The music of San Francisco-based composer Gordon Getty has been widely performed in North America and Europe. In 1986, he was honored as an Outstanding American Composer at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Getty has recently completed a pair of one-act operas, Usher House (derived from Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher) and The Canterville Ghost (after Oscar Wilde’s tale). Poetry from the 19th and early-20th centuries has often inspired Getty in his vocal compositions. His choral works Victorian Scenes (1989, to texts by Tennyson and Housman) and Annabel Lee (1990, to a poem by Poe) were premiered by the Los Angeles Master Chorale and Sinfonia. Michael Tilson Thomas led the San Francisco Symphony and Chorus in Annabel Lee in 1998 and 2004, on the latter occasion also premiering Getty’s Young America (2001). Although most of Getty’s works feature the voice, he has also written for orchestra, chamber ensembles, and solo piano.
Of his compositions Getty has said: “I represent a viewpoint that stands somewhat apart from the 20th century, which was in large measure a repudiation of the 19th - and a sock in the nose to sentimentality. Whatever it was that the great Victorian composers and poets were trying to achieve, that’s what I’m trying to achieve.”
Usher House will receive its United States premiere as part of San Francisco Opera's double bill titled The Fall of the House of Usher in four performances, December 8 to 13, 2015. The macabre Edgar Allan Poe tale follows the reclusive Roderick Usher, who lives in his vast ancestral home with his ailing twin sister, Madeline. Soon after the arrival of a friend of Roderick's, Madeline dies and is buried in a vault beneath the house. The climax of the story occurs when Madeline's figure appears at the bedroom door during a storm - she had been buried alive and has clawed her way out of the vault to find her brother. As the friend flees the scene, he turns back to see the House of Usher splitting in two, collapsing around the siblings.