why? Meyerbeer was only interested in impressing people and the harmony is second-rate. Gounod was absolutely correct in terms of what the French called correct harmony at the time, and thus for me is absolutely BORING. He wrote a Sanctus for church music which I like, and the scene in Faust where Marguerite gets damned has some good moments, but for me listening to Gounod is like looking at a plain grey apartment building where they could have built a cathedral or castle or something. Bruckner was consciously trying to bring to the symphony world what Wagner did in opera, with less talent than Wagner had. Using Wagner tubas is not a good enough reason to write a symphony. Kurt Weill´s music is very well constructed and has a distinct stamp to it that tells you who wrote it, but I don´t like what his music says to me. It makes me angry. I´m afraid I can´t explain it better than that. Same goes for John Adams. (Not John Luther Adams, a different composer.) People compare him to Philip Glass, but nothing Glass wrote, even the stuff that bores me, makes me angry like the music of Adams does. I tried listening to a recording of Nixon in China, and I couldn´t get through more than 30 minutes of it. In comparison, I have listened to Glass´s Satyagraha and Akhnaton countless times and never got tired of it. Some people like beets; I cant stand them. C´est ça, as the French say. Andrew Lloyd Webber´s music is simply bad. I don´t know how else to put it. How is it bad? Well, the chords don´t go where they should go, and the music also is written simply to impress, with no thought to integrity or substance. He stole a melody and chord structure right out of Puccini´s opera La Fancuilla del West, and got sued for it, and paid damages. But the music is still there in the show. (It´s in one of the duets of Phantom.) No integrity, no respect.
Now to who I like the most, without so much detail as to why. Just listen to their music: Debussy. Britten. Bach. Berg. Monteverdi. Bartok. Janacek. Tchaikovsky. Ennio Morricone. Purcell. Schubert. Shostakovich (even though he was under Stalin´s thumb the whole time). Robert Ashley. Charles Ives. Charles Griffes. (Griffes was an American composer who died of exhaustion while copying out orchestra parts for one of his pieces in his off time while during the day ho made a living as a school teacher. Because of computers I hope to escape the same fate from copying Leithian parts, but we´ll see. The United States is a terrible place to make a living as an artist. If it´s not written for the advertising or movie industries, no one with any money really cares what you do. They expect you to have a "real" job.)
10. What is your opinion on the music created by other Tolkien composers (H. Shore, Blind Guardian, Anois and others)?
I´m sorry to say I don´t have an opinion since I´ve never heard any of it. I only just learned that Anois among others was denied permission by the publishers to use Tolkien´s words in their music, whether that means in performance or on CD I don´t know. I pernosally am not allowed to sell CDs of my opera, but I am allowed to distribute them to individuals for publicity purposes, which is the only reason any of you can hear the sound clips.
The only Tolkien music I´ve heard is the stuff from the movies by Peter Jackson, which in general I like, and some music from the LOTR musical which I heard on their website in a commercial that ran on Canadian TV, it sounds very grand but I only heard a few seconds of it. Then there´s the song cycle "The Road Goes Ever On" by Donald Swann, written about 60 years ago, which I have in sheet music in my library. I don´t like that. It sounds too British Music Hall and not enough British Folk Music.
11. Modern music. What´s your opinion on it? Which bands and songs were somehow special to you during your life? Why these ones?
I don´t know if you mean modern classical music. This common term makes no sense. Classical by definition something that has been judged to be the best of its time, and no one can say with any certainty what of today´s music will be considered the best in 100 years. But we can guess. You may have noticed I didn´t list Schoenberg in my lists of most and least liked, though I did list Berg. The way I see it, when High Romanticism in music couldn´t go any further, several paths were taken out of it. Debussy took one, Schoenberg took another. Debussy´s music was pretty, Schoenberg´s was not, except maybe to a handful of people. Now I´m not saying that music has to be pretty. Even in Leithian my favorite scene is Scene 10 in Morgoth´s Hall where the music becomes the most nasty, even though Scene 13 has the "prettiest" music. But Schoenberg´s path alienated the general public away from classical music, which was a horrible mistake. Whatever people think of Glass and the other so-called Minimalists, they somehow swung the pendulum back to harmonies that normal people could listen to and enjoy, and got us out of the Serial Nightmare. (i think this actually started with Bach who promoted tempered tuning in keyboards which made thirds and sixths way out of tune and eventually led to tritones sounding almost pretty in comparison to what serial music sounds like. I like Berg because he paid attention to the harmonies produced by his tone rows, whereas I don´t think Schoenberg did.) However, I could have not written LEITHIAN the way I did without all the music that was written before me, that I heard. But I also couldn´t have written it without the influence of the Beatles.
