by Sung Jin Hong
Nov4 Thanking all Fannibals and Music Lovers! • Oct 25 Bryan Fuller tweets about the world premiere of Hannibal (2015) • Oct 20 The Daily Dot & Hannibal Cast • Oct 9 Interview with Cardiologist Dr. Steven Markowitz • Oct 5 Which Fach Will Sing Hannibal Lecter? • June 3 Hannibal: Teaser Trailer • May 13 The Cook, the Composer and His Cat • April 24 Heisenberg's Resurrection • Feb 26 Classic FM Exclusive! • Feb 02 Vote & Break Bad Again • Jan 14 Revealed: Breaking Bad – Ozymandias • Jan 13 Cast of Breaking Bad – Ozymandias • Dec 5 Tweak of Chemistry • Oct 22 Bitch Aria • Oct 16 BBC feature • Oct 7 Breaking Bad — Ozymandias
Thanking all Fannibals and Music Lovers!
Immediately after the resonance of Hannibal’s final chord, I was moved with what we shared together:
Standing in the intense stillness for what felt like eternity with all our musicians and guests at the premiere may have been one of the more poignant experiences of the evening. This suspended moment of time allowed an unexpected and intimate communion for our performing artists and attentive guests. Thank you!
After our joint heightened state of awareness, it was pure joy meeting many creative Fannibals from all over the country. One of the guests whom I had the pleasure of greeting and hugging after the show was my anesthesiologist for my emergency foot surgery from earlier in the week. It was a pleasant surprise to discover that she may be a Fannibal herself!
Surprises are the stuff of life, and an unanticipated medical emergency occurred to one of our violinists earlier that day. At the 11th hour — just about 15 minutes before the show — it wasn’t looking promising. We were fortunate enough to have THE doctor in the house: cardiologist Dr. Steven Markowitz, who also helped me expand my research on the heart rhythms and murmurs that were incorporated into Hannibal. He generously attended to our violinist, and counseled and comforted her. He was a hero behind the scenes, thoughtfully taking care our musician. In turn, we were amazed and grateful to our violinist for persevering and performing at the premiere!
We at One World Symphony would like to take this moment to thank Dr. Steven Markowitz and Jody Scopa Goldman of the Heart Institute at New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell for generously teaching our guests Hands-Only CPR, a technique that can be a life-saving difference for someone who is experiencing a cardiac arrest.
It was an honor and a great pleasure to make music with all our artists. At the soundcheck around 90 minutes before the premiere, all seventy musicians (soloists, Concertus, and Symphony), “wearing blotches of fiery red lipstick, stilettos and neckties,” were in their places, focused, and embraced the moment and opportunity to share our passion with each other and our world premiere guests.
Thank you very much to all our musicians for bringing the blueprint to life and to all of our guests who attended the premiere.
Bryan Fuller tweets about the world premiere of Hannibal (2015)
The creator of NBC's hit drama series Hannibal, Bryan Fuller, tweeted about tonight — One World Symphony's world premiere of Hannibal (2015)!
THIS SOUNDS AMAZING!!! 5 Questions With The 'Hannibal' Opera Composer/Conductor Sung Jin Hong https://t.co/DZ2TGqaz7A— Bryan Fuller (@BryanFuller) October 25, 2015
Bryan Fuller's tweet is referring to the feature interview by Hannibal Fannibal's Jess Goodwin. She wrote:
"Bryan Fuller’s vision of Hannibal might be on pause right now, but Fannibals are keeping it alive and well not only in our hearts (and social media), but, in the case of One World Symphony conductor Sung Jin Hong, on the stage as well. In what promises to be an adaptation worthy of Hannibal Lecter’s refined tastes, Hong has taken the series and twisted it into his latest “operasode.”
The Daily Dot Feature Interview and Meet the Hannibal Cast
Aja Romano of The Daily Dot recently previewed One World Symphony's production of Hannibal (2015). I learned that beyond being a passionate writer and journalist, she studied voice at the prestigious Indiana University. Check out her absorbing journal here >>
When she interviewed me, we discussed Hannibal and explored overtones of genderqueerness, mad scenes, audience engagement, Operasodes and our current zeitgeist:
"When [Sung Jin] developed the idea of 'operasodes' based on modern pop culture phenomena, he knew he was building on a vast cultural tradition of remixing and adapting works across mediums... [But after] Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones, he found himself the subject of major profiles in the Guardian and Esquire. It was clear he'd hit paydirt on an idea that spoke to the community...and helped usher [One World Symphony] into a new phase of audience interactivity."
She left me with a question to ponder: "Is performing powerful music enough to resonate and engage with our community?" Please read all of Aja's thoughtful interview here >>
I'd also like to take this chance to introduce you to our Hannibal cast. These vocal artists—all of them part of the One World Symphony community—committed to the project without seeing a single note of music in advance. Their level of trust in me and their patience is immensely appreciated.
So who the FACH will sing the title role? As Aja described it in the feature interview: "Hong made a number of startling musical choices for this opera. Most notably he cast countertenor Nicholas Tamagna as Hannibal, bringing the character's genderqueer and omnisexual overtones to the forefront" by harnessing the enigmatic qualities of this rare voice part. Nicholas and I had the great pleasure of collaborating in Mahler's "Ich bin der Welt abandon gekommen" in The Wayfarer. At the world premiere this Sunday, October 25th, you can judge for yourself if casting a countertenor was a convincing choice for Hannibal.
