Music by Kennedy Verrett
Libretto by George M. Koop
About the work
Madame Theremin spans three worlds: the real, the unreal, and the surreal. First, the real: Leon Theremin, the Russian inventor of an electronic musical instrument played without touching it, lived in New York for a decade and married Lavinia Williams, an African American dancer. He was ordered back to Russia and then sent to the gulag, while Lavinia went on to open a school of dance in Haiti. The opera takes place on the night of Leon's arrest in 1938. The unreal is Lavinia’s imagined journey that night, from a near lynching to an underground sanctuary of ancient African music, art, and religion. Here we encounter the surreal: a vodou priestess descended from personages invented by the artist Frohawk Two Feathers (Umar Rashid), whose critically acclaimed practice depicts an alternate history of colonialism. Powerful forces set Lavinia on a new path, but she is unable to save her husband, a victim of “progress”. Through a real and imagined past, this work is a dramatic commentary on our present.
Percussion (Including tanbou and other Haitian drums,
mbira, didgeridoo, etc.)
Other instrumentation, including Western instruments, TBD.
LEON THEREMIN (Tenor): Russian engineer, inventor of the theremin
LAVINIA WILLIAMS (Soprano): African American dancer; married to Leon Theremin
MAMA AUGUSTINE (Mezzo Soprano): Housekeeper at the Waldorf Astoria; vodou priestess
ELIZAVETA (Contralto): Cultural attaché to the Soviet consulate in New York
NOBLE WASHINGTON (Bass): African American actor, singer, international star
BILLINGTON (Baritone): Manager, Waldorf Astoria Hotel
FIRST PRINCETONIAN (Baritone): Partier at the Waldorf Astoria
COMMANDANT (Double with Billington or First Princetonian): Chief officer of a gulag in Siberia
CHORUS of (variously) Princetonians, Prisoners, Haitian workers, musicians, and dancers (The CHORUS may be eliminated if
resources do not permit.)
EDMOND (Non-singing role): Hotel maintenance worker
NURSE (Non-singing role): Gulag medical staff
Date of composition:
To be premiered in 2022-23
ABOUT THE COMPOSER
Kennedy Verrett is an innovative and versatile composer whose imaginative music captures beauty, bursts of melodic and rhythmic energy. His compositional vocabulary spans the concert stage as well as the film and television industry, and is sought after by many collaborators who seek authentic but familiar sonorities.
In addition to composing, Kennedy’s orchestrations and arrangements can be found in films such as Deliver Us From Evil (Screen Gems), The Monkey King, Priest (Screen Gems), and Drag Me to Hell (Universal).
His concert repertoire includes the charming and uniquely crafted pieces Western Sketches for Orchestra, String Adagio no. 6, Songs of the Seasons, 5 is prime 4 is Magic, and numerous experimental works for combinations of traditional instruments, and pieces created by Kennedy at the Mad Composer Lab.
The Mad Composer Lab was created in 2011, conceived from the same spirit of innovation and curiosity that drove the imaginations of composers such as Lou Harrison, Harry Partch, Julius Eastman, Charles Ives and many others. Conducting sound experiments, exploring new composition techniques, communing with the muses, and innovating ways of enhancing the listeners musical experience is all part of the madness, the passion. The music created in the lab spans an array of genres and transcendental energies, and is shared in every consumable format for the people. The purpose of this is to inspire all to be lifted in resolve and steadfast in the way of progress.
As a musician, Kennedy has performed with many ensembles, including the Monroe Symphony Orchestra and Fullerton Woodwind Quintet, playing bassoon and contrabassoon. Additionally, Kennedy performs on piano and an assortment of exotic instruments, including didjeridu and bowed strum stick which can be heard on many of his soundtrack recordings.
Kennedy holds a Bachelor of Music Degree in Theory and Composition from the University of Louisiana at Monroe as well a Graduate Certificate in Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television from the University of Southern California.
He is the recipient of several awards for composing, including Best Score for The Grover Complex, the BMI Scholar Award for Film Composition, the William H. Taylor Memorial Award, and the Cal State Fullerton Composition Award.
Kennedy has been Artist-in-Residence at the Headwater’s Waterline Theater in Portland, Oregon and Composer-in-Residence at the Lou Harrison House Music, Arts, and Ecology in Joshua Tree, CA.