Now if by modern music you meant contemporary popular music (since you wrote "which bands and songs"), I try to stay away from it. When I was younger I heard it on the radio, but once I learned that what gets played on the radion is really decided by advertising executives and not by the intrinsic value of the music. I gave up. Frank Zappa, for instance, was one of the greatest classical composers of his time, and also one of the greatest rock composers. My favorite opera, in fact, is not by Verdi, it´s by Zappa. It´s called Joe´s Garage. His music is just his music, and he got great musicians to play it with him. There are thousands of "indy" bands and labels out there, but I´m just too busy to explore that world, and I write my own music.
But there are some bands/artists I took a big liking to, and they are: The Beatles, Steve Miller Band, The Incredible String Band, Yes, Talking Heads, They Might Be Giants, Chumbawamba, Ani DiFranco, Hamell On Trial. And Zappa. Why? I liked everything about the Beatles until they broke up and very little from each individual after that. Steve Miller Band is unpretentious and I liked his singing voice. Incredible String Band was just too weird not to like: they used sitars and stuff. Yes, because they were so sophisticated. Talking Heads, partly from the music and words, partly because a lot of their tunes can be played by me on the banjo. They Might Be Giants, because they´re so damn smart, and funny. Chumbawamba because they tell it like it is and still manage not to sound cheesy. Ani DiFranco because she is the greatest composer since Mozart.. Hamell on Trial because he tells it like it is all by himself, and the poetry is really good.
Then again there are other kinds of music with their classical and modern components. I could listen to Ravi Shankar all day, in fact I have done so. The drumming music of Japan, heard in albums by Ondekoza and Kodo, is excellent. The West African drum-based music as exemplified in recordings by Mamady Keita and Famoudou Konate deserve recognition equal to any European classical composer. And the music of the steppes, especially that of Tuva, has a simplicity and straightforwardness that Michael Jackson never could achieve, and the sound is so fascinating. So you can see, if you don´t use very specific parameters when asking me questions about music, the answers tend to approach book chapter length. :)
12. You have told us about your father, Howard Klein, who is also musician. On your website there is an information about piano recital you have done together. Were your contacts somehow important for your decision to become a singer and to your further career? In what way?
My father is a great musician, who like so many others in the USA made his career doing things other than playing music. But for me, it was great in many ways: I got a live-in accompanist and coach for free, I got insights into the music that I would never have gotten elsewhere, I got virtually unlimited practice time. This was of course in the days before I got my own place. We don´t see each other so often now, but we still talk about music a lot, and we do recitals when we can. I would say that my father must be the single greatest influence in my musical life, although I really wanted to study frogs as a career and do music on the side. A (now famous) evolution teacher at a university on Long Island put an end to that by being so mean to me after one class that I never went back to that class and eventually quit college for several years. I would like to say my father never pressured me into being a professional musician, but rather he was always encouraging in whatever pursuit fascitaned me at the time. So was my mom.
13. I think each Tolkien illustrator has featured Luthien at least once. I wonder which of this works do you like the most. Why this one?
I´m afraid the only one I'm really familiar with is the one by Rowena Morrill which partially inspired me to write LEITHIAN, so I guess I liked it altohugh looking at it now I don´t think her clothes are right. As I´ve said before, what I love about reading books is that they make me f orm my own pictures in my head, which anyone else´s illustrations will be in conflict with. That´s why I wanted to read Harry Potter before seeing the movies, and I can say MY idea of Voldemort was nothing like what was on the screen in the movie, and Hagrid was much, much bigger than that guy in the movie. In fact, though I originally wrote LEITHIAN to be put on stage with sets and costumes, a concert version allows the audience to make their own pictures, and in some ways that might be better than a real stage version, especially if that is taken over by some big Director with a Concept and suddenly instead of a glade beside the river Esgalduin we´re in some back alley in Harlem or some seedy London district. Save us all from the Directors who think they can improve on the original. You want to do something New and Different? PAY A COMPOSER TO WRITE A NEW PIECE OF MUSIC.