Tenor, copywriter and editor Ransom Bruce will be performing the role of FBI profiler Will Graham. Ransom was electrifying as Bob Boles in one of One World Symphony's most successful productions, the complete, uncut Peter Grimes by Benjamin Britten. His "method acting" was immediately apparent here, as he used his FBI-level sleuthing skills to catch a few discrepancies between my original manuscript and the final printed score!
Soprano, dancer and yogini Marie Putko, who made her One World debut as Susanna in our New Girls Operasode, will bring life to the role of Abigail Hobbs. I wrestled with which principal character would sing my first operatic mad scene. My decision went to the unassuming, yet not-to-be-underestimated, character of Abigail. It was a lot of fun capturing her innocence, grappling with her descent into hysteria, and eventually empowering her. Does this monodrama reflect any influences from the quintessential mad scene in Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor? I hope you'll come and tell me what you think.
Soprano, President of Opus Strategy, and mother of two boys Laura Farmer will sing "Pie Jesu" from Fauré's Requiem (the Sanctus and Agnus Dei are also on the program, featuring One World Concertus). Laura recently performed as Marie Schrader in our sold-out world premiere of Breaking Bad — Ozymandias and as Elettra in the Games of Thrones Operasode. I'll never forget the first time we met. Laura arrived as a walk-in at one of our marathon auditions. She waited for at least two hours, somehow remained vocally fresh, and won the heated competition for the role of Frasquita in our acclaimed Carmen.
Harpist Kristi Shade has been One World's principal harpist since we first collaborated on Peter Grimes. Ever since I started putting pencil to staff paper, I've learned that instrumentalists are often a composer's best friend, as they know their instruments so much more intimately. Kristi has been an invaluable guide in showing me the expansive possibilities of this exquisite instrument. Our guests are guaranteed a sublime treat with Kristi's rendition of the Aria from Johann Sebastian Bach's Goldberg Variations.
I invite you to get to know the rest of our featured artists as well: Jane Albert (Mischa Lecter in Hannibal), Finnish pianist Markus Kaitila (Saariaho), and principal flutist and nail artist Chrissy Fong here >>
Compositions are blueprints. I am immensely grateful to all our dedicated and passionate artists, Concertus, One World Symphony and all of the the world premiere audience members who will bring this new blueprint to life. See you on October 25!
INTERVIEW WITH CARDIOLOGIST DR. STEVEN MARKOWITZ
“In his mind a silver pendulum swung in the darkness. He waited until the pendulum was still...” — Red Dragon, Thomas Harris
Growing up with very humble beginnings and few resources, my mother instilled in my sister and me to always feel “bool-sahng-heh” (불쌍해 – Korean for sympathy) for others.
The re-occurring themes of sympathy, imagining, hypothesizing, perspective-taking are explored in the paradox of the FBI profiler Will Graham in Harris’s Red Dragon and lushly developed in Fuller’s Hannibal. Graham’s unique gift — pure empathy (7) — was also his curse. His heightened ability to immerse himself in not only the victims, but also the psychopaths he was profiling, made us ask: is empathy always good, or can it be dangerous? Was his gift clouding his judgment and driving him away from the basic human sense of justice and morality? Graham’s self-destructive path multiplied when he sought psychoanalytic treatment from Dr. Lecter, in Fuller’s drama. Would Graham have been in better care under the humanistic approach of Dr. Viktor Frankl instead?(8)
How is the “silver pendulum” swinging approached in Hannibal (2015)? Besides the natural use of polychords and polytonality to blur or even suspend the sense of a tonal or moral center, how do I depict Will Graham’s fatal gift?
My mother’s influence haunted me again, and I asked myself, “What is bool-sahng-heh?” I believe that she was asking us to listen to each other’s hearts. This eureka moment during the creative process inspired me to investigate and study the human heart and its various rhythms and murmurs. The more I researched, the more I became fascinated and even obsessed.
Did you know that there is a heart murmur that is considered “pathological?” So, instead of literally depicting the swinging sound of the silver pendulum in the music drama, I decided that Will should hear not only his, but also the victims’ and pyschopaths’ heart rhythms and murmurs. What happens when their pulsating hearts intertwine?(9)
Before I decided to incorporate my findings of heart rhythms and murmurs in Hannibal, I wanted a professional to confirm and help expand my research. I reached out to some of the most respected cardiologists in the country, and karma struck immediately. Dr. Steven Markowitz at New York-Presbyterian Weill Cornell responded and invited me to his office. Thinking our meeting might last only 15 minutes, I was pleasantly surprised our our first date lasted around an hour and a half. It was evident that he was genuinely interested and we shared similar passions: music and the heart.
While we were exchanging ideas and exploring possible collaborations, he kindly offered to ask Jody Scopa Goldman, Dr. James Horowitz, and their staff from the Heart Institute at New York-Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center to teach HandsOnly CPR at the premiere — a technique that can be a life-saving difference for someone who is experiencing a cardiac arrest.
We at One World Symphony are grateful and honored to have Dr. Steven Markowitz and the dedicated staff at New York-Presbyterian Weill Cornell’s Heart Institute collaborate with us to help save lives. Thank you very much, Steve, and we looking forward to seeing you and your staff at the world premiere of Hannibal on October 25.
Dr. Steve Markowitz, who studied at Harvard Medical School, is an attending physician at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Professor of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell University. “As a cardiologist who specializes in heart rhythm abnormalities, I have witnessed dramatic changes in our understanding of arrhythmias and in treatment possibilities to improve health and longevity of our patients.” Please get to know his amazing work and his dedication to his patients here.
