Loyola University (New Orleans) stages Tom Cipullo and David Mason’s After Life as part of the National Opera Association’s Dominick Argento Chamber Opera Competition on January 5.
The Dominick Argento Chamber Opera Competition encourages the composition and performance of short operas especially useful in opera workshops and other training venues. The competition runs in two-year cycles. In the first year, composers submit scores for preliminary judging. Three finalists are chosen and excerpts from those operas are presented at the annual convention (odd years) for competition. The winning opera, chosen from among the three finalists, is produced in its entirety at the NOA convention the following year (even years).
Deemed “[a] finely wrought exploration of the role of art in times of grave crisis” by the Washinton Post and “inventive, pitch-perfect, thought-provoking and refreshing” by Oregon ArtsWatch, After Life imagines a post-mortem reunion of Pablo Picasso and Gertrude Stein. Stein believes her beloved Alice B. Toklas has conjured her back to life, while Picasso wonders which of his many lovers has called him up from the abyss. When both realize, to their disappointment, that their great loves are not present, the two towering figures discuss their lives, their complex relationship, and their activities during the Second World War. Their outsized egos clash, resentment between them boils over and, as they confront each other, a third voice rises from the darkness. A young girl, a victim of the Holocaust, appears, and it is her questioning that has brought Stein and Picasso back from the dead. Why did she die while they lived on? Can the two artists, whose work endures, ever know death as she does? Who will remember her, when she barely remembers herself?
Sinatra, Puccini and This Thing of Ours
Tom Cipullo and Michael Ching lead a conversation about how American popular culture influences their music and librettos. Opera has its tradition (Puccini) and one of the factors in its rebirth is not holding a popular culture at arms’ length, but embracing it (Sinatra). As a playful start, Tom Cipullo will play Frank Sinatra and Michael Ching will play Giacomo Puccini. The workshop takes place on January 5.