14. Is this Tolkien´s "love myth" somehow special to you? In what way? What (if something) did the work upon the opera devoted to this subject give to your understanding of this story?
Wel yes certainly it´s special, but more out of what people will do against all odds because of their love. I mean, Luthien in front of Morgoth is a bit like Frodo in front of Sauron, except she did have some Power of her own. She had "cojones", as the Mexicans say. I love that scene, it´s my favorite in the opera, and no one has ever heard it. It´s in Part Two. (By the way, I didn´t write it in Two Parts. It just separates conveniently into two parts, being over four hours of music without even taking any intermissions.)
In order to make the opera as much Tolkien as possible I waited to finish the libretto until all the posthumous Beleriand books came out, especially the Lays of Beleriand, which had a lot of dialogue I could use and added a lot of detail at least to the first half. Tolkien never finished it, though, so I had to invent a lot of text. I would say more than half the words are mine and not Tolkien´s, which brings up an interesting question: should I grant permission for anyone to publish my libretto, since it´s more mine than Tolkien´s? Since I´m not interested in the money in this case, I would grant the permission. Some things are more important than money, like art and culture. The United States often seems to be only about the money, which makes it hard for someone like me to call myself a citizen of it.
Once again I´ve strayed from the question. My understanding of the story has increased in two ways: 1) because I read so carefully all the other books I have a deeper understanding of it than people who have only read The Silmarillion. 2) As I go through life, things happen that remind me of the story and thus remind me how deep an understanding of human nature Tolkien had. His assertion somewhere early in The Silmarillion that people who are not evil don´t understand evil minds was when I first read it and still today part of my Code of Living. One must remember that people think differently, and good people, even if they can´t understand bad people, must try to remember what bad people might do in order not to get trampled by them. Sometimes a pacifist uist stand and fight, and things like that. Or more relevantly, sometimes a composer has to insist he´s not in it for the money, no matter how hard it is for money-oriented people to understand. I have written another opera for profit: it´s just this one that I wrote for love.
15. What do you think is so unusual in the works of Tolkien that makes them a source of joy, thoughts and inspiration for so many different people?
I think it´s the idealism that good will triumph over evil, tempered with the realism that good is often marred by evil. (That is why the Scouring of the Shire should never have been left out of the movies. It was the whole point of the book, from the Hobbit´s perspective.) Plus the incredible detail that his lifetime of working on it brought to the works, something which J.K. Rowling, no matter how good her books are, and they´re very good, can never hope for, since her books were made public much sooner than Tolkien´s were, in terms of where they were in their lives. Even if she wants to add something later it will be too late because we arleady have the books. Perhaps the next generation can enjoy that, if she reworks them at all. I personally like a lot of detail. As you can see.
That´s all I have time for. I hope it´s good enough. Thanks, X, for the further questions. It really feels like an interview now.
Part by Adam:
1.What is your point of view on the role of an Artist these days?
Well, that´s a question and a half. For me, one of an artist´s functions in society is to make people look at aspects of themselves and their culture that they don´t otherwise see, or show it to them in a way that they hadn´t considered before. Another function is to bring beauty into people´s lives, whether that beauty is the conventional kind or the uncomfortable kind. Then one can list the political side of art, which is very thorny of course. In my country right now there is an attempt at fascistic control of art by religious people in power who generally don´t know the first thing about fine art. This is not Bush´s fault, though I don´t think he´s done anything good for the USA (there: I´m a political artist!). This goes way back to the Reagan era when public funding was cut for the Arts and funding was withheld for any art that in any way intruded on certain people´s views of religion. My view on that is: if your religion makes you so afraid of other people´s views that you must threaten artists in order to remain comfortable with yourself, then I must prepare myself for defense against you and your kind, because sooner or later you will come to my house to kill me.
