"A traumatized silence clung to the Fishman Space auditorium after the last line sung by the soprano Ah Young Hong, the opera’s blazing, lone star: 'Terrible is the passage/ Into the fold/ Both for man/ And /Animal.' When the lights came up again, Ms. Hong was in tears. Death casts a long shadow over the recent work of Mr. Hersch, who lost a close friend to cancer while battling the disease himself. But in 'On the Threshold of Winter' Mr. Hersch has given himself the space to burrow past anger and incomprehension in search of an art fired by empathy and compassion" – The New York Times
“A work of great originality, daring, and disturbing power” – The Baltimore Sun
“Masterly modernist music of implacable seriousness”– The New Yorker
"A Masterpiece" – Cotidianul
Michael Hersch's On the Threshold of Winter
Music and Libretto by Michael Hersch
Text adapted from Marin Sorescu’s The Bridge, Translation by Adam J. Sorkin and Lidia Vinau
Directed by Ah Young Hong
Video Design by Maxwell Bowman
Soprano - Ah Young Hong
Conductor - Tito Muñoz
Flute - Emi Ferguson
Oboe - Andrew Nogal
Clarinet - Gleb Kanasevich
Bass Clarinet - Benjamin Fingland
Piano - Michael Sheppard
Percussion - Matthew Gold
Violin - Conrad Harris
Cello - Felix Fan
The Washington premiere of an immersive, confrontational and unsettling monodrama about a man’s struggle with cancer in the last year of his life. In 1996, Marin Sorescu was nominated for a Nobel Prize—only to be diagnosed with liver cancer later that year. A literary hero in his native Romania, he spent the last five weeks of his life in hospital, where he continued to write poems. These writings were later published and translated into English.
The composer, Michael Hersch, first encountered Sorescu’s works in 2010. For years, he had wanted to write a work for the stage and had been searching for an appropriate vehicle. With this, he finally found the material he wanted to work with, completing the work in 2012. The work's premiere took place in New York City in 2014.
This performance at the Corcoran will feature the acclaimed soprano Ah Young Hong, the only singer thus far to perform the work. The New York Times described her in the premiere as "the opera’s blazing, lone star," The Chicago Tribune a role "portrayed with soul-baring intensity ... absolutely riveting," The Utah Review hailing her as "the definitive performer for the opera ... a remarkable display ... Her vocal musicianship is a mastery of breath control and phrase articulation," a "dramatic presence [which] astounds at every turn." The Chicago Classical Review described Hong in this new production, directed by the soprano herself, as "a fearless presence, wielding her unamplified, bell-like voice like a weaponized instrument. Hong delivered a tour de force vocal performance in this almost unfathomably difficult music—attacking the dizzying high notes with surprising power, racing through the rapid-fire desperation of agitated sections, and bringing a numbed, toneless sprechstimme and contralto-like darkness to the low tessitura ...Yet in addition to the daunting vocal demands, of Hersch’s score, Hong brought blazing intensity to the crucial theatrical element as well. There was always a plaintive human vulnerability to her presence, whether she was sobbing, screaming, moaning in pain or pulling down the long, diaphanous curtains, and wrapping herself in them like a shroud."
Michael Hersch - On the Threshold of Winter - 2018 production trailer