BY FREDRIC DANNEN
Supporters say Blues Opera, authored by two Great American Songbook icons and reconstructed by the music adviser for Tár, should be staged in a post-George Floyd world.
John Mauceri devotes a good part of his busy career to restoring lost music. The American conductor and scholar, who recently served as the music adviser for the Academy Award-nominated Tár, uncovered and put back vital missing pieces of Leonard Bernstein’s operetta Candide. He reconstructed the overture to Ben-Hur, after MGM had inexplicably thrown away the sheet music of that classic film score, for a performance at the Hollywood Bowl with the ailing composer Miklós Rózsa onstage in a wheelchair. Mauceri jokingly calls himself a cross between Indiana Jones and Dr. Frankenstein, and depending on your point of view, he is either an excavator of rare artifacts or a man stitching up cadavers. Over the past two years, in collaboration with another conductor, Michael Gildin, he has been restoring a work ardently coveted by music aficionados but given up for dead: a lost opera written by two eminences of the Great American Songbook — composer Harold Arlen (“Over the Rainbow,” “Stormy Weather”) and lyricist Johnny Mercer (“Skylark,” “Moon River”).
The work is called Blues Opera. It took shape between 1954 and 1958 but...