As any Sherlock Holmes fan knows, since his debut in the pages of The Strand Magazine over a 130 years ago, audiences worldwide have been hooked on the world’s first consulting detective.
His deductive and intellectual powers are striking — and a marketing dream. That may explain the varied and compelling incarnations in print, theater, TV and film, not to mention comics, radio and video games. Indeed, in the recent Sherlock, a coproduction of the BBC and WGBH Boston, creators adapted his techniques to the 21st century. As the inimitable Baker Street sleuth, Benedict Cumberbatch secured a new generation of fans.
Now the famed crime fighter is making his opera debut: March 26, 3 p.m at Merkin Hall on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The American Lyric Theater, a company that focuses on helping composers and librettists develop new works, will stage Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Fallen Giant.
Billed as an opera mash-up, with a playful libretto by E.M Lewis and score by Evan Meier, the opera pays homage to Arthur Conan Doyle’s remarkable stories and their inherent drama. As longtime Sherlock fans, the duo worked to produce, in Lewis’ words, something “smart and funny, fast-paced and full of surprises.”
What better than a mystery, inspired by the Sherlock story “The Norwood Builders” and the fairy tale “Jack and the Beanstalk,” set to music?
The game is afoot!
“Evan and I worked together to craft ‘Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Fallen Giant,’ a brand new adventure,” explains Lewis. “It follows Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic characters, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, from their cozy flat in Victorian England into the stale world of Nor-Wood to solve a case that no one else can crack.”
The opera’s synopsis: A giant is dead, and his body lies at the base of a great beanstalk. The police believe young Jack is responsible. But the boy insists he's innocent and begs the help of the great detective Sherlock Holmes and his colleague, Dr. Watson. Can they untangle this magical mystery?
“As a composer, this Sherlock Holmes/fairy tale mash-up presents rich musical and dramatic possibilities. The musical world of Victorian-era Baker Street, the setting of the iconic characters of Holmes and Watson, borrows from late-19th-century musical genres to evoke a sense of mystery and adventure,” says Meier.
He adds importing a detective story into the operatic genre provided an artistic challenge — adding a parallel musical layer to the tale.
In addition, the story features Holmes' well-known musical expertise and abilities. “Certain ‘musical clues,’ borrowed from well-known operatic examples, will allow the audience to participate in the solution of the mystery,” says Meier.
By audience, he means fans of all ages. Sherlock Homes and the Case of the Fallen Giant is conceived as family entertainment.
The concert is “a sneak peek,” says Lewis, at what the opera is in the process of becoming. It has a conductor, a full cast of eight accomplished singers and a pianist. Sets, costumes and orchestra are the next step in development with American Lyric Theater.
Sherlock Homes and the Case of the Fallen Giant features Daniel T. Curran as Holmes, with Sharleen Joynt, Jennifer Black, Blythe Gaissert, Steven Eddy, David Kravitz, Joshua Turchin and Jorgeandrés Camargo. Ari Pelto is the conductor.
Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Fallen Giant
March 26, 3 p.m. / Merkin Hall at the Kaufman Music Center, 129 W. 67th St., New York, NY
American Lyric Theater: www.altnyc.org.
Photo: Daniel T. Curran as Sherlock Holmes