Dr. Markowitz generously consented to sit for an interview for our audiences.
Sung Jin Hong: What or who inspired you to become a cardiologist? Was there a specific event or individual?
Dr. Steven Markowitz: During my fourth year of medical school, my father experienced a heart attack, coincidentally while I was rotating on a cardiology elective. I witnessed the capabilities but also the limitations of what cardiac care could accomplish at that time. I suppose this experience influenced — perhaps subliminally — my career direction to advance the care of cardiac patients.
When you think of the natural processes that govern heart function, it is fascinating and humbling. The heart beats around 100,000 times per day, each beat generated by spontaneous processes within the heart that allow an electrical impulse to be generated and cause the muscle to contract. This interest in the electrical properties of the heart led to my choice to treat disorders of cardiac rhythm.
SJH: Can you please tell us more about New York-Presbyterian Weill Cornell Center’s Heart Institute and how it actively serves our community?
SM: The Heart Institute at New York-Presbyterian Weill Cornell is committed to offering our patients and the community the most advanced cardiac care and effective prevention of cardiac disease, in a caring and compassionate environment. We have a variety of community outreach activities, which include educational talks for the public on heart health and cardiac surgery, teaching CPR, and heart-healthy activities like Zumba.
SJH: What was your initial reaction when a composer contacted you to discuss the use of heartbeat rhythms and murmurs such as systolic and diastolic murmurs and ventricular and atrial gallops, for a Hannibal opera?
SM: I must admit that I was surprised and intrigued. I was aware that some composers had incorporated heart rhythms into their music, including some well-known concert pieces. It would be interesting to see how this is incorporated into the creative process. I was excited to meet a composer and bridge the cultures of medicine and music.
SJH: One of your favorite classes while you were a student at Harvard University was music history. What was so memorable about the class?
SM: This class gave me — a science major who was most comfortable with quantitative subjects — a capacity to listen to compositions and appreciate their forms and their places in musical history. I remember spending time in the library, listening to music on headphones, immersed in these masterful works that opened new horizons for me.
SJH: You fondly mentioned the cardiologist guru Dr. W. Proctor Harvey(10). Dr. Harvey encouraged his students and colleagues to train their own listening skills — for example, by playing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and asking them to listen for specific rhythms — rather than simply relying on technology. Do you think the cardiology field would benefit from an application of the “human ears over machines” approach?
SM: Just as young generations of doctors have lost skills in auscultation, so have many lost skills of listening to their patients. Regretfully, our health care system exerts numerous pressures on physicians, which detract from the amount and quality of time they spend with patients. Certainly, young cardiologists would benefit from honing their skills of listening to hearts and listening to patients.
You would be interested to know that Cornell sponsors a Music and Medicine initiative, a program that permits medical students who are gifted to merge their musical and medical experiences.
SJH: What are you most looking forward to experiencing at Hannibal?
SM: I am particularly interested in hearing how you chose to depict heart rhythms and sounds in your music. And I do hope not to develop an arrhythmia while listening to the more dramatic passages!
SJH: Would you like to share or comment on anything else?
SM: It has been a pleasure collaborating with you, and I am eagerly anticipating the premiere performance.
7. The Victorian novelist and journalist George Eliot eloquently discussed empathy without the use of the word: “The greatest benefit we owe to artist is the extension of our sympathies... Art is the nearest thing to life; it is a mode of amplifying experience and extending our contact with our fellow-men beyond the bounds of our personal lot.” Her description reminds me of the tender and transformative experience when Cameron from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off focuses on George Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. For the first time, the audience can empathize with the misunderstood Cameron during this poignant moment of refuge.
8. One of my favorite classes while a student in Vienna was a philosophy course taught by Dr. Doris Lechleitner. She introduced me to Dr. Viktor Frankl’s therapeutic practice of logotherapy — the belief that it is the striving to find a meaning in one’s life that is the primary, most powerful motivating and driving force — and his inspiring story of survival and empathy even during the unimaginable horrors in Nazi concentration camps.
9. At the Norton Lectures at Harvard University, Leonard Bernstein may have been the first person to say that in the opening pages of Gustav Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, the composer depicted his own irregular heart rhythm, specifically played by the cellos and fourth horn. As a conductor analyzing the opening pages of Mahler’s Ninth, I hear the sextuplet viola line starting on measure 5 as a signal of an abnormal heart murmur, not rhythm. Mahler’s touch of having the sextuplet violas play on the “weaker” pulse foreshadows the inevitable turbulent blood flow. Like Bernstein, I’m an emotional wreck when I immerse myself with this symphony as a listener or a conductor.
WHICH FACH WILL SING HANNIBAL LECTER?
The score to Hannibal (2015) is complete. It took longer to compose than I expected. Alex Diamond of CUNY TV empathized and informed me that the sophomore novel is always the toughest. I would agree; however, I don’t believe I’ve written my first novel yet.
Two main hurdles had to be overcome to even begin Hannibal:
First, they say your “first” may be the toughest to get over. The affair lasted only three months, full of many long nights together burning the midnight oil. We were in sync, she got me, she hypnotized right from the pilot: Breaking Bad. Writing my first music drama, Breaking Bad — Ozymandias was an all-consuming and passionate affair, but then it was over. What do you do after the breakup of such a torrid relationship: see a psychiatrist, replace it with something else, or collapse into the pain of loneliness, lost in an aching hole of absence, the emptiness within?
