A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, opera a cappella now available at Albany Records

Tuesday, March 28, 2023


ALICE RYLEY (2015) and ANNA HUNTER (2017) are my two operas set in Savannah. Both were written while I was composer-in-residence at Savannah Voice Festival. Both of these pieces were workshopped and premiered separately and then performed together in 2022. They are now available separately or together. ALICE is over fifty minutes; ANNA is around 40. 

Alice is a dark ghost story lifted from a few paragraphs from the annals of Georgia. An indentured Irish servant in the early days of the colony, she is accused of murdering her master. When they discover she is pregnant, they allow her to have her baby and then hang her a few weeks later. A guilty conscience is one of the reasons that we imagine ghosts, and that is the case for Savannah here. The legend is that if you encounter a young woman asking "Have you seen my baby?" that's Alice. 

Anna Hunter is the story of how a group of women in Savannah kept the city from modernizing itself to the point of losing its historic character in the mid 20th century. After the demolition of the city market, Anna energizes a group to save the historic Davenport house. Anna is a comedy, as light as Alice is dark. 

ALICE RYLEY (about 50 minutes)

Soundcloud Playlist and Perusal score (Direct Download)

Tour guide, (speaking), Jailed Alice (M), Young Alice (S), Mary (M or S), A Sailor/Edward Canon/William Wise/The Recorder (T-can be divided), Richard White (B). Ensemble.

Orchestration: Flute, Drums, String Quintet, Piano. (There is also a Vln/Vc/Piano version)

ANNA HUNTER (about 40 minutes)

Soundcloud Playlist and Perusal score (Direct Download)

Anna (M or S), Louise (M), Mrs. Davenport (S), Mr. Davenport (T), Mr. Progress (B), Quortina (M or S, should be African American, separate keys available), Lucy (M), Jane (S or M), Kass (M or S), Ensemble. 

Orchestration: Flute, Drums, String Quintet, Piano.

I'm very grateful for to Maria and Sherrill and SVF for commissioning these two operas! 

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Notes on Viardot, a work in progress.

Characters, opening scene

Last month while I was in Miami doing GIANNI SCHICCHI and BUOSO'S GHOST, the Florida Grand Opera Studio read most of the first act of my work-in-progress, NOTES ON VIARDOT. NOTES is about the life of the great 19th century diva and composer, Pauline Viardot. The opera is commissioned and will premiere at University of South Dakota-Vermillion in the Spring of 2024. 

The youtube link is to the first scene "Characters." In it, an older Pauline recalls her first memories--being brought to the theater to watch her family perform. It is inspired by an interview and article in Le Gaulois in 1905. 

In all, there are five videos linked together in a playlist. The second video is about the family's misadventure in Mexico where they were held up by bandits on the way to Veracruz. The third video is about her voice lessons with her father. The fourth describes her debut in Brussels and her encounter with the critic Alfred de Musset. The final video recalls her friendship with the novelist Georges Sand and her need to tour to circumvent Parisian rivals. 

This first act is a tribute to singers who must navigate critics, patrons, and colleagues in every era. What's unusual about it is (I would say) is that the score quotes many works by Viardot and others as part of the storytelling. Not being subtle about those quotations seems like an important device to draw you in and to make you realize how important she was and is to the history of opera. The act will end with Pauline in Russia where she meets the great love of her life, Ivan Turgenev. 

You can also follow along with the libretto, but since I've subtitled the videos, you probably don't have to. 

I'm grateful to the Florida Grand Opera and their studio artists for doing such a great job.


Sunday, March 19, 2023

Dinner 4 3 (full info)

Last month, my short opera DINNER 4 3 got its first live performance in the US. Written with Deborah Brevoort, the show is part of the Tales from a Safe Distance project of the Decameron Opera Coalition. You can stream the opera on idagio, but it's behind a paywall. The original audio (and it is a really nice recording! of the version with two tenors) is available on soundcloud.

The cast for this under fifteen minute opera is:    Wife (M or S), Husband (T or B), and Lover (T). The Husband Versions have some different vocal lines. It is available with piano accompaniment, or with the original orchestration--violin, bassoon, piano, with optional sax and drums at the end. The plot, which is loosely based on a story from the Decameron, is simple--wife and husband have made arrangements to have a fling, with the same man. 

Here's the direct download link for the perusal score (baritone version).

Here is the archival video of the Fargo Moorhead opera production in February 2023.

Thanks also to L'arietta productions, which did the opera live in Singapore in December of 2022. Thanks to FM Opera for commissioning the original version and then doing it live!.

If you'd like to do DINNER 4 3, please contact me!

Friday, March 10, 2023

David Hamilton

David Hamilton, my colleague, tenor, teacher, and Artistic and General Director of Fargo-Moorhead Opera, is retiring. I am so grateful to him for our many collaborations! He sang in productions in my Opera Memphis days and brought me to Fargo several times to conduct. Even more important for me, he worked with me consistently as a composer. Back in 2007, he put together a group to tour CORPS OF DISCOVERY, my opera with librettist Hugh Moffatt about the Lewis and Clark expedition. I distinctly remember a traffic jam in the Theodore Roosevelt national park caused by buffalo and a host on the Missouri river who suggested I sleep under the stars that night by the river. (I took his suggestion.)

More recently, FM Opera has done a couple of productions of SPEED DATING TONIGHT! and commissioned some new dates, including this one which is lifted from David's life. 

Roger, I have news from Speed Dating Tonight! starring Holly Janz

During the pandemic FM Opera participated in the Decameron Opera Coalition, a consortium of opera companies that produced short online projects, including Dinner 4 3 (written with Deborah Brevoort) and This Perfect Gift (written with Reg Huston). 

David with Shana Blake Hill at an FM Opera fundraiser at the old Sarello's restaurant.

David with Stella Zambalis during a production of Hansel and Gretel at FM Opera

I'm about to go up to Fargo to conduct his last production at FM Opera, LA BOHEME. Running a regional opera company for 25 years is a huge accomplishment. The constant treadmill of fundraising is stressful. I can only imagine what it was like to keep a company afloat during the pandemic and divisive political environment of the past years. So Bravo to David and best wishes to David and Bernie in Fargo and beyond.