Powder Her Face

December 8, 1998, December 10, 1998, December 12, 1998

Production Language English
Country of Origin United States
Description Twenty-eight year-old British composer Thomas Adès has been widely heralded as one of the most gifted and influential new forces in contemporary music. His first opera, Powder Her Face, brought him immediate and international acclaim. As Alex Ross of The New Yorker justly noted, "It is no longer fair to call him a prodigy... his [work] has caused a nearly total capitulation of critical and popular opinion."

Powder Her Face is a sharp and darkly comic piece inspired by the salacious life of the Duchess of Argyll. Even compared to current tabloid celebrities, she remains one of our century's most scandalous figures. Philip Hensher's libretto succinctly captures the over-privileged and over-sexed proclivities of the Duchess, whose favorite motto was: Go to bed early, and go to bed often. Inventively, he sets the story in a hotel room, and employs surrealistic flash backs to depict the true-to-life decline and fall of the sensational Duchess.

Adès' dizzying score, much like the Duchess herself, is multi-faceted, wildly colorful and colossally frank. Adès, the real star of this modern opera, combines lyrical melodies with jazzy syncopation, and skillfully "samples" tango, pop music, Stravinsky and flapper songs.

Directed by Edward Berkeley, this semi-staged concert version of Powder Her Face makes its New York premiere with the Brooklyn Philharmonic, led by music director Robert Spano.
Identifier 1998f.00648
Season Fall 1998
VenueBAM Strong (Majestic, BAM Majestic, BAM Harvey Theater, The Rudin Family Gallery)
composerThomas Adès
librettistPhilip Hensher
lighting designerLloyd Sobel
set designer/decorAnne C. Patterson
stage managerPatrick Diamond