Arts & Culture

Classical Classroom, Episode 181: The Magicians – Daron Hagen on Orson Welles

In which the composer uses prestidigitation to make an opera about the famous director.

Daron Hagen. Photo by Karen Pearson.

Composer, conductor, and librettist Daron Hagen recently created a new magic trick: An opera that’s not an opera about the director Orson Welles (Citizen Kane) but not necessarily about Orson Welles which may be performed in a different way every time it’s performed and, according the website, “may, in fact, not exist at all, except as a set of options.” 

Hagen’s opera Orson Rehearsed has a lot to teach us about the use and usefulness of operatic structure and about the creative process. Welles, who was an actual magician, loved the process of creating. Hagen makes that process part of the performance of Orson Rehearsed by placing each performance in the hands of an appointed person (the opera’s “Magician”) who makes decisions about the opera from a set of sound collages that they can dictate the order and placement of as it’s happening. And it all takes place in the last hour of Orson Welles’ life, as Hagen has envisioned it. 

Honestly, you’re just gonna have to listen, people.

Music in this episode:

Live recording of Chicago performance of Daron Hagen’s opera, Orson Rehearsed

Special Thanks to Todd Reynolds for his music, Taskforce: Farmlab from Outerbourough.

Share