Nico Muhly to write Agatha Christie opera

Nico Muhly to write Agatha Christie opera


norman lebrecht

October 30, 2018

The composer of Marnie at the Met tells the Beast that ‘his next opera may focus on what happened when Agatha Christie disappeared for 11 days in 1926, later claiming to be suffering from amnesia’.

Muhly noted his musical interests were more “esoteric and weird” than the all-too-literal news on any given day and that Ben, his boyfriend of 10 years, worked for a progressive political organization. “A lot of what I do is tell young composers to go out and vote,” said Muhly.

Muhly is resistant to defining his style of music-making, which combines electronic, choral and classical styles. “If you ever have 10 minutes to think about defining your musical style, I would suggest doing something else like learning German or doing ‘a Marie Kondo’ sorting through your drawers,” Muhly said with a hearty giggle.

“I find it supremely uninteresting and not productive, because you find yourself writing the press release before the piece. If you get caught up in self-definition, you don’t do yourself any favors announcing to the world what the project is stylistically.”

Read on here.



  • Luigi Nonono says:

    Christie deserves far better than the tasteless Muhly, who should not even be considered a classical composer. Classical Music does NOT mix acoustic and amplified instruments, resort to rock-and-roll, or other such non-artistic base elements. He is killing classical music, like other tasteless people. Why does he get so much promotion? He doesn’t deserve it. Write about composers who write fine music and get no attention. Muhly is sickening. And pop culture is not a particularly good source of material for opera. Light opera, perhaps, maybe. But doubtful. Write musicals, that’s where you belong, Muhly.

    • Christopher Culver says:

      “Classical Music does NOT mix acoustic and amplified instruments, resort to rock-and-roll, or other such non-artistic base elements.”

      Both of those features can be found through the work of Alfred Schnittke and Sofia Gubaidulina, who – regardless of whether one cares for their music or not – wrote with a closeness to the classical tradition and certainly were not pop composers like Muhly. Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s music includes quite a few allusions to the jazz that filled a similar role that rock ’n’ roll would a decade or two later.

      I too dislike Muhly, but I think that the issues with his work are more subtle than your criteria.

    • jaypee says:

      Yes, because art can only be achieved with rules and interdictions, right? And no one -I repeat: no one- should ever break these rules…
      Who the hell does he think he is?

    • Stuart says:

      I am sensing from your post that you do not like the music of Nico Muhly. Yes? I doubt that he is “killing” classical music, which by many accounts is already dead or at least down for the count. Besides losing its audience, classical music is being killed by people who try to keep in a museum. “Classical music does not mix acoustic and amplified instruments” – of course it does, can and why not? Try Bernstein’s Mass. Try so Andriessen. Listen to Adams’ Doctor Atomic. “And pop culture is not a particularly good source of material for opera” – why? “light opera, perhaps, maybe. But doubtful”. You just wrote off much of Offenbach (and Sullivan’s Patience.) I have not heard Marnie but will get around to it. I know some of Muhly’s music – sickening? I have open ears and an open mind. I have read a lot of Alex Ross’ writing, and you should think of Muhly in the context of Ross’ survey of 20th Century opera. Instructive. In his review of Marnie, Ross wrote of Muhly “There has never been doubt about his prodigious talent”.

  • Galen Johnson says:

    Did NM really imply that “learning German” is “a supremely uninteresting and not productive” pursuit?

    • MWnyc says:

      No, he did not. I expect he knows at least some German himself.

      He implied – stated, basically – that learning German (or getting rid of your excess stuff) would be far more useful an endeavor for a composer than the “supremely uninteresting and not productive” project of defining (in words) one’s style.

  • RW2013 says:

    Please, no more new operas….

  • Mark says:

    He is truly the William McGonagall of opera. Yet another of Peter Gelb’s gifts that keep on giving …

  • Ted says:

    I have a really good idea for an opera, if anyone out there is a composer: CLARENCE AND ANITA. About the nomination and confirmation of US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.