May 11, 2016

Professor of Music Paul Moravec’s “The Shining” Earns Glowing Reviews

Stephen King’s 1977 novel The Shining is no doubt best known for director Stanley Kubrick’s screen adaptation, with unforgettable performances from Shelley Duvall and Jack Nicholson. But a new telling, by Paul Moravec, University Professor at Adelphi University, and librettist Mark Campbell, earned rave reviews while looking back to the original Stephen King novel.

As iconic as the movie is, Moravec said it wasn’t difficult to set it aside, along with Kubrick’s score, which included works by major 20th-century composers like Bela Bartok and Krzysztof Penderecki. 

“In working from Stephen King’s novel and Mark’s libretto, it was easy to forget any other association,” he said. “The book is so compelling. It’s practically an opera to begin with. It’s about love, death, power, all these very strong emotions.

“The first question an opera composer has to answer is ‘Why are these characters singing?'” he added. “The Shining answers that question right off the bat.”

Despite its relatively quick run, Moravec and Campbell’s adaptation had critics singing their praises. Writing in Opera News, Joshua Rosenblum said, “The scary parts sound like a first-rate horror movie score, and I mean that as a compliment—the music is impressively creative, maximally effective, and it continues to outdo itself throughout the piece,” calling one climactic scene “as riveting as anything I’ve ever seen in a theater. What a wonderful thing to be able to say about a new American opera.”

The opera received glowing reviews and has continued to gain notice in the press. The Wall Street Journal‘s Heide Waleson chimed in, saying, “Mr. Moravec’s witty, evocative music strikes a good balance between the sincere and the creepy.” And Broadway World describes “Paul Moravec’s score full of discomfiting themes that clash and collide,” enhancing the experience as a whole. And in a June 3 post on The Economist website, a writer identified as J.C.T. said, “Brian Mulligan, a baritone, depicts Jack as an everyman. His extended vocal passages stress that he is fighting, rather than embracing, the demons of the Overlook Hotel—Mr Moravic’s score uses an effective mix of atonal shrieks and haunting echoes of big-band 1920s music.”

There aren’t currently plans for stagings of the opera in the New York area, but curious listeners were able to hear another piece of Moravec’s on June 1 as a part of the New York Philharmonic Biennial. The League of Composers/ISCM presented his Sempre Diritto! a work based on Moravec’s memories of getting lost in Venice and having people tell him anything he was looking for was “straight ahead” (as the title translates). 

“It’s a piece that winds around and around and finally finds itself,” he explained. 

Moravec won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize in Music and has earned a Rome Prize Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Rockefeller Foundation, and three awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. On the Adelphi faculty since 1996, he said he’s watched the University grow over the last two decades. 

“I’ve seen Adelphi really blossom amazingly in the last 20 years,” he said. “It’s a remarkable story…and it continues under President Riordan. I am proud to be a part of Adelphi, to be a part of that story.” 


The Shining by Paul Moravec from "Opera News"

The Minnesota Opera’s production of Paul Moravec and Mark Campbell’s “The Shining.”  Photo published by “Opera News.” ©Ken Howard/Minnesota Opera 2016




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