Composers: Thinking Big

The set looked like a huge, ominous Tinkertoy: an abstract tangle of pipes, scaffolds and ladders against a moody blue backdrop. The singers, clambering over it with starkly stylized gestures, seemed to be groping through a hallucinatory dream sequence. "It was," said the composer, "an ideal staging that caught the nightmarish quality I intended and gave it an extra dimension."

Thus the San Francisco Opera last week gave Gunther Schuller's first op era. The Visitation, the kind of production it has always needed and never had. The Hamburg State Opera, which commissioned the work, performed it successfully last year (TIME,...

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