One of my favorite active vocal composers is Tom Cipullo. In the nineties, I performed his song cycle “Land of Nod,” which demonstrates his penchant for contemporary subjects, including pop culture, and the mixture in his music of lyricism, poignancy, and, occasionally, moments of wry humor. Cipullo’s work as an opera composer has delved into topics with weightier resonances. The following two works are no exception.
On Saturday, December 1st at Christ and St. Stephen’s Church, two of Cipullo’s one-act operas receive their New York premieres. Josephine shares a glimpse into the life of Josephine Baker. The setup is simple: before the final performance of her career, the entertainer receives an interviewer in her dressing room. However, the subject’s powerful life story is anything but simple. You would probably need five acts to convey a sense of Baker’s fascinating history. What Cipullo provides here will likely whet audience member’s appetites to learn more. Baker will be performed by soprano Melissa Wimbish, who created the part in the production’s world premiere staging in Baltimore by Groupmuse.
After Life brings together two other iconic Twentieth century figures: Gertrude Stein (played by Jennifer Beattie), and Pablo Picasso (performed by Stephen Eddy). The two come back from the hereafter to confront one another in a ghostly debate about art, aesthetics, and their lives and conduct in Paris during wartime. Their repartee is interrupted by a third ghost, a young girl who was a Holocaust victim (played by Sara Paar). This forces them to reconsider their lives and the meaning of death. Of the opera, Cipullo says, “The real value of art comes after such horrific moments, helping us, as individuals, and as a culture, make sense of the incomprehensible.”
|Chelsea Opera presents NY premieres|
After Life and Josephine
|Two one-act operas by Tom Cipullo|
December 1, 2018 7:00 pm
Christ & St. Stephen’s Church
120 West 69th Street New York, NY
|Tickets available online|
Preferred seats: $35 in advance/$45 at the door
General admission: $30 in advance/$40 at the door
Seniors/Students: $20 in advance/$25 at the door