How about all of the above? Enter Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon and Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal. While Harris’s psychological thriller ventured into the darkest places and most visceral fears, Fuller’s drama carved out a niche for itself in the serial killer genre — not only through sensual and hallucinogenic horror, but by focusing on the debilitating journey of mental illness. Their works inspired me to address profound mental disorders, traumas, complex and forbidden love, and the deep longing for empathy and intimacy through music.
Now that my imaginative canvas was lit on fire, I was faced with my next challenge. Where do I even begin? How do you tackle — in just 45 to 50 minutes of music(1) — a character and a narrative that spans four novels, five films, and 39 television episodes? Which characters should be developed, nurtured, made sympathetic?(2)There was almost too much inspiration at hand — too many fascinating storylines within the Hannibal Lecter universe. The only thing I could do was focus on the complex character relationships that moved me and cultivate their intricate narratives and controversial transformations.
During the creative process of Hannibal, I leaned towards the side of the cerebral, curious, probing. I wrestled with some of the following questions:(3)
- How did Lecter transform into a monster? Does he ever feel remorseful or guilty in any way? Is he human?
- How far can I explore themes of folie à deux(4), intense psychological traumas, and forbidden love between the two protagonists in Fuller’s drama?
- Should I incorporate Lecter’s favorite piece, Bach’s Goldberg Variations, in the music drama? If so, how?(5)
- If I commit to composing my first operatic Mad Scene in Hannibal, who should sing this monodrama? Lecter, Graham, Dolarhyde, Chilton, Verger...?
- Instead of imitating the swinging sound of the silver pendulum, how can I find my own unique voice to represent Will Graham’s rare gift of pure empathy?
- Similar to Harris’s Red Dragon, should I incorporate William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience?
- Lastly, which fach(6) will be singing the title role? Could a countertenor bring a delicate union of terror and the sublime, the female and male?
In the subsequent blogs, I’m looking forward to introducing our dedicated cast, discussing a unique partnership with New York-Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center’s Heart Institute and share how I addressed these questions in Hannibal (2015).
1. The libretto alone took more than three months to excavate, and my original sketch had around 80 minutes of music.
2. In Harris’s Red Dragon, the reader may feel more indifferent towards Will Graham compared to Fuller’s drama. Perhaps this was intentional, as Harris planned to have the readers feel more sympathy towards his next protagonist in The Silence of the Lambs: Clarice Starling.
3. The curious side motivated me to investigate real heartbeat rhythms and murmurs for Hannibal. My research was confirmed by cardiologist Dr. Steven Markowitz. We decided to continue to collaborate by having his New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center’s Heart Institute partner with One World Symphony at Hannibal on October 25. In one of my upcoming blog entries, I’ll be sharing some discoveries from the research and the fascinating meeting with Dr. Markowitz.
4. Folie à deux in French means a madness shared by two.
5. In the film The Silence of the Lambs, Lecter celebrates with Bach’s Goldberg Variations immediately after one of his monstrous crimes.
6. Fach in German means subject; in this context it refers to sense of vocal specialization or a method of classifying singers.
HANNIBAL: WORLD PREMIERE SERIAL OPERA (50 sec Teaser Trailer)
(Trouble viewing this video? Watch it here.)
Teaser Trailer: Hannibal, A World Premiere Serial Opera
Original Composition by Sung Jin Hong
Performed by One World Symphony on unplugged acoustical instruments
Composer-Conductor: Sung Jin Hong
50 second Video: Adrienne Metzinger
THE COOK, THE COMPOSER AND HIS CAT
Thank you to all our fans who have expressed their enthusiasm to experience Breaking Bad — Ozymandias again. Heisenberg will be resurrected for one more performance only in One World Symphony’s season finale on Monday, May 19. Details, tickets and the new video are here.
Breaking Bad — Ozymandias 2.0
After the world premiere performances of Breaking Bad — Ozymandias in January 2014, I decided to allow the score and the experience to settle and breathe. Similar to how Heisenberg was not only still alive and well in the beginning of the final season, he returned with a whole new depth and darkness. To reflect this, instead of having three sopranos as the principal female vocalists (Skyler, Marie, and Jane), I have written for one soprano as Jane and two mezzos: the sisters Skyler and Marie.
Returning as Heisenberg/Ozymandias, the versatile José Pietri-Coimbre anchors a new vocal cast in the revised version of Breaking Bad — Ozymandias. Please feel free to get to know our new cast here.
Libera: Last Love from Ukraine, Barefoot in Venezuela...
The season finale’s theme will remain Libera, which will include music from Beethoven’s historical epic music drama Egmont and New York premiere of Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov’s Last Love. The news reported that many Crimeans legitimately do want to be part of Russia, but many Ukrainians, including Mr. Silvestrov, have been protesting against Russian invasion.
Our own hemisphere is sadly no stranger to upheaval. One World Symphony will also perform music by Venezuelan composer Antonio Lauro to support the protestors and barefoot students fighting for justice and tolerance — and even toilet paper — in that South American country. Inspired by an article from Newsweek on April 17, 2014, One World Symphony will perform Barefoot in Venezuela, arrangements from Mr. Lauro’s music for guitar.
