Our first rehearsal is today. I’m anxious … and a bit nervous, as this is an entirely new opera to all of us (to most everyone, really, since it’s only been done a couple of times). There’s a lengthy article in the Merc. You might want to check it out!
Carlson was interested, though the work took time. In 2000, he visited St. Petersburg and heard a men’s chorus performing the Czar’s Hymn, used by Tchaikovsky in the 1812 Overture. Carlson employs it as a “fate motif” in “Anna.” He also heard the bells of Kazan Cathedral: “It’s next door to the train station where Anna was supposed to have killed herself,” he says, “and I thought, ‘Wow, I’m putting that in.’ I specified three tubular bells with the ends sawn off to create quarter tones to simulate the sounds of the cathedral.”
Carlson describes the opera as entirely tonal (though without key signatures) and “pretty” — while drawing on modern compositional techniques, including serialism. Some people can’t hear a melody anywhere in it, he jokes, while others find it so emotional and melodic that it’s “anachronistic.”