When Elvis Costello was asked three years ago by Denmark's Royal Theater to write an opera about Hans Christian Andersen, his first thought was, "Why didn't they choose a Danish composer? Then I recalled that Andersen belongs to the world," Costello said. On Saturday, his work "The Secret Arias" — based on Andersen's unrequited yearning for Swedish soprano Jenny Lind — will debut at Copenhagen's new waterfront opera house, with Costello himself playing two lead roles.
...His story tells a three-way drama between Andersen, Lind — nicknamed the "Swedish Nightingale" — and her American impresario, P.T. Barnum, who brought Lind to New York for her first U.S. concert tour in 1850. "The songs will tell a story that I have imagined existing between the lines of Andersen's biography and some of his most famous tales," Costello told reporters this week. "They speak of a misfit's love for an unattainable woman and a struggle between a huckster and someone who composes music in secret."
...Costello, revealing few details about his work, said it was a traditional opera, but with some exceptions. "We will not have a symphonic orchestra," he said. Instead, four musicians will accompany Costello and Stille at the opera's main stage, which can seat as many as 1,700 people. Costello said he was inspired by Andersen's way of expression, adding that "many translations of (Andersen's) works miss the really good elements, the macabre, the weird and the social critique."
...Kasper Holten, the Royal Theater's 32-year-old opera director, said asking Costello to write an opera was a way to bring a broader repertoire to the $406 million opera house, instead of merely focusing on the big classics.
I believe that $406 million was a bigger factor in asking him than the universal ownership of Hans Christian Andersen. Regardless, this is Advanced.