Libretti by Roger Brunyate

 

OPERATIC ADAPTATIONS

Roman Fever

after the story by Edith Wharton
music by Robert Ward, 1993
Chamber opera in one act (5 characters, 60 minutes)
premiere by Triangle Opera Theatre, Durham NC, 1994
South Carolina Television (PBS), CD recording,
and numerous subsequent performances

Two American widows, each with a daughter in tow, meet at a café in Rome which they had visited many times as young women themselves twenty years before. A petty rivalry which breaks out over the romantic aspirations of their daughters leads to revelations of vindictiveness and sexual betrayal from that earlier time.

The April Witch

after the story by Ray Bradbury
music by David Shapiro, 1995
Chamber opera in one act (4 characters, 50 minutes)
premiere at the Peabody Conservatory, 1995
winner, National Opera Association Chamber Opera Competition, 1997

A young witch, wishing to know what it feels like to be a woman in love, enters the body of a girl about to go to a prom with a boy, little knowing that she is already in the process of breaking up with him.

Where Angels Fear to Tread

after the novel by E. M. Forster
music by Mark Lanz Weiser, 1995-97
Chamber Opera in three acts (9 characters, 150 minutes)
workshop of Act I at Peabody, 1996
premiere at the Peabody Conservatory, February 1999
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A group of English people go to Italy to “rescue” the baby of a relative who has been foolish enough to marry a charming but penniless Italian. The resulting mishaps are by turns comic, romantic, and tragic, although they lead to a sadder-but-wiser-conclusion. A three-act opera with a large-scale feel, but written nevertheless for chamber forces.

The Joy that Kills

after The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin
music by Thomas Benjamin, 1997
Concert monodrama for soprano and piano quartet
(1 character, 15 minutes)
premiere by the American Chamber Players in Columbia MD, 1998

The young wife of a Boston businessman learns of her husband’s death in a railroad accident. Though suffering from a weak heart, she is not stricken down but shocked at the sensation of freedom which she feels. The story is an early feminist classic.

The Alien Corn

after the story by Somerset Maugham
music by Thomas Benjamin, 1997–2001
Chamber Opera in two acts (7 characters, 110 minutes)
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Maugham’s story concerns a Jewish family who have managed to enter the English establishment by concealing their ethnicity and adopting the life of landed gentry. Their son and heir, in an unfocused attempt to recapture his heritage, announces his desire to become a professional musician, with ultimately tragic results.

 

ORIGINAL LIBRETTI

Leaving Home

music by Daniel Crozier, 1988
Opera Etude (2 characters, 8 minutes)
premiere at the Peabody Conservatory, 1988

Two sisters prepare to close up their family home following the death of their mother. The one who had stayed home to nurse the mother finds a kind of fulfilment, and rejects her sister’s guilt-ridden patronage.

The Reunion

music by Daniel Crozier, 1989
Chamber Opera in one act (5 characters, 55 minutes)
premiere at the Peabody Conservatory, 1989
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A group of female college friends reunite five years after graduation. A series of flashbacks reveal a legacy of petty deceptions and hollow ambitions, but each of the friends also finds the way to make up and move forward.

On the Bench

music by Jose Peña Aguayo, 1994
Opera Etude (2 characters, 8 minutes)
premiere at the Peabody Conservatory, 1995

A socialite, coming outside from a boring party, encounters a homeless person on a street bench and is enlightened by the experience.

The Whistle Blower

music by Caryn Block, 1994
Opera Etude (2 characters, 13 minutes)
premiere at the Peabody Conservatory, 1995

A manager at a nuclear site struggles with her out-of-work husband and with her conscience over whether to report a dangerous breach of security at her job.

Stealing Time

music by Paola Prestini, 1994
Opera Etude (2 characters, 10 minutes)
premiere at the Peabody Conservatory, 1995

An elderly woman suffering from Alzheimer’s disease is visited by her married daughter, who becomes in a sense the mother to her own parent-child.

A Clean Sweep

music by Justin Boyer, 1997
Opera Etude (2 characters, 12 minutes)
premiere at the Peabody Conservatory, 1997

A confrontation between a teenage girl and her divorced father, triggered by what she sees as her father’s intention to remarry.

The Playwright’s Muse

music by Ty Alan Emerson, 1997
Opera Etude (2 characters, 12 minutes)
premiere at the Peabody Conservatory, 1997

A successful playwright tries out new script material on his actress wife, but realizes that in order to keep her he must produce something more meaningful than the usual witty banter with which they have made their names.

