Peabody Opera Workshop presents
 

Facets of Freedom

 
Six New Opera Etudes
 

Roger Brunyate, artistic director

JoAnn Kulesza, music director

Jennifer Blades, stage director
 

Tuesday, April 11, 2006 at 7:30 PM
Miriam A. Friedberg Concert Hall
Admission free
For information call 410/659-8100 x2, or eMail the Peabody Box Office

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On April 11, 2006, at 7:30 pm in the Friedberg Concert Hall, the Peabody Opera Department will present a program of six new short operas under the general title Facets of Freedom. This presentation is the tenth in a series of programs that we call Opera Etudes. First started in 1985, and continuing roughly biennially thereafter, the program brings student composers together with the singers who will eventually perform their work. The operas are not merely written for the singers, however, but written with them; the process always begins with a series of improvisations in which the singers explore dramatic situations proposed by the composers and create much of the text which will be the basis of the ensuing libretto. The exchange of ideas between composer and singer continues through the entire period of composition and rehearsal.

At the start of the year, the six composers chose Freedom as the connecting theme for their works. For the most part, their impulse was political, dealing with the ethical questions raised by American policies abroad or intolerance at home. In the end, however, virtually all the composers decided to address these issues obliquely, if at all. The resultant group of operas is wide-ranging both in subject-matter and style, but each represents a topic close to its writer’s heart.

Salvation Bound  
Two of the six works touch on the ways that sexuality and religion can be used as the instruments of either liberation or repression. Matthew J. Viator’s subject in Efstathios is homophobic intolerance. His scene involves a confrontation between two male lovers in a longstanding relationship and the mother of one of them. The men discover true freedom and strength in their loving relationship, while the mother confronts an internal need to see her son fulfill her own vision of his future. In Salvation Bound, Jenny Beck addresses the misuse of religion in certain parts of the world and in our own not-too-distant past. The setting is a convent to which a father brings his daughter, who has been raped by her own brother. He intends to expunge the stain to the family name and to seek the girl’s salvation through her incarceration, forced piety, and guilt.

An aberrant family member also features in Uncle David by Lane Harder, one of two stories in which the issues of freedom are personal rather than societal. The death of the title character, who is never seen, triggers long-buried resentments between a young woman and her mother, who had abruptly cut off visits to her favorite uncle when the girl was in her early teens. Although the mother is devastated by the need to protect her daughter against her own brother, she cannot tell her child the reason for this. In Work in Progress, composer Faye Chiao takes the situation of people imprisoned by their own fears: a married couple, both actors, who have broken apart due to their own insecurities, and the husband’s sister, a writer-director who attempts to bring them together once more in the production of a play, but who turns out to have needs of her own.

  Thomas Paine
The remaining two works touch on political themes in a non-literal way, and their ultimate battle-ground is not on the streets but in the minds of the characters. The Bungalow, by Jason Reed, is a surreal or even an absurdist work. Showing a woman apparently under house arrest in a totalitarian regime, visited only by a person who may or may not be her guard, it raises questions about the nature of freedom and captivity, whether external or internal. These are the Times, by Ruby Fulton with libretto by Cory Hibbs (the only text not written by its composer), centers around a man who preaches the philosophy of Thomas Paine and at times believes that he actually is Paine. This delusion can be removed by medication, but the drug has the effect of also reducing his fire and his ability to inspire others. In this quasi-allegorical presentation, two women, who may be relatives or friends or simply opposing sides of his psyche, fight for control of Tom’s mind.

The six operas are staged by Jennifer Blades (Beck, Reed, and Viator) and by Roger Brunyate (Chiao, Fulton, and Harder). JoAnn Kulesza is the music director. The Beck opera is accompanied by string quartet; the other five works are written for piano accompaniment, with an obbligato clarinet in the Harder and percussion in the Reed.


OPERAS AND SINGERS

  
Salvation Bound
Music and Text by Jenny Beck
Mother SuperiorHeather Kniotek
FatherBenjamin Park
GracePamela Stein
  
Work in Progress
Music and Text by Faye Chiao
RoriJoanna Manring
FrancesAndrea Nwoke
ChrisKevin Wetzel
  
These are the Times
Music by Ruby Fulton
Text by Cory Hibbs
TomMatthew Dingels
Rational VoiceJennifer Donnell
Irrational VoiceHeather Davis
  
Uncle David
Music and Text by Lane Harder
MotherSarah Hoover
DaughterLeah Serr
  
The Bungalow
Music and Text by Jason Reed
TillerCaitlin Donovan
QuadeBrooke Lieberman
  
Efstathios
Music and Text by Matthew J. Viator
Mrs. KallistosJulia Steinbok
EfstathiosTravis Wanner
AdenKyle Malone
  
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