Tim Koch, Pat Conroy, Andy Fowler
This is quite a coup for Columbia – a sneak preview of an opera based on Pat Conroy’s novel The Prince of Tides.
Portions of the opera by Andy Fowler, of Myrtle Beach, will be performed Sunday at the USC School of Music. Tim Koch, director of the Carolina Master Chorale in Myrtle Beach, suggested the 1986 novel of an extremely dysfunctional family as the subject for an opera. Fowler is composer-in-residence for the chorale.
"I loved the idea, and when I re-read The Prince of Tides I knew that it was a perfect selection for an operatic setting,” said Fowler, who received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from USC and doctorate from the University of Texas.
“I spoke with Pat and he gave his complete blessing to the project. It uses Pat's words almost verbatim."
The Prince of Tides is the the Beaufort-based author’s most acclaimed novel. It tells the story of Tom Wingo, an out-of-work teacher in South Carolina who is an emotional wreck from a family of wrecks. He goes to New York to help his sister who has attempted suicide. They are both holding back the family’s deepest, darkest secret.
“I have been trying to get Pat Conroy’s prose into an important piece of music for more than 10 years,” Koch said.
“The stars have finally aligned with this project, which, in the long run, has the potential to be the most exciting one of my professional career to date.”
The duo have been working on the opera for several years along with Ellen Schlaefer, director of opera studies at USC.
“The music is charming, dramatic, tuneful, eclectic, jazzy, and greatly varied,” Koch said. “It is a people’s opera, taken from a people’s novel. Already we know that people are compelled by the story. Andy Fowler has done an amazing pairing the prose with compelling, listenable, incredibly dramatic music. “
“The music is lyrical,” Fowler said. “I love the 19th century grand opera tradition. It uses the techniques and devices perfected by Wagner and Verdi (cross-motivic connections, arioso, duets, arias) and makes extensive use of the chorus. I am steeped in music of popular culture, so there are strange derivatives from genres like the blues, jazz, and rock that work their way into the musical texture."
Images of paintings by Brian Rutenberg, a well-known artist and Myrtle Beach native, will be used in the opera.
“Andy discovered Brian’s work on line and we both flipped over it,” Koch said. “The landscapes, particularly, dovetail in total sync with Conroy and Fowler. It is an extraordinary match of parallel literary, musical and visual artistic languages.”
Along with chorale members the event stars singers Janet Hopkins, Walter Cuttino, Jacob Will, Jeffrey Jones, Rebecca Krynski, Marc Rattray and Linda Lister.
The free performance takes place at 5 p.m. at the USC Music School.