FreeStylin! Taking Inspiration from Jimmy Fallon and The Roots
In One World Symphony’s recent show Spring Break, we integrated FreeStylin’. Led by our principal double bassist Justin Lee, One World Symphony made up songs on the spot with information compiled by each audience member’s interview. The songs — in the style of the audience member’s choosing (reggae and progressive rock) — were fun improvisation tests for the “band.” Check out One World Symphony’s upcoming shows for more Freestylin’ and interaction with its audiences. Check out Freestylin’ photos here.
CLASSIC FM EXCLUSIVE of BREAKING BAD— OZYMANDIAS
Listen to the live unedited world premiere performance of Breaking Bad — Ozymandias at “the U.K.’s favourite classical station.” We at One World Symphony are grateful that Classic FM’s Mel Spencer asked usto share a recording of the world premiere performance.
Who watched Jimmy Fallon’s first Tonight Show broadcast from NYC? His very first opening monologue offered appreciation, earnest, charm, humor, and lots of honest emotion. Besides being a gracious host, he’s definitely not afraid to share his feelings and show his emotions. With an endearing and sweet tone, he shared the Tonight Show’s VISION: “My goal is to make you laugh, put a smile on your face... so you may go to bed with a smile on your face... so you may live a longer life.”
His “vision” re-energized me to continue to pursue how One World Symphony can better fulfill its VISION. In Jimmy’s vernacular, our goal is to share our passion with our musical partners, our audiences, with powerful performances, so they may smile, shed a tear or two, and even laugh or be inspired... so you may live a healthier life. Inspired by Jimmy Fallon and recommended by my wife Adrienne Metzinger, we, our audiences and musicians, will play games during our upcoming shows. What games? How about Catchphrase, Name That Tune, Pictionary, or even Charades — both musical and dance? If there's a big market for cynical, divisive and mean humor, I hope Jimmy continues to simply be funny.
Thaw the last stubborn bit of snow in our upcoming show Spring Break on March 17, 2014 with Vivaldi’s effervescent “Spring” and scorching “Summer” concertos from The Four Seasons, Andrew Struck-Marcell’s lyrical world premiere Infinity, and Shostakovich’s saucy and fiery Chamber Symphony No. 7 (world premiere arrangement of his String Quartet No. 7).
Breaking Bad… again
Thank you very much to many fans who have expressed their request to experience Breaking Bad — Ozymandias. We will break bad again in in the spring. Details will follow soon on how you can participate in the “Bitch Aria.”
On Valentine’s Day, One World Symphony musicians performed its third annual morning serenade for NYC’s largest soup kitchen Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen (HASK). Before the performance, we had our only rehearsal held at 9:00 a.m. on Valentine’s Day. What was so memorable was that the staff and volunteers of HASK sat down and watched our generous musicians rehearse. They were so appreciative and attentive that you could hear their breathing. Check out photos from our Valentine Serenade for HASK here.
Dear addicts of music and Breaking Bad!
On behalf of One World Symphony staff and artists, I would like to thank everyone who came and experienced the world premiere performances of Breaking Bad — Ozymandias (2014). It was a great pleasure to share our passion with our enthusiastic audience members. Also, thank you very much for accepting the invitation to play important roles in bringing the "Bitch Aria" alive.
Yo Bitch! Experience the fun again!
View our 50 second video of our "Bitch" interaction here >>
Read the reviews >>
VOTE & BREAK BAD AGAIN:
We have received many emails requesting that we repeat Breaking Bad — Ozymandias. We are considering to fulfill the popular request by performing a movement or two from Breaking Bad — Ozymandias in One World Symphony's upcoming shows in March or May 2014. The March and May shows are detailed here >>
Our audiences are encouraged to email us and voice your preferred movement(s) from Breaking Bad — Ozymandias to be performed again in March or May 2014. The five movements are:
III. The Moment
IV. Jesse's Dream ("Bitch")
We would love to hear from you by February 7 by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
Let's begin a DIALOGUE!
Your input and feedback about your recent One World Symphony experience are welcome. Did you enjoy the musical selections? Did you enjoy the audience interaction and the way we performed and shared our passion with you? Would you attend our shows if we don't program works related to TV shows? Most importantly, do you feel that we are fulfilling our VISION:
One World Symphony is dedicated to integrating itself into the fabric of the community through adventurous programming, inspiring performances, benefit concerts, and audience and community engagement.
We at One World Symphony would love to hear from you! Email email@example.com
Again, thank you very much and we look forward to beginning our dialogue.
Sung Jin Hong
Artistic Director and Composer-Conductor
One World Symphony
REVEALED: HEISENBERG CHORD & DETAILS ABOUT BREAKING BAD – OZYMANDIAS
“Breaking” means “change.” Walt clearly stated: “I prefer chemistry as the study of change.” Everyone paid a terrible price for his metamorphosis: his wife, his son, Hank, Hank’s wife, Jesse, Jane, Jane’s father, and of course Walt himself. “Chemistry” wasn’t simply the process of change for Walt, but it was the continuous motion of chain reactions of events of which he lost control. The plot and the narrative progress, and their pace may distract some viewers from asking the obvious moral questions: Is Walt doing the right thing? Is he good? Was he ever? What would I have done in his shoes?
In my composition, consisting of five movements, I would like to explore the question: are we all breaking bad? Are we, to some extent, guilty of the Greek themes of hubris (extreme pride) in the pursuit of arete (excellence) and kleos (glory)?
Inspired by “Crazy Handful of Nothin” (season 1, episode 6), which may have been one of the scientific highlights of Breaking Bad, the first movement “Chemistry” plants the following musical seeds:
- Heisenberg Chord: embellished polychord representing the motif of Walt’s warning: “I am the danger.”
