Opera Without Words

  • February 7, 2017
  • By Chris
  • Comments Off on Opera Without Words
  • in




Commissioned: Co-Commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington, DC, Christoph Eschenbach, Music Director, through a grant from the John and June Hechinger Commissioning Fund for New Orchestral Works, and by the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, Giancarlo Guerrero, Music Director


Premiere: March 10, 2016; Washington, DC; The Kennedy Center, Concert Hall (USA); Christoph Eschenbach, conductor; National Symphony Orchestra


Movements: I The Beloved - II The Minstrel - III The Idol - IV The Gladiator - V The Farewell


Instrumentation: 3(3pic).3(3.ca).3(3.bcl).3(3.cbsn)-


Duration: 25’



Opera Without Words is a music drama about some of the fascinating people I have known. In beginning to compose this work, I found myself reviewing the differences and similarities between a concerto for an orchestra and an opera. As a result, I approached this new orchestral work as I would an opera; I hired a librettist, Irene Dische, and set her words not to voices but to musical instruments, unfettered by considerations of vocal range and technique. When I finished the opera with words, I removed the text, leaving but a few traces and artifacts of the deleted libretto in the score.

Tobias Picker




"For some people, art is a kind of riddle, to which they don't always know the answers. This view of art was certainly supported by Tobias Picker's seductive yet enigmatic orchestral suite Opera Without Words... You can hear that a lot of story is going on, with solos and duets and conversations, but you are kept at bay, behind a fence, feeling you don't actually know what's happening. It's an interesting conceit, since imagined words in such a context take on an aura of profundity the real words lack."

The Washington Post, Anne Midgette


"Tobias Picker is a poster child for accessible new music, program music in particular... What’s remarkable is that he pulls it off even when the story is a secret to everyone but him, which is the case of his newest work, Opera Without Words...the result is pleasantly lyrical, dramatic, and follows a story arc of some sort that we can only imagine..."

Washington CityPaper, Mike Paarlberg

For orchestra