Opening Chords from Games of Thrones

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"I have a tender spot in my heart for cripples, bastards and broken things" says Lord Tyrion, the dwarf, commonly called "The Imp", the black sheep of House Lannister. Like Rigoletto, the hunchback and court jester in Verdi´s opera, Tyrion belongs to that broad category "broken things" reserved for the physically or morally damaged, with the sole advantage of belonging to a noble family. Falsely accused of King Joffrey´s murder, forsaken and betrayed by his family, stripped of all titles and possessions, despised and scorned by the kingdom, Tyrion ultimately escapes to the Free Cities, where in his quest for survival winds up performing as a jester, just like Rigoletto. Artistic Director Sung Jin Hong´s initiative of matching contemporary culture with grand opera is not just a brilliant idea, it is indeed a stroke of genius catching the essence of the very spirit of our time. I am excited and honoured by the opportunity of joining forces with One World Symphony and especially in its "The Game of Thrones", that thrilling TV- and book series about knights, princesses, seduction, intrigue and magic - indeed all the ingredients that make opera alive. "Cortigiani, vil razza dannata" is Rigoletto's outburst and my personal tribute to Lord Tyrion and all hunchbacks, dwarves, the oppressed and the outcast,... alas to all "broken things" who beyond the surface conceal noble souls capable of great heroic deeds and personal sacrifice, desperately crying for freedom and justice. — Fernando Araujo on Verdi's Rigoletto


When Sung Jin offered me the opportunity to sing the final scene of Salomè in the Games of Thrones Operasode, I was thrilled! What is not to love about a slightly deranged princess who strips for her stepfather king in order to win the severed head of the man who rejected her? However, after watching a few episodes of Game of Thrones, I discovered what Sung Jin told Guardian reporter, Brian Moylan to be true: "Cersei Lannister … would make Salomè look like a virgin saint." Cuckholding the king to bear heirs with her twin brother, then arranging her husband's "accidental" death and usurping the throne with her demonic son? That's just season one! But what drives both of these characters toward atrocity? Love. Sick and twisted love perhaps, but love none the less: Cersei for her brother, and evil progeny, and Salomè for a biblical prophet who won't even look at her. Life isn't easy at the top. The stakes of maneuvers emotional and otherwise are high! In Cersei's words: "When you play the game of thrones you win, or you die." But in these games through which both women are driven by their hearts, does death designate the loser? Can survival equate success? Or is winning hidden in a transcendence more subtile? In the final scene from Strauss' music drama, it seems that Salomè tastes this secret victory, when she says, "The mystery of love is greater, than the mystery of death." — Heather Green on Richard Strauss' Salomè


“When he slept, he dreamed: dark disturbing dreams of blood and broken promises. When he woke, there was nothing to do but think, and his waking thoughts were worse than nightmares.” (from A Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin). Ned Stark, contemplating his death in a King’s Landing dungeon, is just the sort of tragedy that we find sadly compelling. Our own history is littered with so many unbelievable dramas, feeding our macabre fascination. The life and death story of Anne Boleyn is so grippingly tragic that it almost seems as if it were written specifically for HBO. It is no wonder that this historical royal affair has set the stage for TV, movies, and opera. Boleyn — like Stark — was conspired against, betrayed, and accused of treason of which she was most likely innocent. The poem “O Death rock me asleep” is generally believed to have been written by Anne Boleyn in her final hours. In it she expresses her sad resignation that only her death would end her torments: “Let pass my weary guiltless ghost out of my woeful breast… For I must die, There is no remedy.” When I read the text I imagine how frightened and lonely she must have felt in her Tower cell — trapped in a nightmare from which she would never wake. — Adrienne Metzinger on Anne Boleyn's "O Death rock me asleep"


