The Poe Project: Buried Alive & Embedded (premiered 2014)
What might Edgar Allan Poe write if he were alive today? This is the question American Lyric Theater asked of four gifted emerging writers for the opera stage. The Poe Project was commissioned by American Lyric Theater with support from the New York State Council on the Arts and the ASCAP Foundation. The double-bill is intended to be staged as a full-evening entertainment, but each opera can also be performed independently.
Commissioned by American Lyric Theater Lawrence Edelson, Producing Artistic Director
Developed under the auspices of the Composer Librettist Development Program
WORLD PREMIERE CREATIVE TEAM Conductor: Kostis Protopapas Directors: Lawrence Edelson (Buried Alive); Sam Helfrich (Embedded) Scenic and Costume Design: Zane Pihlstrom Projection Design: S. Katy Tucker Lighting Design: Josh Epstein WORLD PREMIERE CAST Sara Gartland, Caroline Worra, Jennifer Feinstein, Jonathan Blalock, Christopher Burchett, Nathan Stark
PERFORMING FORCES: Both operas in The Poe Project, Buried Alive and Embedded utilize the same performing forces: a cast of six singers (spinto-soprano, lyric soprano, mezzo soprano, lyric tenor, baritone, bass) and a chamber orchestra of 18 players.
DEVELOPMENT AT AMERICAN LYRIC THEATER:
Commission: 2009, in honor of the Poe bicentennial.
Piano/Vocal Workshop & Reading: November 2010
Orchestral Workshop & Reading: November 2011 In conjunction with OPERA America’s first New Works Forum
Sequenza 21: “There is an Audience for New Opera out here on the Prairie” – March 28, 2014 The Forum: “FM Opera Delivers Scary Good Poe Inspired Premieres” – March 29, 2014 The Arts Partnership: “FM Opera and American Lyric Theater do Poe Proud” – March 29, 2014
"Vividly dramatized and entertaining." - The Dallas Morning News "Another adventurous offering...[a] starkly vivid production." - The New York Times "Pieces that pay tribute to the Poe tradition... Poe would have approved" - Star Telegram
LICENSING: Performance licensing and materials rental for Buried Alive and Embedded are administered by American Lyric Theater. Please click here for more information about performing The Poe Project.
(Above: pictures from the premiere production of Embedded. Top: pictures of Buried Alive.)
Music by JEFF MYERS Libretto by QUINCY LONG
In moonlight, a gravedigger slowly prepares a fresh grave, ominously anticipating a death that is sure to happen…
A sheeted corpse lies in a cold and silent morgue. Victor’s eyes open. He looks around, confused, not knowing what this place is or how he got there. The Mortician enters and tells Victor that he is dead and that even now his wife is choosing whether he is to be buried or cremated. A horrified Victor insists that he is alive. The Mortician suggests he’s going to be buried and exits, smiling. Victor screams for Elena.
Elena enters in her nightgown. She reassures Victor that he is not in any morgue, but safe at home on his cot in his studio - that he’s had a nightmare. Victor insists that it is no dream, that a voice had awakened him in the night and led him to his studio to work on a painting of a bridge over water that had somehow drawn him into it - actually inside of it - and that he had been swept underwater to some kind of hell. Elena tries to reason with Victor, telling him that this is pure nonsense, that he needs to leave his lonely studio and morbid obsession with death. Victor refuses. Elena encourages Victor to go back to work then, to paint this demon out of his soul and turn his terror into triumph. Alone and terrified, Victor receives a visit from the Mortician who encourages Victor to eat paint for inspiration, as did the artist Van Gogh.
Victor’s body lies on a slab in the mortuary. The Mortician and her assistants sing of their preparations to embalm him. As they begin, Victor wakes up screaming. Elena is summoned to reassure Victor that he’s been taken to an emergency room, not to a mortuary, that he has poisoned himself by eating his paints. The woman he takes for a mortician is a doctor; the others are nurses. Elena is worried for Victor, worried that his obsession with death is going to actually kill him. The Doctor agrees, warning Victor that a mind turned against itself in this way is capable of creating the very events it fears most. Elena begs Victor to allow the Doctor to administer a sedative that will promote rest and recovery. Victor refuses, recognizing the Doctor as the spirit death itself. Thinking him insane, Elena reluctantly signs a commitment order. The Doctor administers a sedative. She and Elena sing Victor to sleep.
