For more than 36 years, DiChiera has produced opera and musical theater productions; he established the Detroit Opera House in 1996 and also founded Opera Pacific in Orange County, California. He has wanted to write an opera for many years, saying, "I had always been interested in composing an opera, but never found the right subject or had the time. Bernard [Uzan] approached me with the idea of setting Cyrano, and I was immediately struck by the dual aspects of Cyrano's personality, a powerful struggle between his overwhelming external bravado and the inner sadness and anguish of his internal persona. When you add Roxane to the mix, you have a tale similar to Romeo and Juliet — a great love story."
Uzan added, "I have loved Rostand's Cyrano since my youth. This wonderful story, full of humanity, coupled with Rostand's beautiful use of the French language, has always captivated me. The themes of Cyrano are so universal that I think they welcome many different interpretations."
DiChiera began work on Cyrano in 1999. "The more I read Rostand's play, it became clear to me that I wanted to further explore the beauty of the French language. His words lent themselves to music, and for me, simply needed to be sung," he explained.
The opera will be sung in French with English surtitles. As for the music, DiChiera says, "I'm very much a romantic, a melodist and really had nothing to say musically with the atonal compositional style so prevalent in the 1950s and early '60s."
He has composed a "romantic opera that is very faithful to what Rostand penned, as set to a libretto by Bernard. The score is lush and at times big and sweeping. In other sections, especially the final letter scene, it is tender and nostalgic."
DiChiera's previous musical compositions include a Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, two cycles for voice and piano, a children's opera, and various chamber and choral works.
Mark D. Flint, who has created the 70-piece Cyrano orchestration, will conduct all five performances in Detroit. The cast features Romanian baritone Marian Pop in the title role and American soprano Leah Partridge as Roxane. The Detroit performances also include Peter Volpe as DeGuiche, Mark Panuccio as Ragueneau, Gloria Parker as the Duenna and Gaetan Lapperiere as Lebret. Daniel Okulitch will sing the dual roles of Carbon and Inconnu, and Torrance Blaisdell will sing the roles of the Capucin and the Marquis de Cuigy. Casting for the role of Christian will be announced in late January.
English artist John Pascoe will design the 17th-century period scenery and costumes; Donald Thomas will serve as lighting designer.
Following the Detroit engagement, Cyrano will be presented by the Opera Company of Philadelphia February 8-17, 2008 at the Academy of Music, and by Florida Grand Opera from April 26 _May 7, 2008 at the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts in Miami and on May 15 and 17, 2008 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale.
Casting and conducting for the Philadelphia and Florida performances will be slightly different than for the Detroit premiere. In all, Cyrano will be given 18 performances nationwide during the 2007-08 season.