Santa Fe Opera's world-premiere Oscar has proved timely in ways unimaginable when the opera was first pondered nine years ago. With same-sex marriage being legalized in more and more countries, while Russia enacts draconian new anti-gay laws, the story of Oscar Wilde couldn't be more au courant...
Morrison captures the rhythms and the inflection of the words in the most natural, grateful vocal lines imaginable... Evoking Wilde's "otherness," and the reportedly mezzo-soprano range of his speaking voice, the title role was composed for superstar countertenor David Daniels... Rich in associations, knowingly staged by Kevin Newbury, with David Korins' evocative sets and apt costumes by David C. Woolard, this is one of the most promising new operas in years.
Dallas Morning News, Scott Cantrell
Mr. Daniels was superb, not only singing but also acting the role with a savvy Wildean mix of arrogance and vulnerability. His sustained tone was beautiful, and his occasional purposeful flirtations with a baritonal register were amusing.
New York Times, James R. Oestreich
In general the vocal lines are perfectly shaped to the text, and for a first opera (!), Oscar is a remarkable achievement. Tunes and easily identifiable motives abound, and the piece is richly scored. Many passages include stunning pronouncements for the brass... It's a score worthy of repeated hearings... This is one of Santa Fe's finest original presentations in several decades.
Opera West, David Gregson
The solid dramaturgy of Cox's libretto flows from an illustrious directing career, and Morrison's late start in composition (42) is crowned at age 75 with his brilliant first attempt at writing an opera. The score is assured and powerful, tender and achingly lyrical. The partnership's combined talents yield some deeply moving moments.
The Bay Area Reporter, Phillip Campbell
In an elaborate, rich production with a strong cast, (Oscar) is visually stunning and often very moving... One has to admire Morrison's lyrical writing for the voice, and his generous word-painting. Also, his rich and colorful orchestration never overpowers the singers, and the vocal writing is graceful enough that from a closer seat or in a smaller hall, one could probably understand most of the text without aid of Opera Titles... The scene in the nursery, when Oscar's friends try to persuade him to flee to France before the trial, is as touching in its hopelessness as the scene between Balstrode, Ellen and Peter Grimes in Britten's opera. Reed Luplau portrays Oscar's idealized lover, Bosie - the catalyst of Oscar's legal downfall. The idea of using a dancer in this role is genius - not only does it set the character apart as a memory, a fantasy, a dream or nightmare, but through the beautiful choreography of Seán Curran, coupled with beautiful solo cello in the orchestra, we can appreciate the attraction and eroticism of their love...
Everyday Opera, Martin Wright
...Given its powerful message, famous subject, relevance, beautifully crafted music and the present lavish production, Oscar may not only be importantly earnest, but have legs as well. Time will tell.
Culture Spectator, Richard P. Townsend)