Duration: 17 min.
November 3rd, 2017
One Ounce Opera’s Fresh Squeezed Ounce of ART SONG
Maureen Broy Papovich, soprano; Chelsea DeLorenz, mezzo-soprano; Tyler Mabry, piano
Central Presbyterian Church, Austin, TX
1. Prologue: Creatures of the deep
2. The Camel
3. The Manticore
4. The Beaver
5. The Unicorn
6. The Salamander
7. The Whale
8. Epilogue: Nameless and named
The poetry of The Creatures: a bestiary retold is a quirky mixture of “scientific observation” and medieval mysticism that Jeffery Beam crafted into poetry from snippets of Elizabethan bestiaries. In responding to his poems, I explore these beast’s many facets: the Beaver with its sweet, playful persona is also a creature of darkness and the night— the Manticore is a dangerous man-eater with a radiant, beautiful voice.
There is a sense of connectivity surrounding these songs and two of my artistic mentors, Lee Hoiby and Jeffery Beam. Lee was a composer, highly esteemed for his art songs. As an undergraduate, circa 2000, I got to know and love his songs. I wanted to know more about his work, so I reached out to him. What transpired was a short series of communications that fulfilled my initial curiosity. Then in 2008, I was writing a choral cantata for a World AIDS Day benefit and discovered the poetry of Jeffery Beam while looking for texts. I contacted Jeffery for permission to use his poems for the cantata, and he off-handedly mentioned Hoiby had set his poetry in a song cycle The Life of the Bee. This sparked a re-connection for me with Lee and his music. From 2008 until his death in 2011, Lee and I communicated through letters, which felt wonderfully mid-20th-century in this digital age. Lee showed interested in my work, and he was generous with thoughtful criticism and encouraging words. Jeffery’s poetic vision is unique and inspiring, and his texts have been the foundation for three of my works so far: the choral cantata Heaven’s Birds: Lament and Song, my tone poem An Invocation, premiered by the Austin Symphony Orchestra, and now this song cycle.