For several years I have been following the composer Nico Muhly’s work. I first heard an eclectic piece of his on YouTube, maybe around 2006-2007. I can’t remember what the piece was called, but I did remember his name, and took time to listen whenever I heard it pop up again. This month, he has premiered “Two Boys,” an opera commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera.
Muhly is the youngest composer the Met has ever commissioned. Though this is a feat in itself, the opera also breaks new ground with its subject matter and performance concepts. The plot unfolds the real life story of a 16-year-old boy who was antagonized to attack a younger boy by participants in an internet chat room in 2001. Described by the New York Times, the performance takes place almost entirely digitally, as the main characters sit at desks in front of computers. Every member of the chorus stands in the background, holding laptops as they sing and babble in the style of digital whispers.
Unfortunately, the opera received only a mediocre review in the New York Times. However, it is part of the Metropolitan Opera’s new effort to program more modern works, as Kyle mentioned below. I think the opera is innovative enough to entice the public back into the concert hall, regardless of whether it is considered a masterwork or not. I would certainly take advantage of any opportunity to see it.