2. What stories/tales from "Silmarillion"/HoME are most precious to you and why are they significant?
Besides the Lay of Leithian, my favorite part of The Silmarillion is the appearance of Ulmo before Tuor. I don´t know why exactly, I can just see Ulmo rising out of the water before him. Maybe it´s because I´m very fond of the ocean. But really I like the whole book and I wish Tolkien had finished it himself. I´m glad they put out the other books but what I really want is for Tolkien to finish them, and that won´t happen East of the Sea, and we won´t hear about it.
3. What do you think about elven languages? Do you know any of them or maybe are going to learn one?
I liked Elvish enough to make my own dictionary before any of the commercial ones came out. I like the way the languages sound. Probably my favorite is Quenya, or the Ent version of Elvish because they run the words together so long. I also really like the Tengwar. I had invented my own alphabet before discovering Tolkien, but after seeing his and the orderliness of them and the orderly correspondence of similar shapes to similar sounds, I changed my alphabet so as to imitate the order of his, though not the look. Mine looks completely different from the Tengwar or the Cirth.
I used to speak a good bit of Elvish back in my late teens, but since then I´ve had to learn German, Italian and Russian to sing ing and learned a lot of roles in these languages and I´m too out of practice with Elvish to say I even understood any of the dialogue in the movies, except "mae govannen". As for learning them again, first of all they´re not complete and secondly I just don´t have the time. But if I were to write another opera on a Tolkien story, I might be persuaded to write in all in Elvish, assuming the commission were substantial enough to pay my bills for a year. That would have to be a pretty big commission.
Now, speaking of these languages, there is a good bit of Sindarin in LEITHIAN, at least in the place names and Luthien´s song to the moon in Scene 1. I thought I had it all pronounced and stressed correctly back when I wrote it, but while preparing the concert I noticed that I´d gotten some of it wrong: the word for tree, "galadh", as far as I can tell is stressed on the first syllable. But I originally set it in the music stressed on the last syllable, probably influenced by the stress in the name "Galadriel" (ga-LA-dri-el). Now I wonder if I got the stress in "Maedhros" right. I had set it as three syllables (ma-E-dhros) but now I think it should probably be pronounced as two syllables (MAE-dhros). Anyone´s opinion on this would be greatly appreciated. It would change how Sauron says it in Scene 7.
By the way, I tried to get my singers to pronounce the Elvish correctly, but some of them just were not able in the time we had to get it right. I apologize. For Part Two I will take more time to make sure they speak it correctly.
4. Do you usually read Tolkien books surrounded by silence or accompanied by sound? I mean do you read Tolkien books listening to any music?
I don´t read Tolkien or any other books while listening to music- that is, music that´s outside my head. I always have music playing inside my head, and I can´t turn it off. I generally don´t need to listen to music from a CD or radio, but I do like doing woodworking to music, especially these days African drumming, and I like nodding off to sleep to Tuvan throat singing. If I´d known about that when I wrote LEITHIAN, I might have included a part to be sung in that style.
5. Do you like/read other fantasy books than Tolkien?
I resisted for a long time any other fantasy series, but my fiancee was going to buy the DVDs for the first three Harry Potter movies, and after what I had seen done to LOTR in the movies I wanted to read the Potter books before seeing the movies. I must say I prefer the books, and in general I prefer books to movies. When I read that Lewis´s Chronicles of Narnia (whose Numinor is a direct (and approved by Tolkien, his friend) steal from Numenor of the Silmarillion) were intentionally Christian allegory, I was not interested in reading them. I am not a Christian, but the Be Nice to Other People rule is a pretty good one. I just don´t think we need any more people to rewrite the Bible, and one of the things I like about Tolkien is that though he was a Catholic, his books are not Christian allegory. They are their own thing. Well, as usual, I´ve strayed from the question.
