New Mark Adamo Opera Commission Announced

San Francisco Opera has announced plans to commission a new work by Mark Adamo for a scheduled premiere in 2013. The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, in Mark’s words, “draws on the Gnostic gospels, the canonical gospels and fifty years of new Biblical scholarship to reimagine the loves and conflicts of the New Testament through the eyes of its leading female character.”Read this post

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Sondheim at Herbst Theater

This past Sunday was a date I’d been anticipating for months. As part of the City Arts and Lectures series here in San Francisco, Stephen Sondheim sat down with Frank Rich for a thoroughly spontaneous and entertaining hour-and-a-half discussion.

Now, I’ve read and heard so many interviews and similar Sondheim talks over the years, so there was very little new information for me, but this is my first opportunity to sit through one in person. Sondheim was upbeat, forthcoming and very funny; a true mensh.Read this post

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Sweeney Fatigue

Why am I so uninterested in the new Sweeney Todd movie? It’s as much a surprise to me as it is to anyone who knows me. I remember being excited about it about 15 years ago when there began to be noise about a Tim Burton adaptation, but in recent years I’ve lost interest.

The original stage version of Sweeney Todd is a masterpiece, and I’ve written before about how my first exposure to it put me on the path toward being a composer. Over many years I’ve studied the score so thoroughly and seen so many productions, some good and some bad, that I don’t think I can ever get excited about it again. It’s not just this film adaptation I’m down on; I’m normally loathe to go and see new stage productions as well. It’s also not that I don’t think the original 1979 Harold Prince production can’t be improved upon, but that happens so rarely.Read this post

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Bay Area Announcement #1: D'Arc, Woman on Fire

It will be worth your while to see writer/performer Amanda Moody’s latest music theater piece D’Arc, Woman on Fire, music by Jay Cloidt, at Footloose & Shotwell Studios.

D’Arc offers a surreal inquiry into the costs of dreams, lived and unlived. Weaving the threads of the Dark Ages with our own dark times, D’Arc depicts a present-day intercession by Saint Joan of Arc. We meet Joanne. Home alone, she fixates on letters from her daughter who vanished while working abroad in a war-torn region. Raging against loss, Joanne begins to receive bizarre visions through the cold flame of her television set. It is Saint Joan, burning through the TV twilight to answer her grief. Relating tales of her own battles and trials, Joan teases and admonishes Joanne, disrupts her obsessions and challenges her to listen anew to the call of her own life.

Jay Cloidt’s haunting music drives this D’Arc night of the soul. Integrating Moody’s mercurial vocalizations with acoustic and processed cello, the composition features original songs, underscoring, and sound design. His composition spans 14th century hymns, post-Romanticism, aggressive electronic music and heart-thumping gospel to evoke the strange dream of Joanne and Joan’s collision-course.

I haven’t seen it yet, but I can vouch for Amanda as a really interesting dramatic writer, and a powerful performer.

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The Sweeney Effect

It had been years since I’ve looked at it, but I’ve had the vocal score of Sweeney Todd out for the past couple of weeks, having just seen the revival currently on at American Conservatory Theatre (extended for still one more week).

Sweeney Todd score

Years ago I used to spend hours with this score, so it’s kind of like an old friend. Right now I don’t really have time to play with it, so it’s just sitting there staring at me all day. Funny thing though: since I’ve had it out, I’ve completed two Eros at Breakfast songs, and I’m now closing in on a third. Normally I’m a hopeless slowpoke. I think on some level I know the score is watching me, and I don’t want to let it down.

Let’s call it “The Sweeney Effect”

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Revisiting the Trunk: "You Must Learn"

Throughout the year I’ve been occasionally posting recordings of songs from my earlier musical The Ghost of Wu. Today’s installment is the song “You Must Learn”, in which an ambitious mother lectures her naïve daughter, a concubine, in the ways of the Emperor’s court.

This song is probably the most Sondheim-derivative thing I’ve ever written. When I was a student, all of my music was completely derivative, and over the years I learned how to avoid that to some degree. This is a rare case where I was not only being openly derivative, but I actually knew what I was doing. If you know your Sondheim, you will surely recognize the influence.

The lyrics are mine too, by the way. You can follow them and the score if you’d like on this dedicated page.

By the way, there’s a running index of all the songs I’ve posted so far on this page.

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Back to the Trunk: "Welcome Home"

Time to roll out another song from The Ghost of Wu.

Composed in the summer or fall of 2002, Welcome Home is probably my favorite song from Wu; certainly the one I’m most proud of for both music and lyrics. It’s an ensemble number for womens chorus.

Following a tumultuous journey from her village to the Emperor’s court, Wu is met by gentle chorus of concubines welcoming her into the Emperor’s harem. During the course of the song, they transform her from a simple country girl into an elegant member of their circle.

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