Living La Vida 'Lorca'
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In the summer of 1984, a looming deadline triggered
a creative spurt in the composer that would be the envy of anyone
who has stared at a blank sheet of paper. The NEA wanted work samples
quickly. During a lull in the Falla Trio’s concert schedule,
his career as a concert guitarist apparently doomed, Krouse planted
himself at an upright piano in his Orange County home. Within three
months he had written 80 percent of what would become Lorca,
Child of the Moon.
It is easy to fall in love with Krouse’s score.
The music is catchy but not cloying. The composer quotes heavily
from Spanish folkloric music, as well as songwriters from his pantheon
of musical heroes like The Beatles and Cole Porter. Some of the
borrowed phrases might sound instantly familiar if heard out of
context, but Krouse wove them into a musical architecture that is
uniquely his own. Working at his piano one day, he stumbled on an
unusual five-beat phrasing that he really liked. The unorthodox
phrasing abstracts the original material and gives the composition
an edgy modernness.
Krouse and Galbán picked some of their favorite
moments, and went into the studio and recorded them. “We sent
the tape to Washington, D.C., and they loved it,” he recalled.
With two more grants from the NEA, the BFA staged
three workshop productions of Lorca, in 1985, 1987 and
1991. The workshops generated a lot of good buzz in the theater
world. When the lights went down at the BFA’s 99-seat equity-waiver
space, there were important people in the audience, among them Gordon
Davidson, the founding artistic director of the Mark Taper Forum,
and the stage director Peter Sellars. Though Lorca received
scant attention in the press, the response among theater people
was positive, even glowing. One person and another talked about
doing it here or there. And then, nothing.
“The piece went into a kind of dormant phase
after that workshop,” Krouse says. “We realized that
it wasn’t a little intimate chamber opera. It had to be a
full-scale, grand opera with costumes and dancers and a set and
all the trappings. And neither the BFA nor I had all the connections
and resources to do that.”
At the same time, Krouse’s life had taken an
entirely different turn. In 1990, he joined the music faculty at
UCLA. A couple of years later, he met Chika Kawahara, who became
his second wife. (His first marriage ended in divorce.) In 1995,
the couple had their first child, Ryan, followed by Eryn two years
later, and Arlen in 1999.
“I never forgot about the piece,” Krouse
says. “But as you get older, a decade can blow by.”