I don´t watch television anymore, I hate what it´s become, just one long commercial with "reality" shows sandwiched in between, and the "news" is never what I want to hear about, but I do still watch the Stargate science fiction shows, and I was a big Star Trek fan. I also really liked the Matrix trilogy. (Somehow they treated the allegory with such an Eastern twist that I could accept it. The music, also, I thought was superb.) When I was very young I read all the books by Edgar Rice Burroughs: Tarzan and the Mars books. Aside from these I don´t pay much attention to fantasy or science fiction. I´m not saying any of the other fantasies are less good than these: it´s just that these are enough alternate universes for me to escape into when necessary, and I really like reading nonfiction nature and science books and magazines. What´s happening in the real world is really very interesting if you take the time to look.
6. What do you think of Peter Jackson´s LOTR movie?
It was a lot better than Ralph Bakshi´s cartoon of the late 70s. I was prepared to hate it, but I did not hate it. I was, however, very angry that he gave Hobbits pointed ears, and that he got rid of the Scouring of the Shire. For me the fact that the Shire had NOT been left untouched was really the whole point of the whole book, and to have Christopher Lee reprise his death from DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE on that spike outside Orthanc instead of him trying to take over the Shire really killed that part for me. I also didn´t like Saruman´s having some actual psychic connection with Theoden where Tolkien clearly writes in his letters that Saruman´s power is in his words, not in spells. His logic may be twisted, but he was able to convince people of what he wanted them to believe just by talking to them. If he had the connection that Jackson gave him to Theoden, Grima would be unnecessary.
I also disapproved of turning Denethor into a babbling old fool who can´t eat his dinner without soiling himself. He was of high Numenorean blood! He would have at least kept his table manners no matter how Sauron had poisoned his mind with the palantir. I suppose giving Pippin something to do by letting him light the first of the Signal Fires was okay, but then why did Denethor suddenly cry out that Rohan had deserted Gondor, since he himself hadn´t asked for their aid? And why couldn´t he just have burned up on his pyre? Did we really need him jumping off the cliff? Sure, it looked great, but did we need it?
Gollum was great, except they didn´t pronounce his name right! They called him "Smee-gle" instead of "smeh- ah-gol". What would it have cost them to get it right? NOTHING. They got "Morrdorr" right.
And Tolkien wrote that the Orcs should not have lower-class British accents, when asked bout the BBC radio reading of it. So what did Jackson do? Give them low-class British accents. No respect.
My brother thought cutting Bombadil out entirely was unforgivable, but I understood it in terms of keeping one line of plot going. But because we lost that we learned nothing about Merry´s sword that stabbed the Witch-King, and that was really unfortunate.
As an opera singer I was disappointed in Aragorn´s singing his line when he was crowned. The volume at which he sang, and the pitch at which he sang it, would never have gotten past maybe ten rows of people, and there were thousands on that hill. Realism took a holiday, and after all that amazing work with the Nazgul.
In terms of casting, I thought it was mostly good. However, I didn´t like the choice for Aragorn, but my fiancee tells me I don´t have the right glands to have an opinion about that. He´s just not what I saw in my head when I read the book. He was also too short. Orlando Bloom was very good as Legolas, except for his husky voice. Elven voices were melodious, prettier than Men´s voices. It´s like they were singing every time they talked, sort of like the way Canadians speak as opposed to Americans. It was one of their chief differences. And Frodo was in his fifties, but Jackson made him look like a teenager! I really didn´t like that. He was a middle-aged Hobbit! SAM was a middle-aged Hobbit. What would have been wrong with using John Hurt??? I really liked the people of Rohan, I though he got them just right.
I could go on like this for a long time. I guess what I´m saying is Tolkien took a lifetime to knit his story together into a very complete, cohesive history, and Jackson seems to have thought that he could just unravel it to suit his purposes. Cutting for length, I understand. But these creative choices were almost all not as good as the ones Tolkien had made.
I did like, however, the Dead Army coming to help at the Battle of Pelennor Fields. I thought that was still in the spirit of what Tolkien had written. There. I´ll end on a positive note.
Thanks for all the interest. Aurë entuluva.
We´d like to thank you for your time and attention.
Link to Adam Klein´s website: www.adamcjklein.us
Interwiev for www.tolkien.cyberdusk.pl by X, Vaylei, Adam, Osse
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