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Broadway World Interview: Marty Regan and Kenny Fries

Broadway World Interview: Marty Regan and Kenny Fries

Marty Regan and Kenny Fries Talk HGO's THE MEMORY STONE | by Clarke | originally published April 4, 2013 on www.operaworld.com  BWW Interviews: Marty Regan and Kenny Fries Talk HGO's THE MEMORY STONE
Read more about BWW Interviews: Marty Regan and Kenny Fries Talk HGO's THE MEMORY STONE - BWWOperaWorld by opera.broadwayworld.c

Shortly after many children all over Houston had hunted lawns for eggs and other treats that the mythical Easter Bunny delivered this past Sunday, I had a delightful conversation with composer Marty Regan and librettist Kenny Fries for Houston Grand Opera (HGO)'s 50thWorld Premiere, THE MEMORY STONE. We discussed the new opera, looking into its creation, meaning, and cultural significance. As we talked about THE MEMORY STONE, it became abundantly clear that this particular opera is most deserving of being HGO's magical 50thWorld Premiere and that it will be one that audiences should not miss.

Me: How did you get started creating music and writing lyrics or librettos?

Kenny FriesKenny Fries: This is my first libretto for an opera. Basically, I had met Marty (Regan) in Japan in 2002. I was there researching a book, on a grant. So, ten years later, Marty asked if I'd be willing to write a libretto, and I said, "Sure." [Laughs] Previously, I wrote a sequence of poems while I was in Japan that was set for traditional Japanese instruments and voice. So that's the experience I had dealing with music, but I had never written a libretto before.

Marty ReganMarty Regan: I've been composing for about 25 years. I started when I was a teenager, basically with just improvisation and short jazz compositions. I began to write chamber music, orchestral music, and choral music when I was an undergraduate student at Oberlin Conservatory of Music. While I was there, I became interested in Japanese culture. Rather than going to graduate school for music composition, I went to Japan following graduation for three years. Upon my return to the United States, I was actually considering abandoning my dream to become a composer and instead pursuing a graduate degree in Japanese studies. One day I thought, "Why do I have to decide between one or the other? Why can't I do both?" So I put the wheels in motion to become an ethnomusicologist and specialist in working with traditional Japanese instruments.

From 2000 - 2002 I was awarded a scholarship from the Ministry of Culture of Japan, and became unmatriculated graduate student at Tokyo College of Music. I took applied lessons on most of the major Japanese instruments and took lessons with one of Japan's most prominent composers, who has since passed away. His name is Minoru Miki. And since then, I would say that probably 80% of my compsitional output has been for traditional Japanese instruments.

THE MEMORY STONE uses a combination of Western orchestral and traditional Japanese instruments. There's a string quartet as well as the shakuhachi, which is the end blown bamboo flute, and the koto, which is a kind of zither. The koto I use in this work has 21 strings. This is also my first operatic work.

Me: Is this your first time to collaborate with each other?

Kenny Fries: Yes.

Me: You said that you met in Japan, but how did that happen?

Kenny Fries: It happened very briefly at a concert for a mutual friend. There's a singer in Japan named Mika Kimula, and I got to know her. I was working on a song cycle project. I had heard Marty (Regan)'s music at a concert that Mika gave. At another concert, Marty was there and she introduced
Read more about BWW Interviews: Marty Regan and Kenny Fries Talk HGO's THE MEMORY STONE - BWWOperaWorld by opera.broadwayworld.comShortly after many children all over Houston had hunted lawns for eggs and other treats that the mythical Easter Bunny delivered this past Sunday, I had a delightful conversation with composer Marty Regan and librettist Kenny Fries for Houston Grand Opera (HGO)'s 50thWorld Premiere, THE MEMORY STONE. We discussed the new opera, looking into its creation, meaning, and cultural significance. As we talked about THE MEMORY STONE, it became abundantly clear that this particular opera is most deserving of being HGO's magical 50thWorld Premiere and that it will be one that audiences should not miss.

Me: How did you get started creating music and writing lyrics or librettos?

Kenny Fries: This is my first libretto for an opera. Basically, I had met Marty (Regan) in Japan in 2002. I was there researching a book, on a grant. So, ten years later, Marty asked if I'd be willing to write a libretto, and I said, "Sure." [Laughs] Previously, I wrote a sequence of poems while I was in Japan that was set for traditional Japanese instruments and voice. So that's the experience I had dealing with music, but I had never written a libretto before.

Marty Regan: I've been composing for about 25 years. I started when I was a teenager, basically with just improvisation and short jazz compositions. I began to write chamber music, orchestral music, and choral music when I was an undergraduate student at Oberlin Conservatory of Music. While I was there, I became interested in Japanese culture. Rather than going to graduate school for music composition, I went to Japan following graduation for three years. Upon my return to the United States, I was actually considering abandoning my dream to become a composer and instead pursuing a graduate degree in Japanese studies. One day I thought, "Why do I have to decide between one or the other? Why can't I do both?" So I put the wheels in motion to become an ethnomusicologist and specialist in working with traditional Japanese instruments.

From 2000 - 2002 I was awarded a scholarship from the Ministry of Culture of Japan, and became unmatriculated graduate student at Tokyo College of Music. I took applied lessons on most of the major Japanese instruments and took lessons with one of Japan's most prominent composers, who has since passed away. His name is Minoru Miki. And since then, I would say that probably 80% of my compsitional output has been for traditional Japanese instruments.

THE MEMORY STONE uses a combination of Western orchestral and traditional Japanese instruments. There's a string quartet as well as the shakuhachi, which is the end blown bamboo flute, and the koto, which is a kind of zither. The koto I use in this work has 21 strings. This is also my first operatic work.

Me: Is this your first time to collaborate with each other?

Kenny Fries: Yes.

Me: You said that you met in Japan, but how did that happen?

Kenny Fries: It happened very briefly at a concert for a mutual friend. There's a singer in Japan named Mika Kimula, and I got to know her. I was working on a song cycle project. I had heard Marty (Regan)'s music at a concert that Mika gave. At another concert, Marty was there and she introduced us.

Marty Regan: Right. I remember meeting Kenny (Fries) ten years ago, and he left a very strong impression on me. When I was hired to do this opera, there was no librettist that came on, and I was given the choice of either writing the libretto myself or finding someone who I could work with. I knew that Kenny has a deep affinity for Japanese culture and literature, so I sought him out, contacted him after a period of ten years, and asked if he would be interested in writing the libretto.

Me: What was your writing process for THE MEMORY STONE like?

Kenny Fries: My task was to write a story that had something to do with the Japanese-American community in Houston, so last May I came down for four days....

Read more about BWW Interviews: Marty Regan and Kenny Fries Talk HGO's THE MEMORY STONE - BWWOperaWorld by opera.broadwayworld.com

 

BWW Interviews: Marty Regan and Kenny Fries Talk HGO's THE MEMORY STONE

Read more about BWW Interviews: Marty Regan and Kenny Fries Talk HGO's THE MEMORY STONE - BWWOperaWorld by opera.broadwayworld.com

BWW Interviews: Marty Regan and Kenny Fries Talk HGO's THE MEMORY STONE

Read more about BWW Interviews: Marty Regan and Kenny Fries Talk HGO's THE MEMORY STONE - BWWOperaWorld by opera.broadwayworld.com

BWW Interviews: Marty Regan and Kenny Fries Talk HGO's THE MEMORY STONE

Read more about BWW Interviews: Marty Regan and Kenny Fries Talk HGO's THE MEMORY STONE - BWWOperaWorld by opera.broadwayworld.com