Sandpiper

music by Richard Lake, 1997
Opera Etude (2 characters, 15 minutes)
premiere at the Peabody Conservatory, 1997

A woman who has devoted much of her life to managing the election campaigns of her sister, a charismatic state senator, discovers her sister’s involvement in a real-estate scandal.

The Angel’s Sarabande

music by David Sullivan, 1997
Dance Opera in one act (2 characters, 22 minutes)
premiere at the Peabody Conservatory, 1997

The director of a failing dance company struggles to revive a dance piece by a celebrated choreographer that had made her company’s name. She is visited by her estranged artistic partner, the choreographer’s widow. Together, they reconstruct the piece and attempt to repair their friendship.

Cloud Dreams

music by Charles Kim, 1999
based on a Korean myth
Chamber Opera in five scenes (5 characters, 16 minutes)
premiere at Theatre Project, Baltimore, 1999

A Korean myth about a young man who goes into the world seeking enlightenment, only to succumb to temptation in the Land of Peaches and learn a painful but salutory lesson from his mistakes.

Sacrifice

music by Timothy Charles Nelson, 1999
Opera in one act after Genesis (3 characters, 35 minutes)
premiere at Theatre Project, Baltimore, 1999

A treatment of the Cain and Abel story, in which the figure of Eve is treated as a precursor of the Virgin Mary, and the heritage of bloodshed and war let loose is at last potentially resolved by the promise of the Christian redemption.

Ssibaji

music by Ye Sook Lee, 1999
based on a Korean myth and incorporating Korean texts
Opera Etude (3 characters, 15 minutes)
premiere at Theatre Project, Baltimore, 1999

A Korean noblewoman is visited by the ghost of the Ssibaji, or surrogate mother, whom she had hired to bear the child she was unable to conceive herself. When her husband learns that his jealous wife had ordered the woman to be strangled, he renounces her, and the baby is accidentally killed.

A Call to Arms

music by Benjamin C. S. Boyle, 2001
A Vision of Saint Joan
Opera Etude (2 characters, 20 minutes)
premiere at the Peabody Conservatory, 1999

Joan, as a young shepherdess in Eastern France, is visited by a wounded soldier in full armor, who tells her of the wars and victories in the West. Gradually she realizes that the soldier is in fact her own ghost, if she chooses to accept the destiny that he/she holds out to her.

 

UNCOMPOSED LIBRETTI

The Play of Moyses and Pharao

after the Hosiers’ Miracle Play from the York cycle
written for Richard David Hames, 1971
Church opera in one act (6 soloists and chorus, c.75 minutes)

A setting of the medieval Hosiers’ play for church performance, paralleled with elements of the Seven-Day War and the gospel story, and interspersed with biblical narrative and commentary in the manner of a Bach Passion.

The Blood of the Wälsungs

after the story by Thomas Mann
written for Gerhard Samuel, 1984
Chamber opera in one act (7 characters, c.75 minutes)
Revised version, 2003 (2 characters, c.45 minutes)

A setting of Thomas Mann’s story about twins who fall into an incestuous relationship following a visit to Wagner’s Die Walküre, this (like The Alien Corn above) is really about racial assimilation, intellectual sterility, and the nature of true creation.

Deuce

written for John Parton, 1994
Opera Etude (2 characters, c.15 minutes)

A young man, raised as an evangelical Christian, struggles in vain with the realization of his own homosexuality.

Remembering Melinda

written for Randall Bauer, 1997
based on a story idea by the composer
Operatic Theme and Variations in one act (4 characters, 50 minutes)

A writer, fallen into drink and despair, tries to construct various versions of the death of his wife in a car accident a year before, while an encounter with an old friend forces him at last to accept the accident for what it was, and to free himself from guilt.

Rayna

opera scenario for Paul Ayres, 2003 (project in progress)
Chamber opera in two acts (7 characters, 90 minutes)

An operatic enquiry into the life of Rayna Prohme, a young American woman who played an active part in the Chinese revolution in 1927, flaring like a supernova before dying in Moscow at the age of 29, and Vincent Sheean, the dashing ace reporter who loved her and made her famous.

 

OTHER TEXTS FOR MUSIC

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

verse narration to accompany L’apprenti sorcier by Paul Dukas
commissioned by the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, 1997
Premiere by the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, October 23, 1997
John Shirley-Quirk, narrator; Sara Watkins, conductor
several subsequent performances

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