Peabody Opera Workshop

Roger Brunyate, artistic director


Singing Shakespeare

Three new operas on Shakespearean texts

by Kevin Clark, Amy Beth Kirsten, and George Lam
JoAnn Kulesza, conductor
Alison Calhoun, Robert Maril, and James Rogers, directors

May 6, 2005, at 8:00 PM, and May 8, 2005, at 3:00 PM

Theatre Project, 45 West Preston Street, Baltimore
Admission $16 / Seniors $8 / Students with ID $5
Tickets available from Theatre Project online, or call 410/752–8558

Current season calendar   Peabody Opera Home

During the second week of their 2005 Theatre Project residency, in repertoire with their production of Henry Mollicone’s Hotel Eden, the Peabody Opera Department presents a program entitled Singing Shakespeare. Although originally advertised as including spoken scenes and songs, the program will now be devoted to the premieres of three new operatic settings of Shakespeare texts by Peabody composers Kevin Clark, Amy Beth Kirsten, and George Lam. These include a compressed setting of one of Shakespeare’s favorite love stories, a theatrical exploration of some relationships described in the Sonnets, and a highly imaginative deconstruction of the character of Ophelia from Hamlet.

Some Ado by Kevin Clark, in the composer’s words “condenses the story of Beatrice and Benedick from Much Ado About Nothing just about as far as it can be compressed. Fortunately, this involves all of my favorite lines from the play. I’ve designed this project to serve my interest in composing dialogues, and in humor. My vocal music is very dense in words and lacking in melisma, which allows me to pace my scene very quickly indeed. My goal is to maintain the speed of Shakespeare’s original dialogues, without sacrificing the expressive power of a more slowly-paced narrative work. The speed and conciseness also help advance the humor, since after all the play itself is a comedy.” The score, which is scored for marimba solo and other percussion, calls for three singers: Beatrice (Tara Stafford), Benedick (Jason Buckwalter), and “Don Pedro” (Elisabeth Halliday), a protean commentator and foil. The opera will be directed by James Rogers.

The Fair Youth of the Sonnets by George Lam, is a fantasy based on five Shakespeare Sonnets. The work contextualizes the Sonnets’ own themes of love, jealousy, and the changes wrought by time, by placing an older man and his wife at the wedding of a younger boy. As the opera explores the emotional complexities of the four characters, it is left unclear whether the man is looking back admiringly at a vision of his own youth, or regretfully observing a loved one who has chosen another course. The singers are Angela Hodgins, Emily Noël, Peter Thoresen, and Joshua Wilson. The opera will be directed by Robert Maril.

Amy Beth Kirsten writes of Ophelia Forever: “Ophelia has been portrayed in theater, art, poetry, photography, film, music, and dance over the course of generations. With each generation comes a fresh analysis of her significance to Hamlet, the mystery surrounding her death, and especially her madness. Many interpretations have formed over the years and seem to coincide with an established cultural ethos regarding women of the time. Because Ophelia has served as a social mirror she has reflected the journey of the female spirit that has sought to defy polite social labels, to resist gender-based restraints, and to forge a path that embraces both love and independence. The aim for this piece is to present the multiplicity of the character, the struggle between the aspects, and the eventual resolution of the struggle. The libretto is constructed of fragments of text by Shakespeare, Elizabeth Siddal, Christina Rosetti, Charles Baudelaire, and Arthur Rimbaud.” The singers are Catherine Green, Jondra Harmon, and Charity Tillemann-Dick, each of whom portrays a different aspect of the character. The opera will be directed by Alison Calhoun.

New Opera at Peabody