Tobias Picker, hailed as “a genuine creator” by The New Yorker, has written extensively for the stage and for symphonic forces, and these two approaches are represented in this album. The Encantadas (an older name for the Galapagos Islands) derives from a novella by Herman Melville. Picker has set it as a melodrama, exploring the enchanted isles in all their quietly menacing and spectacular beauty. In a radical new form, Picker’s Opera Without Words is set to a libretto by Irene Dische that has now been removed, allowing the music alone to bear the expressive richness and intensity of this “secret opera.” Tobias Picker has been commissioned to write numerous works in other genres, including operas, three symphonies, concertos for violin,Read more viola, cello and oboe, four piano concertos and chamber music. His many honors include the 2020 GRAMMY Award for Best Opera Recording (Fantastic Mr. Fox). Picker is a lifetime member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and is artistic director of the Tulsa Opera, a post he has held since 2016.
The title for The Encantadas (1983) comes from the early name for the Galapagos Islands. In six sections it relates the journey made there by Herman Melville. The work was conceived for narrator and a standard sized orchestra, and, on this recording, the composer is the very articulate voice that relates Melville’s discoveries he made there.
The more recent score, Opera Without Words, was completed five years ago, and had a strange birth. He had hired a librettist, Irene Dische, to conceive the story, and, after many discussions, all was completed, even down to the stage actions and directions for the producer. But in the end Picker deciding to dispense with words. It receives its World Premiere Recording by one of the commissioning orchestras, the Nashville Symphony. They, and their conductor Giancarlo Guerrero, provide a very colourful score, both works instantly enjoyable in pure tonality. The booklet includes the words narrated in The Encantadas and I hope there is more Picker coming from Naxos.