A drugged Victor is led to his coffin in the cemetery where Elena and the mourners are gathered. Victor sings of his acceptance of death as he climbs into the coffin. The Mortician closes the coffin. Elena interrupts the Priest’s eulogy to say that she’s heard something. The Mortician tells her it’s only the wind. The coffin is lowered into the grave and Elena and the others exit. The Gravedigger returns to his song of death as he shovels dirt into the grave. Muffled thumps and screams of terror issue from Victor’s coffin. He is still alive. The Gravedigger smiles and continues shoveling as the cries weaken, then cease altogether.
JEFF MYERS draws inspiration from a wide variety of musical works, styles and genres, as well as visual art and natural phenomena, including Filipino kulintang music, works by M.C. Escher, overtone music, folk music and geographical narrative. By placing these diverse elements on a continuum, Jeff is able to connect seemingly unrelated ideas into a single, expressive musical work with its own identity. His music has been played ensembles such as by L’Orchestre National de Lorraine, American Composers Orchestra, Ann Arbor Symphony, New York Youth Symphony, members of New World Symphony, University of Michigan Symphony Band, American Lyric Theater, Center City Opera, Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, Transit, PRISM Saxophone Quartet, and the JACK Quartet. Jeff joined the Composer Librettist Development Program at American Lyric Theater in 2007. He has received awards from The American Academy of Arts and Letters, BMI, as well as fellowships from the Aspen Festival, Tanglewood, Festival Acanthes, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, and grants from institutions and private funds including the Jerome Foundation, American Music Center, Puffin Foundation, the Yvar Mikhashoff Trust, the Anna Sosenko Trust, and The Fromm Foundation. His music has been heard at Carnegie Hall, Library of Congress, Kimmel Center, Darmstadt, Gaudeamus, Symphony Space, Arsenal, Le Poisson Rouge, and the Tenri Cultural Institute. He holds degrees from San Jose State University, the Eastman School of Music and the University of Michigan. Jeff has studied with numerous composition teachers, including William Bolcom, Martin Bresnick, Michael Daugherty, Betsy Jolas, Bright Sheng, and Allen Strange. He currently resides in New York City where he works as a freelance composer, orchestrator and copyist. His operatic collaboration with fellow CLDP Resident Artist Librettist Royce Vavrek yielded the one-act opera The Hunger Art, based on Kafka’s Hunger Artist and the Adam and Eve story. www.jeffmyers.info
QUINCY LONG’s critically acclaimed plays include People Be Heard, Playwrights Horizons; The Only Child, South Coast Rep, Costa Mesa, CA; Wedding Pictures, Ensemble Studio Theater; The Lively Lad, New York Stage and Film and The Actors Theatre of Louisville; The Virgin Molly, The Atlantic Theatre Company and Berkeley Rep; The Joy of Going Somewhere Definite, the Atlantic Theatre Company (directed by William H. Macy and starring Felicity Huffman) and the Mark Taper Forum. Joy was optioned by Icon Films, and Joy, People Be Heard and The Lively Lad were published by Dramatists Play Service. The Virgin Molly was published by Playscripts. Quincy’s new play, The Huntsmen, recently won a Sundance Time Warner Storyteller’s Award, was workshopped at Playwrights Horizons and read at New York Theatre Workshop and Ensemble Studio Theatre. In addition, Quincy has developed Loulou, a musical commissioned by Ginger Cat Productions in Toronto, and The Gospel According to Trains, a new play at New York Theatre Workshop’s 2010 summer retreat at Dartmouth College. He joined the Composer Librettist Development Program at American Lyric Theater in 2007. Quincyis a graduate of the Yale School of Drama and a member of New Dramatists and Ensemble Studio Theater. Originally from Warren, Ohio, he lives and works in New York City.
Music by PATRICK SOLURI Libretto by DEBORAH BREVOORT
Embedded takes place in the world of broadcast journalism. Sylvia Malow, the anchor of Deadline, a high profile news program on a major American network, is in the middle of a broadcast when her program is interrupted with a news flash delivered by Victoria Reilly, an attractive, young up-and-coming journalist. Sylvia is distressed to learn that the network is expanding Victoria’s role, a signal that Sylvia’s days as the anchor will soon be over.
Sylvia leaves the studio in despair over the thought of being thrown over because of her age. When she arrives at her home in New Jersey, she receives a mysterious box that contains a cell phone and a GPS device. The cell phone rings. The caller is Montresor, an Italian terrorist from Linea della morte. Sylvia’s reporting of his last terror attack in Rome had foiled his plans; Montresor tells her that he has become a better terrorist as a result, thanks to her. He offers to embed Sylvia in his terror cell and give her an interview to discuss his new plans for an upcoming attack on New York City.