- Heisenberg Rhythm/Heartbeat: obsessive pattern to give the sense of foreboding and being chased. Similar to Wagner’s and Berlioz’s use of motifs, whose works will be also performed alongside Breaking Bad — Ozymandias (2014), the Heisenberg chord and heartbeat will be my leitmotifs and idées fixes. The origins of the Heisenberg Chord and Rhythm are discussed in a recent interview with Mel Spencer of Classic FM, UK's favourite classical radio station.
- Aztec instruments to offer a Southwestern flavor: huehuetl, teponaztli, and quijada (the jawbone of an ass)
- Moral chaos
- Skyler’s lullaby
- The subject of Fugue (second movement)
- Kleos theme (glory): When all these musical seeds are combined and gradually unfold in continuous action, it is transformed into the Kleos theme.
Influenced by Walt’s wandering and bare “fugue state” (from season 2, episode 3, “Bit by a Dead Bee”), the Fugue is a patient and subtle narrative showing the metamorphosis of Walt White into Heisenberg. The four-part fugue also uses bitonality, two simultaneous tonal centers depicting inner conflict. The keys (two separate personalities or two sides of the ego?) struggle for dominance, resulting in an inevitable collision. Which one will prevail? Or do they merge to create a new key?
Similar to the way Vince Gilligan created tension within a small space and limited environment (like cooking meth in a trailer, holding a hostage under a basement, trying to kill a fly in their lab), the Fugue follows Gilligan’s approach of harnessing and taking time to build tension.
III. The Moment
If there was a “Eureka” moment for Walt, this was it. From the third season’s 10th episode “Fly,” Walt laments and confesses his “perfect moment...”
The moving scene performed by Bryan Cranston was poignant, intimate, and tender. Musically, the explosive and moral chaos elements from the movement “Chemistry” are in the background, while Walt’s lament is treated with haunting lyricism. Jane and women singing closed-mouth vocalise with Skyler’s lullaby bookend Walt’s chilling realization.
IV. Jesse’s Dream (“Bitch”)
This is an ode to Jesse Pinkman, who may have been the moral center of the drama. Breaking Bad has clear parallels to Goethe’s influential play Faust. We can agree that Walt is Faust, but who are his Mephistopheles and Gretchen? Some may consider meth as Mephistopheles and Walt’s family as Gretchen. I lean towards Walt himself transformed into Heisenberg as the demon and Jesse as Gretchen, who is constantly persuaded by Walt to return to the dark path. My Heisenberg chord and heartbeat will be chasing Jesse, while he is trying his hardest to escape from him. At the turning point, we get a glimpse of Jesse’s dream, a sense of hope (from the final episode of the series). To show my gratitude to the fans of Breaking Bad — Ozymandias, the live audience will play a huge part in bringing this movement alive.
V. Ozymandias (from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s sonnet)
Shelley’s sonnet is devoted to a metaphor for the volatile nature of power and reveals the impermanence of human achievement. When Walt White transformed into Heisenberg, he was Shelley’s Ozymandias incarnate. I give credit to Gilligan and his team of directors and writers for choosing this poem that depicts that all rulers eventually will fall, claimed by their own self-destructive nature. The five seasons of Breaking Bad may have been building towards this moment — just like Ozymandias, “King of Kings,” Heisenberg’s empire crumbled to dust and into a “colossal wreck.” This movement opens with similar polytonal qualities from “The Moment” and builds towards the final pinnacle: the transformed and fully harvested kleos (“self-glory”) theme from the movement “Chemistry.” How will the opera end? Will it be faithful to the sonnet, or to the show?
BREAKING BAD — OZYMANDIAS CAST
I’d like to introduce you to One World Symphony’s Addiction cast. All vocalists have auditioned for One World Symphony over the last three years, including our current season auditions held on May and September 2013. Casting started in November and was confirmed in December.
When an artist is cast in a new opera, they usually receive a sketch of a short score in advance from the composer. All our Breaking Bad — Ozymandias vocal artists committed to the project without receiving one single note from me. Their level of patience, trust, and commitment is rare, and I am immensely grateful.
Our first rehearsal with piano and vocalists was held on Friday, January 10 at our home. It was an amazing night. We began the evening with rehearsing three smaller groups simultaneously — in our living room, library, and bedroom (I can only imagine what the neighbors thought). After the sectional rehearsal, we gathered together in the living room for our first sing-through. All the vocalists were prepared and passionate. Everyone embraced the challenges of the new score and the opportunity to bring the notes — the “blueprint” — to life.
If there’s an MVP in our dedicated cast, it is Irina Mozyleva. We first made music together collaborating in orchestrated Shostakovich songs in 2010 and continued with Cleopatra in Handel’s Giulio Cesare and Marfa in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Tsar’s Bride. Not only will she be performing as Tatyana in Tchaikovsky’s soaring “Letter Scene” from Eugene Onegin, she will be performing in the same concert as Marie Schrader and as orchestral pianist in Breaking Bad — Ozymandias! She is an absolute wonder woman. My only concern is: Can she change in time after she has sung Tatyana to perform as Marie?
