The towering personalities of Pablo Picasso and Gertrude Stein, plus the remarkable teenage poetry of Holocaust victim Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger, together form the framework for this month's new release in the Naxos American Opera Classics Series.
“In creating music for the fascinating, larger-than-life characters, I tried to capture Stein’s outsize ego and Picasso’s virility. Surprisingly, the character of the young orphan girl presented the greatest range of emotions. In her barely fifteen minutes on stage, she demonstrates calm, patience, sorrow, rage, resignation, wisdom, and grace.”
– Tom Cipullo, composer
“What I found inspiring about Selma’s poetry was that she was able to speak the truth in simple but clear poetic language. Behind the apparent simplicity of her words, however, was a depth of feeling and thought that, for me as a composer, was very exciting.”
Tom Cipullo’s contemporary opera After Life explores the rôle of art in a troubled world and poses weighty questions about the artist’s duty in confronting inhumanity. David Mason’s libretto imagines an encounter between the ghosts of Pablo Picasso and Gertrude Stein, who reveal both their brilliance and their human flaws. Lori Laitman’s song cycle In Sleep The WorldIs Yours sets three beautiful poems by Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger, who was to perish in a Nazi labor camp in Ukraine at the age of 18.
Listen to an extract from Tom Cipullo's After Life: So many died
About the Artists
Composer Tom Cipullo has been hailed by the American Academy of Arts and Letters for music that displays “inexhaustible imagination, wit, expressive range and originality”. Cipullo was the winner of a 2012 Guggenheim Fellowship, the 2013 Sylvia Goldstein Award from Copland House and the 2013 Arts and Letters Award from the American Academy. His first opera, Glory Denied, is based on the true story of America’s longest-held prisoner of war, and has enjoyed numerous productions around the US.
Lori Laitman has been described by Fanfare magazine as “…one of the most talented and intriguing of living composers.” Laitman has composed three operas, an oratorio, choral works and over 250 songs, setting texts by classical and contemporary poets — including those who perished in the Holocaust — to resounding critical acclaim. Her songs are widely performed internationally and throughout the USA, and her recordings have garnered exceptional praise.
Soprano Ava Pine drew rave reviews for her portrayal of the ethereal Youth in Tom Cipullo’s After Life. An acclaimed interpreter of both contemporary opera and the baroque style, she brings great vocal and dramatic range to her collaborations with symphony orchestras and opera companies around the US.
Lyric coloratura soprano Megan Chenovick has appeared frequently with Music of Remembrance (MOR). A 2014 Gypsy Rose Lee, BroadwayWorld.com and Gregory Award Nominee, Chenovick is noted for her superb showmanship. Her roles include Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor, Musetta in La Bohème and Bubikopf in the MOR production of Der Kaiser von Atlantis.
Mezzo-soprano Catherine Cook has excelled in a wide range of roles with leading opera companies. She premièred the role of Gertrude Stein in MOR’s 2015 production of Tom Cipullo’s After Life, and will be featured in MOR’s world première of Jake Heggie’s Out of Darkness in the 2015-16 season.
Baritone Robert Orth captivated MOR audiences in 2015 as Picasso in the world première of Tom Cipullo’s After Life. Orth has performed 135 roles in opera and musicals in scores of cities around the world. He has been named Artist of the Year by both New York City Opera and Seattle Opera, and Opera News has dubbed him “That fixture of contemporary opera.”
Music of Remembrance
Founded in 1998 by pianist Mina Miller, Music of Remembrance fills a unique cultural role throughout the world in remembering the Holocaust through music, by promoting concert performances, educational programmes, recordings and commissioning new works. Under Miller’s leadership, Music of Remembrance has drawn national attention by commissioning new works from American composer luminaries such as Paul Schoenfield, Jake Heggie, Tom Cipullo, Lori Laitman and Thomas Pasatieri.