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Composer and Pianist Richard Thompson Video Interview

August 3, 2012

Richard Thompson  YOUTUBE Interview

Professor Richard Thompson thanks all of you sonictapestry readers for your interest and support of his work. We have not seen much of each other lately as we come and go in San Diego State’s School of Music and Dance, but we do email and chat on the go when. I told him about your response to the posts on this site. He was, in his humble, extremely pleased.

Richard recently sent a fairly new interview posting that was videoed before the premiere of Mask in the Mirror. Click on, watch and listen. He hopes it will provide insight into his work as a man and as a composer.

Musewoman, Delores Fisher

JULY 2012 INTERVIEW (San Diego–before August premiere

Q. Richard, we have talked in the past about African American composers contributions to American Opera. Who do you consider the most outstanding Black composers of Opera in the twentieth century?

A. That’s a great question! I can’t really answer that because there are so  few recordings  and scores available.  I can only comment on the few recorded examples that are commercially available. There are very many African-American composers who are writing  and have written operas  Sadly I don’t know very much of their work.  A short extract on Youtube or an excerpt in a book cannot do justice to a  work that might last 2 hours or more.  On the other hand, for me to find my own direction, I also need to spend time looking within. Their is a difficult, delicate balance between looking outwards and looking within. Too much of either can be detrimental.For me “outstanding” means original, forward-looking, innovative. The challenge is to do those things without losing the potential audience. At this point I cannot name names. It would not be fair. Time will tell!
Q. Who are the key twenty-first century contributors?A. I think it is for the audience to answer that! I cannot perceive my work , or the work of my colleagues from the perspective of the opera going public. In general I encourage the public to embrace the new.  The key twenty-first century contributors will be those who succeed in writing engaging, well crafted,  music coupled with a story which says something profound about humanityOur world is very different from the worlds of say Mozart, Verdi, Puccini and Bizet, some of the  most popular and economically viable  opera composers. New opera has to reflect our modern world. Exactly how, is up to the individual taste  of the composer.
Q.What current trends seem to be emerging in the world of Opera in general, in storyline, musical stylizations and orchestration preferences, say . . . instrumentation, size of ensembles.
A. I see an interest in modern history, modern literature. I think the public wants stories that are relevant. For an African-American audience that means dealing with the Black experience. That is, the real deal, not the stereotypical  images and characters perpetuated by television and Hollywood. There is so much more than what is generally served up by the media in the name of entertainment.America is the most culturally diverse nation on the planet. That should be readily apparent also in the various genres of classical music or classically derived forms.
I see some signs of innovation  and change when a composer incorporates jazz,  or some vernacular language into the expected musical language of opera. That can be reflected in instrumentation also. One can incorporate the instruments of jazz or other cultures into the sonic palette.  We should not be writing music that is merely a pale reflection of a great European past.  Opera gives a great opportunity to present the human experience on a multi-dimensional level. The combination of the aesthetics of theatre with those of music  has the potential for creating something very powerful indeed!My personal preference is, of course, for the marriage of  jazz and the European traditions. That’s what I grew up around and what is an honest reflection of my experience and musical personality.
Q. Your opera about Paul Lawrence Dunbar is now in production, please elaborate.It will be premiered on August 4 by Trilogy Opera,  in  the Central Theatre, Newark , NJ, under the artistic guidance of Kevin Maynor. Kevin is an internationally renowned operatic bass, with a wealth of experience which he brings to this production.
Q. So, how does it feel?It’s a brand new experience for me! I have had many pieces prepared and performed before, but not an opera! It is on a completely different scale of complexity. I know that I have worked  hard on the piece and have written the best piece I am capable of writing  at this stage in my career. I can see and hear it in my mind, which is quite different from the physical reality of performance.  I am very grateful for this opportunity and for the hard work of so many people!  Emotionally, I have to step back a little  and just allow it to happen. I can’t imagine how I will feel, just sitting in my seat watching and listening!
Thank you Richard, I hope the premier is the first of many more!
Delores Fisher    (Musewoman)
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