Saturday, March 2, 2024

the golden ass: an opera in one act by Tiffany Skidmore and Patrick Gallagher

The Center for 21st Century Music is thrilled to sponsor the golden ass, a chamber opera in one act by composer Tiffany Skidmore and librettist Patrick Gallagher. The performances will take place Wednesday, March 13 and Thursday, March 14 at 7:30pm in Slee Hall. Skidmore currently serves as visiting Birge-Cary Chair in Music Composition for the University at Buffalo music department. Her compositions, including works for chamber, choral, and orchestral ensembles, are interpreted by preeminent new music collaborators, such as saxophonist Kyle Hutchins, who performed Skidmore’s saxophone opera, The William Blake Cycle: Unseen, Unbodièd, Unknown, and soprano Nina Dante, for whom Skidmore composed the role of Psyche (Read more about The William Blake Cycle here). In addition to her work at UB, Skidmore acts as Executive Director and Co-Artistic Director to the 113 Composer’s Collaborative, an organization dedicated to producing concerts, festivals, and guest artist residencies on a global scale. Drawn to the mystic and arcane, Skidmore finds inspiration in literature, poetry, and contested historical figures, such as writer Anne Sexton and composer Hildegard von Bingen.

"The Myth of Psyche and Cupid," overture to the golden ass
Kyle Hutchins, baritone saxophone
Cecilia and Martin Gelland of Duo Gelland, violins

A retelling of Roman poet Apuleius’ Cupid and Psyche myth, Patrick Gallagher’s libretto presents a dual conflict: Psyche perceived as a potential usurper to Venus, and both women individually resisting against societal pressures rooted in gendered expectations. Written for a limited orchestra, the opera boasts a dynamic sonic pallet cultivated through extended instrumental techniques and poignant vocal lines. As a trained singer, Skidmore is intimately familiar with the voice’s vast expressive capacity. The golden ass permits an exploration of vocal timbres and paralinguistic utterances, thereby resulting in nuanced delivery of the plot not tied to explicit language.  

Skidmore and Gallagher’s collaboration presents themes centering trauma, intergenerational relationships, and agency, weaving a narrative that emerges from within the music itself rather than from the text. In an interview with the American Composer Forum, Skidmore states that the work’s universal themes are unfurl “through simple movements, vocalizations, visual projections, and recorded sounds.” Though an abstraction of Apuleis’ original, the golden ass offers a compelling portrait of woman embroiled in a battle against forces greater than themselves and living with the consequences of their actions through music that is neither straightforward nor literal, but acutely self-aware. In emphasizing the work's immanent symbolism, Skidmore encourages the audience to engage with the opera and the complexities of myth it depicts through a new orientation.

"Grow Old" from the golden ass
Justin Anthony Spenner, baritone

In conversation about the upcoming performance, Skidmore expressed excitement about staging the work at UB, mentioning that this is the first time the golden ass will incorporate a live instrumental ensemble, including members of the Slee Sinfonietta, and will capitalize on the acoustics experience offered by Slee Hall.

The performance will feature UB assistant professor of voice, Tiffany DuMouchelle as Venus, visiting artists Nina Dante as Psyche, Adam Zahller as Cupid, Justin Anthony Spenner as Father, and choir comprised of UB students. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.