Development Series

The Center for Contemporary Opera continues its popular Development Series with three exciting works in progress:

Hester 

by Richard Alan White
October 12, 2017 8pm (Sold Out)
October 15, 2017 8pm

National Opera Center Recital Hall

In 1992, writer Alfred Kazin began an article in The New York Review of Books with what today would seem a startling question: “Why is there no opera of The Scarlet Letter?” He must not have known Richard Alan White. Mr. White began conceptualizing his opera, “Hester,” named after the protagonist of Hawthorne’s classic American novel, in the 1970’s. At the time Mr. White began putting pencil to music paper, two major operas had in fact been inspired by The Scarlet Letter: Damrosch’s 1895 opera and Giannini’s in 1938, though neither became household names. To date, Mr. White’s approach to composing this classic is unique. With a focus on Hester Prynne, Mr. White brings a truth to the story’s emotional depth.  “I’ve worked in prisons. I was a NYC caseworker for the Dept. of Social Services and have worked with countless single mothers. I’ve known people who have been killed,” he said. Hester is not a fantastical melodrama. It is about real life and is more relevant today than ever before.”

Richard Alan White, 82, is an emerging composer based in Brooklyn, New York. He has a Master of Arts, Music Composition, from Columbia University, (1957). Both the librettist and the composer of Hester, he is also a trained actor and singer with a long list of acting and singing credits. He studied composition with Robert Starrer, Hall Overton, Jack Beeson, Otto Leuning, and acting with Uta Haagen, Alice Spivak, and Stephen Strimpell. He attended lectures in Darmstadt, Germany with Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and Olivier Messiaen. This is his first professional performance of any of his works. From New England, he has family roots in Salem, Mass., which is the location of the Custom House in Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.

Swan’s Inlet

by Mark Allen Taggert
Libretto by Ann McCutchan
March 10, 2018, 8pm
National Opera Center Recital Hall

Set on the south Atlantic coast in the mid-1980s Swan’s Inlet opens with Eva, an aspiring singer, accompanying her father, Thomas, a war veteran with PTSD, to Mayor Beauregard’s reelection speech. Beauregard, a buffoon, promises the townspeople a statue of a mullet honoring the local fishing industry. The crowd applauds. Eva wants to leave town to study music, but feels bound by her father’s disability. Her friend Kendra introduces her to Marco, an artist who urges Eva to find a way to sing. Eva forms a chorus. She asks the mayor and his wife, Laverne, for rehearsal space, and when they refuse it, Marco offers Eva his barn. He is attracted to her, but fears he would hold her back. Eva performs with her chorus and her father sings. The townspeople are awestruck; the music has healed Thomas. The Beauregards invite the chorus to sing for the mullet unveiling. When a concrete fish is revealed, everyone is horrified. Marco donates a beautiful sculpture in its place and dedicates it to Eva. Eva, seeing her father restored, knows she can depart for the city.

Mark Alan Taggart is a composer, avid runner, and Professor of Music Composition at East Carolina University. He has also served ECU as Chair of the Faculty. He writes for opera, symphony orchestra, wind ensemble, chorus, and solo and chamber ensembles. His music has been performed throughout the United States, Europe, Australia, China and Japan. A review of his Symphony of Spirituals describes his music as “sublime…it left the listener wanting for more.” He lives in Greenville, North Carolina, with his wife, LeeAnn, and son, Karl.

Ann McCutchan’s writing springs from deep interests in music, art, nature, and creativity, and the ways they shape individuals, places, and history.  Her five books include a biography of French flute virtuoso Marcel Moyse and a collection of interviews with composers about the creative process — both important contributions to the literature of music and creativity. Others include Circular Breathing: Meditations From a Musical LifeRiver Music: An Atchafalaya Story, and Where’s the Moon? a Memoir of the Space Coast and the Florida Dream. She is currently writing a biography of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, author of The Yearling, for W.W. Norton. Formerly a professional clarinetist and contemporary music advocate, Ann is the author of seven previous musical texts and libretti

Purewater 

by Andrew Rudin
Libretto by Ann McCutchan
Location, date, and time to be announced

An adaptation of Andre Gide’s novella La Symphonie pastorale, Purewater is set in a small, upper Midwestern town during the Dust Bowl.  As Anna attends to household chores, her husband Asa, the church pastor, bursts in with a blind, disheveled girl,
the ward of an old woman who just died.  Against Anna’s protests, he brings the girl, Clara, into their family.  He teaches her to speak, and to listen to music. The girl, who is older than first thought, and pretty, learns rapidly, and the two grow fond of each other.  Asa’s son Stephen, the church organist, is also enchanted by Clara, and disapproves of his father’s attachment to her.  When Asa learns of an operation to correct Clara’s blindness, he vacillates. Anna, who understands the situation between Clara and her husband, and suffers for it, persuades him to arrange it. Returning from the operation, Clara sees the aging pastor, handsome young Stephen, and troubled Anna, and realizes how much pain she has caused the family.  Horrified, she departs to seek her fortune elsewhere.  Stephen, bereft and angry, determines to enter a seminary and also leaves.  In the ruins, Asa and Anna are left to restore their marriage.

Andrew Rudin is a Texas-born composer of Swedish ancestry. His “Il Giuoco” was the first large-scale work for Moog Synthesizer. His synthesized music is heard in the sound-track of the film “Fellini: Satyricon” and his “Tragoedia”on Nonesuch Records was described by critic Alfred Frankenstein as “The best large-scale electronic work I have ever heard. In Andrew Rudin’s hands the electronic idiom finally comes of age.” He has composed ballets for the Pennsylvania Ballet, Murray Louis, Dance Theatre Workshop, Louis Falco, Jeff Duncan, London Contemporary Dance Theatre, four collaborations with Alwin Nikolais, and on Broadway, music for Tennessee Williams’ “Outcry”. His opera “The Innocent” was produced in Philadelphia by Tito Capobianco in 1972. Recent concertos for Violin, Viola, and Piano, available on Centaur and Innova labels, have brought him renewed recognition.. He is the recipient of fellowships from Yaddo, MacDowell Colony, Ucross Foundation, and Virginia Center. His teachers have included George Rochberg, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Ralph Shapey, Kent Kennan, and Paul Pisk. He has served on the faculties of the Juilliard School and The University of the Arts (Philadelphia). Stephen Brookes, writing in the Washington Post says “Rudin has a gift for the kind of gesture that grabs you by the ears and won’t let go, the music building in power as its inherent possibilities unfold. Extroverted, engaging and driven by an almost heroic sense of drama…”