José Pietri-Coimbre first performed with One World Symphony in 2005 as a violinist in James Coleman’s Memorial Concert (James was our principal violist for three years who tragically passed away after battling cancer at age 33). Ever since then, José has served as concertmaster, principal second, principal viola, and vocal soloist. His debut as a principal vocal artist reminds me how Leonard Bernstein made his debut with the New York Philharmonic as last-minute replacement. José was a section violinist in One World Symphony’s production of Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen. In opera, last-minute cast changes are not rare, and we needed someone to perform the challenging role of Forester during the week of the production. José was playing in the violin section and I asked him to “give it a try.” He was certainly one of the heroes in our critically-acclaimed production of Vixen. I’m looking forward to witnessing his transformation from the unassuming science teacher to the fallen emperor Heisenberg/Ozymandias.
Sonya Headlam is a beautiful soul. We first made music together when she covered roles and sang in choruses in One World Symphony shows in 2006. Ever since then, we have been active collaborators in Berlioz’s Le Nuits d’Été, Harbison’s The Great Gatsby, and orchestrated songs of Sibelius, Schumann, Duparc, and Amy Beach. When Sonya and I rehearse together, we always breathe together and really hear ear to ear. Our heartbeats become one to bring the music to life. Sonya will be making her debut as a mother at our show, as she and her husband Jesse had their first child, Noah, just three months ago. Congratulations!
Please get to know our entire vocal cast by reading their Opening Chords here.
Today’s blog entry is brought to you in part by The Flaming Meatballs. Our MVP Irina's talented daughter Leah Nikolaya is a vocalist and bass guitarist of this blues and rock band. Without Leah's support, her mother would not be able to attend our Breaking Bad — Ozymandias rehearsals.
“A LITTLE TWEAK OF CHEMISTRY”
(episode 6: “Crazy Handful of Nothin”)
Poll: Would you like to hear a sneak peek of Breaking Bad — Ozymandias?
One World Symphony just added a concert on Wednesday, December 18 at 8 p.m. to benefit NYC’s largest soup kitchen, Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen. The show A Nordic Holiday will feature works by Sibelius and Grieg. During the post-concert wine reception, guests will be serenaded by the Robert Page Jazz Trio. Tickets are on sale now.
Also on December 18, One World Symphony may possibly feature part of the movement “Chemistry” from my mini-opera. The complete composition with multiple movements will be premiered as scheduled on January 26-27, 2014. Details and tickets are here.
Would you like to hear a sneak peek during the December 18 show? If so, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Time Out New York Cover Feature
TONY’s Kenny Herzog recently interviewed me about Breaking Bad — Ozymandias (2014). Time Out featured One World Symphony’s production on the cover as a part of its 2014 Winter Preview i> “Your Perfect Winter.” Similar to earlier interviews this fall, Kenny’s questions helped me to continue to explore the drama further. For instance, Greek themes of hubris (“extreme pride”), arete (“excellence”), and kleos (“glory”) were dominant in portraying the transformation of the protagonist. Aren’t we all guilty of these to some extent? Are we all breaking bad? You can check out the cover and complete interview here.
The episode “Crazy Handful of Nothin” may have been one of the scientific highlights of Breaking Bad. Mr. White is teaching his class about power of chemical reactivity. He gives the example of metal oxidation, which is gradual and imperceptible. Other times, the reaction can be violent, quick, and produces explosive energy, such as the compound mercury fulminate Hg(ONC)2 .
One of the most explosive and empowering moments occurred later in the same episode (SPOILER ALERT). Walt returned to the ruthless drug lord Tuco and threw a large piece of crystal that appeared to be meth. It exploded! The stunned and humbled Tuco asked: “What is it?” Walt responded: “A little tweak of chemistry.” Has the metamorphosis of Walt become more transparent? The cancer-stricken chemistry teacher desperate to save his family may have taken the back seat and the drug dealer may have been born. Did Walt find a new mistress who plays second fiddle to no one?
Just like how Walt has explained chemical reactions, I’m working to make my composition to have similar properties: slow, gradual imperceptible development of ideas and explosive compounds. How am I going to do this? Without giving too much away, not only am I looking forward to bringing the characters to life again through the vocal soloists, but also the full symphony.
To explore the potential dark side and the metamorphoses in the principal characters, the lowest instruments in each section will play significant roles: the bass drum, double bass, tuba, contrabassoon, bass clarinet, and the evocative bass flute. These instruments will be the floors, walls of a home. They may not have the agility as virtuoso violinists, but with their “basso profundo” presence, they will plant the seeds of brooding themes that will gradually build, combust towards the climax.
Bach, Beethoven, Pink Floyd?
Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan clearly had an incredible amount of patience in building his storyline and characters. He kept the cast of characters small without introducing new characters constantly (like many other shows that introduce “star” guests). He reached deep into his characters by investing in the core cast, even though they are viewed through Walt’s perspective.
I am following Gilligan’s lead as I prefer to invest in few musical motifs instead of bringing a new theme every four to eight measures without developing any relationship within the whole architecture of the work. This focused approach of investing in one single musical idea has been mastered in Johann Sebastian Bach’s fugues (check out Art of the Fugue or the popular Toccata and Fugue in D minor) and Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Pink Floyd’s iconic and psychedelic album The Wall possibly has an idée fixe in four notes: “We don’t need no ed - u - ca - tion.”
As for mercury fulminate, I would strongly advise not to try to prepare it at home as the explosive is highly sensitive to heat, flame, friction, shock, sparks, smartphones, just about everything...
Today’s blog entry is brought to you in part by Adam’s Pianos. Ms. Cleo Hongzinger and I are grateful and enjoying our new babygrand “laptop.”
October 22, 2013
THE BITCH ARIA...
