OPERA IN AMERICA: MUSIC OF, BY, AND FOR THE PEOPLE: A PERFORMANCE DISSERTATION
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Opera in America: Music of, by, and for the people is a study of the relationship between American popular culture and opera in the United States. Four performance projects demonstrate the on-going exchange between the operatic community-including its composer, singers, and patrons-and the country's popular entertainment industry with its broad audience base. Numerous examples of artistic cross pollination between lowbrow and highbrow music will illustrate the artistic and social consequences created by this artistic amalgamation. Program #1, By George! By Ira! By Gershwin!, is a retrospective of Gershwin's vocal music representing a blending of popular and serious music in both style and form. The concert includes selections from Porgy and Bess, a work considered by many musicologists as the first American opera. Program #2, Shadowboxer, is a premiere performance of an opera by Frank Proto and John Chenault. For this newly commissioned work, I serve as Assistant Director to Leon Major. Shadowboxer provides a clear example of opera utilizing popular culture both musically and dramatically to tell the true story of American hero and legendary boxer, Joe Louis. Program #3, Just a Song at Twilight, is an original theatrical music piece featuring music, letters, diaries, and journals of the Gilded Age, an era when opera was synonymous with popular entertainment. Special attention is focused on tum-of the-century singers who performed in both opera and vaudeville. Program #4 is a presentation of Dominick Argento's Miss Manners on Music and illustrates the strong relationship that can exist between opera and American popular entertainment. Originally conceived as a song cycle, I have staged the work as a one-act opera sung and acted by soprano Carmen Balthrop. This piece is based on the writings of pop icon and newspaper columnist Judith Martin, otherwise known as Miss Manners. All four performances are recorded in audio and video formats.