Incest has long been a provocative theme in art. Richard Wagner's Walsung twins from his drama Die Walküre, loosely based on Norse Mythology, springs quickly to the music-minded. Other examples abound. Thomas Mann's novella The Blood of the Walsungs, a powerful re-telling of the Siegmund and Sieglinde story, caused a sensation when it was published 1905. In contemporary literature, however, the prize must go to George R. R. Martin’s twin lovers Jaime and Cersei Lannister in in the HBO' series Game of Thrones, based on A Song of Ice and Fire novels. Like Siegmund and Sieglinde, Jaime and Cersei have a forbidden relationship; their passion only serves to drive and magnify the drama. What a wonderful idea to match some of these themes in One World Symphony's Operasode "Games of Thrones." Kudos to Maestro Hong for coming up with this inspiring concept! — Jon Morrell on Siegmund from Wagner's Die Walküre


It seems like Prokofiev's “Field of the Dead” was almost written for Game of Thrones. Whether one understands Russian or not, the message is clear — agony, pain, and vengeance. Isn't that what GoT is all about? Prokofiev's "Field of the Dead" is from the point of view of a woman who is mourning over the battlefield of her fallen countrymen. Throughout the piece, she goes from grieving over the men who gave their lives to a proclamation of her vengeance and valor. I feel that this piece can be sung from the point of view of two strong women in the series — Catelyn Stark and Daenerys Targaryen. From the horror and tragedy of the Red Wedding to Daenerys' fiery transformation, both women endured seemingly final acts of bravery for the honor of the lives they had. For Catelyn, we witness her lose her entire family and the fall of Winterfell. As one reads the opening lines of Prokofiev's piece, we can envision Catelyn on her final journey believing peace could be the answer, yet ultimately becoming her downfall. For book readers, (spoilers!) we know that Lady Stoneheart emulates her pure vengeance, such as the woman expresses in "Field of the Dead" during the closing lines. Daenerys’ transformation is literally seen as "rising up from the ashes". Proceeding the death of her husband and birth of her dragons, she realized she can defend her title as rightful ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. Daenerys can almost be heard singing the final lines: "I shall not marry a handsome man, for earthly beauty comes to an end. I shall be married to a brave man. Hear this, bold falcons!" This piece by Prokofiev is a perfect match to the agonizing themes that these characters on Game of Thrones illustrate both visually and literally. — Kristin Starkey on Prokofiev's "Field of the Dead," Alexander Nevsky


Idomeneo and the Game of Thrones are filled with nail-biting action! You don’t need to look beyond single family units to find drama of epic proportions: powermongering, vengeance and incestuous relationships fuel sinister plots with deadly results. Elettra and Cersei have limited tolerance for betrayals. Elettra plotted to have her mother and stepfather killed in revenge for her father’s death – a father with whom she was perhaps unnaturally close. Queen Cersei, from Game of Thrones, conspired to have her husband killed so that her ruthless son (born of “twincest”) could ascend to the throne. (And you thought your family was twisted!) Throughout this final aria, Elettra seethes with jealousy and rage as she loses Idamante to her rival, Ilia. Spiteful Elettra calls upon horned serpents and snakes to tear her heart out. Woe to the hapless foe that crosses swords with either of these two vindictive women! — Laura Farmer on Elettra from Mozart's Idomeneo


When Sung Jin and his lovely wife Adrienne invited us to their party earlier this month, a special night of French-inspired dishes, how could we refuse? I was unaware that what would happen next would lead me into a quest of HODOR!

Sung Jin asked me to compose Hodor Suite in front of all the guests. Of course I welcomed the challenge! As a fan of the Game of Thrones novels and the HBO series, I find Hodor to be a truly amazing character to portray musically. Although Hodor might come across as simple-minded, his loyalty to Bran and the House of Stark in the most dire situations speaks to our most common primal emotions. Bravery, courage, and love are characteristics that sometimes even the most educated in this world seem to lack. Hodor's actions speak louder than his lack of words, and he stands true to his friends and family.

The double bass is the closest voice that mimics Hodor's character and voice. The instrument itself is not only the giant of the symphony orchestra, but its deep low tones can ground, support, and even empower his friends and family in the ensemble. My piece will contain some improvisation and active audience participation and explore Hodor's important role in Game of Thrones — Justin Lee on his Hodor Suite (2015, world premiere)


Sunday, February 1 at 4:00 p.m.
Holy Apostles Church
296 Ninth Avenue at West 28th Street

Monday, February 2 at 8:00 p.m.
Holy Apostles Church
296 Ninth Avenue at West 28th Street

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