When Breaking Bad – Ozymandias (2014) was announced two weeks ago, I never imagined that we would receive so much excitement and interest from the public and the national and international press. It is amazing that the reports span the globe and in multiple languages: Turkish, Swedish, German, Hungarian, Norwegian, Dutch, Russian, Polish, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Danish, Ukrainian, Czech, Romanian, and French. The BBC front page feature exceeded our expectations. We at One World Symphony are immensely grateful for the interest in Breaking Bad — Ozymandias.
Is “The Bitch Aria” going to be included?
Before I address one of the most popular questions from the press and public – the “Bitch Aria” – how about we discuss the character who would sing it.
“Chemistry: it is the study of change,” Walter White taught his high school students. Like all main characters in Breaking Bad, the role of Jesse Pinkman, who would sing the “Bitch Aria,” undergoes transformation. As a high school drop-out, Jesse Pinkman could have been easily dismissed, but as the narrative slowly unfolded, he developed into a complex character who might be considered the moral center of the drama. His relationship with Walt led him to make self-destructive choices time after time that spiraled out of control, but he was compassionate and caring. In contrast to Walt’s ambitions of building an empire, Jesse’s dream was carpentry, which brought him peace and hope.
How can the “Bitch Aria” not be considered in my mini-opera Breaking Bad — Ozymandias? It would embrace the character who’s morally torn, literally pulled in numerous directions and ripped apart. The aria alone has the potential to explore Jesse’s tortured soul and battered body.
Thank-yous and Mash Notes:
All the readers who have expressed their interest in One World Symphony’s production of Breaking Bad — Ozymandias.
Vince Gilligan, the visionary creator who not only inspired his cast and crew, but hypnotized the public — still lingering and obsessed with what is possibly the Great Recession’s defining melodrama.
Dedicated musicians of One World Symphony, who are committed to bringing compositions to life, as the notes on the page are only the ”blueprint.”
Clemency Burton-Hill’s BBC feature. Ms Burton-Hill is an award-winning journalist, violinist, author, and actor. Her thoughtful interview inspired me to completely update and refresh One World Symphony’s VISION.
Charlotte Alter from TIME for breaking the news of Breaking Bad — Ozymandias.
I never thought I would ever hear Perez Hilton would say: “Wowza. Well, if it ain’t deep, it ain’t opera! And Breaking Bad has all the tragedy a show needs for a true operatic performance... so we think this opera just might work!”
Thank you to One World Symphony’s webmistress Idria Barone Knecht for all the unexpected updates and edits.
Guest Illustrator: Adrienne Metzinger is One World Symphony’s managing director, director of art/website/graphic design, photographer, stage director, cook, and mezzo-soprano who will perform as Dalila on Monday, October 28 in One World Symphony’s Burlesque Halloween show Temptation.
Today’s blog entry is brought to you by Caffee Buon Gusto in Brooklyn, where we had the pleasure of celebrating our wedding anniversary last night. We were generously hosted by the owner Nando. What would have happened if she said “no” to my proposal at One World Symphony’s sold-out Town Hall debut?
October 16, 2013
BBC Top Story Features Sung Jin Hong’s Breaking Bad — Ozymandias
Recently, I was surprised and honored to receive an email from the BBC’s Clemency Burton-Hill for an interview in regards to One World Symphony’s world premiere performances of my mini-opera Breaking Bad — Ozymandias (2014). She hosts one of my all-time favorite artistic events of the year: The PROMS.
I appreciated that she asked a question about the ethos and programming spirit of One World Symphony. It shows she has already done some research, and her question really goes to the heart and spirit of our organization. More importantly, her question inspired me to completely update, refresh, and reboot One World Symphony’s VISION.
One of the U.K.’s leading arts broadcasters and writers, Clemency Burton-Hill is an award-winning journalist, violinist, novelist, actress. As a violinist, she has toured with Daniel Barenboim and West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, “promoting understanding between Isaraelis and Palestinians and pave the way for a peaceful and fair solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict.” I explored similar themes in Eye of the Storm (2010), a symphonic poem inspired by my visit to my homeland and the Demilitarized Zone. You can listen to a clip here.
In my next blog entry, I’m planning to address one of the most popular questions from the press and the public — will I compose a “Bitch Aria?”
A week after the series finale of Breaking Bad, I have decided to compose Breaking Bad — Ozymandias (2014), a mini-opera based on the award-winning drama and Percy Bysshe Shelley’s sonnet for One World Symphony’s Addiction program on January 26-27, 2014.
How will I compose this mini-opera? Should I consider having specific characters from the drama? How about setting my music to unforgettable moments from the show? Should I focus instead on Shelley’s sonnet, devoted to a single metaphor for the pride and the unrelenting pursuit for power? It is tempting to fully dive into the universe of Breaking Bad and embrace its elements, depicting moral chaos.
Cancer became an allegory for evil for the protagonist in Breaking Bad. When Walt White was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, we the audience emotionally supported him and forgave some of his actions, as they may have appeared to be justified. When the cancer went into remission, an intangible cancer was growing — his hubris and lust for power. Our sympathy began to slip as he transformed into the destructive Heisenberg. At this very moment, the details of Breaking Bad — Ozymandias (2014) may not be confirmed, but I hope to explore the question that the drama obsessively and hauntingly asked: ”are we all breaking bad?”
In the next three months, this page will share ideas, impressions, developments and possible trajectories of Breaking Bad — Ozymandias (2014). If you have any questions or thoughts, please email at: email@example.com