Sylvia balks at the morality of participating in something like this but can’t resist the temptation of a good scoop, especially considering the rise of Victoria Reilly at the network and her now vulnerable position. She knows the Montresor interview will make thrilling television programming and solidify her position with the network.
They set up the first interview to take place that evening in the grotto at Amontillado’s, a popular wine bar in lower Manhattan. Sylvia agrees to stay on the phone with Montresor who will monitor her progress via the video cam in the phone.
Sylvia gets in the car. She pulls onto the highway, through the tollbooths, and finally into the Holland Tunnel. As she drives she debates whether she’s doing the right thing. When she gets to the middle of the tunnel, there is a series of explosions. Traffic comes to a stop. Suddenly there is a rush of water. Montresor reveals that he has bombed the tunnel. In a few moments she will be completely embedded; not in a terror cell, but beneath the Hudson River. She won’t be reporting the story, he tells her. She is the story. The camera in the car is live-streaming the event, as they speak, onto the internet.
When Montresor reveals that Victoria Reilly is reporting the story on Deadline, Sylvia decides to take matters into her own hands by reporting the event–and her own deathâ€”herself, from inside the tunnel using the video cam in her phone. She realizes that by dying she will actually outlive Victoria because she will remain eternally young, embedded in memory via her final broadcast and her live-streamed death. The opera ends with Sylvia turning the horror of her death into a moment of triumph, instead of a moment of defeat not only over Victoria, but Montresor whose efforts to make Sylvia a helpless victim fail when she turns the event into a celebration of her immortality.
PATRICK SOLURI is a New York City based composer focused on music for orchestra, ballet, opera, and film/TV. His love of telling stories through music is evident in a large body of work for the stage, screen and concert hall. This includes seven commissioned ballet scores (Staatsballett Berlin, Dances Patrelle, Intermezzo, Bowen McCauley Dance, CVYB) and conducting the world premiere of Fire & Air at The Kennedy Center. He joined the Composer Librettist Development Program at American Lyric Theater in 2007. Operatic works and commissions include his short operas, from 1 to 20 minutes long, and longer works performed around the country and Europe (New York City Opera, Fort Worth Opera, Nevada Opera, Center City Opera Theater, American Lyric Theater, Juventas, Urban Arias, Vienne en Voix Festival in France, and RTB). His operatic successes include four operas premiered at Carnegie Hall, and winning the 2013 Frontiers Competition at Fort Worth Opera for Embedded, commissioned by American Lyric Theater, premiered in 2014 by Fargo Moorhead Opera, and will return to the stage for Fort Worth Opera’s 2016 season. Patrick has also composed several film scores, and hundreds of tracks of music for film & TV (Wonderpets, Americas Got Talent, Sing it Laurie, Alter Egos, Confined, Sony/ATV, plus numerous shows on TLC, Logo and Discovery networks) and music for a film trailer currently showing on 19,000 film screens across the USA. More info at www.patricksoluri.com
DEBORAH BREVOORT writes plays, musicals and operas. She is best known for her play The Women of Lockerbie, which won the Onassis international playwriting competition and the Kennedy Center Fund for New American plays award. It is produced all over the US and internationally. After participating in American Lyric Theater’s (ALT) Composer Librettist development program, Deborah has turned her attention almost exclusively to writing opera librettos and musicals. Her latest libretto is for Murasaki’s Moon, with composer Michi Wiancko, commissioned by NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, On Site Opera and ALT. Her other operas include Embedded and Steal a Pencil for Me, both of which won the Frontiers competition at Ft. Worth Opera. She has also written a new version of Mozart’s The Impresario and a contemporary adaptation of Die Fledermaus, set in the world of reality TV, for the Anchorage Opera. Her libretto for Albert Nobbs, with Patrick Soluri, was a finalist for the Pellicciotti Prize in opera composition. Her plays include Blue Moon Over Memphis (a Noh Drama about Elvis Presley), The Poetry of Pizza, The Blue-Sky Boys, The Comfort Team, The Velvet Weapon and My Lord What Night. She is a two-time winner of the Frederick Loewe award in musical theatre. She’s an alumnus of New Dramatists, a member of the National Theatre Conference and a cofounder of Theatre Without Borders. She serves as a mentor to the Rainmaker Project in Kenya, which is dedicated to creating new musicals by Kenyan composers and writers.