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Kennedy Verrett

Madame Theremin

Madame Theremin

Music by Kennedy Verrett
Libretto by George M. Koop

Musique par Kennedy Verrett
Livret de George M. Koop

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.

Madame Theremin englobe trois mondes : le réel, l'irréel et le surréel. D'abord, le réel : Leon Theremin, inventeur russe d'un instrument de musique électronique que l'on joue sans le toucher, a vécu à New York pendant une décennie et a épousé Lavinia Williams, une danseuse afro-américaine. Il a été rappelé en Russie puis envoyé au goulag, tandis que Lavinia a ouvert une école de danse en Haïti. L'opéra se déroule en 1938, la nuit de l'arrestation de Léon. L'irréel est le voyage imaginé par Lavinia cette nuit-là, d'un quasi-lynchage à un sanctuaire souterrain de musique, d'art et de religion africaine ancienne. C'est là qu’apparaît le surréel : une prêtresse vaudou descendant de personnages inventés par l'artiste Frohawk Two Feathers (Umar Rashid), dont la pratique, acclamée par la critique, dépeint une histoire alternative du colonialisme. Des forces puissantes engagent Lavinia sur une nouvelle voie, mais elle est incapable de sauver son mari, victime du « progrès ». À travers un passé réel et imaginé, cette œuvre est un commentaire dramatique sur notre présent.

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SPECS

Duration:

90'

Movements:

Two acts

Opéra en deux actes

Roles:

Theremin
Keyboard
Synthesizer
Percussion (Including tanbou and other Haitian drums,
mbira, didgeridoo, etc.)
Other instrumentation, including Western instruments, TBD.

LEON THEREMIN - ténor
LAVINIA WILLIAMS - Soprano
MAMA AUGUSTINE - Mezzo Soprano
ELIZAVETA - Contralto):
NOBLE WASHINGTON - Bass
BILLINGTON - Baritone
FIRST PRINCETONIAN - Baritone
COMMANDANT (Double de Billington ou de First Princetonian)
CHOEUR de Princetoniens, de prisonniers, de travailleurs haïtiens, de musiciens et de danseurs
EDMOND (Rôle non chantant)
INFIRMIÈRE (Rôle non chantant)

Instrumentation:

Theremin
Keyboard
Synthesizer
Percussion (Including tanbou and other Haitian drums,
mbira, didgeridoo, etc.)
Other instrumentation, including Western instruments, TBD.

Theremin
Clavier
Synthétiseur
Percussions (Y compris le tanbou et d'autres tambours haïtiens,
mbira, didgeridoo, etc.)
Autres instruments à confirmer, dont des instruments occidentaux

Tech:

Language:

BACKGROUND

Date of composition:

2022

Commissionner:

Performances:

To be premiered in 2022-23

Première à venir en 2022-23

Awards:

Press:

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.

Kennedy Verrett est un compositeur novateur et polyvalent dont la musique pleine d’imagination fourmille de beauté et d’éclats d'énergie mélodique et rythmique. Son univers compositionnel se déploie de la salle de concert à l'industrie du film et de la télévision, prisé par de multiples collaborateurs à l’affût de sonorités authentiques mais familières.


Outre ses activités de compositeur, Kennedy signe aussi des orchestrations et des arrangements dans des films tels que Deliver Us From Evil (Screen Gems), The Monkey King, Priest (Screen Gems) et Drag Me to Hell (Universal).

ABOUT THE LIBRETTIST 

George M. Kopp, librettist, has had a varied career encompassing acting, directing, journalism, magazine editing, and marketing research. He performed in and directed many Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, and appeared with one of New York’s favorite ensembles, the Light Opera of Manhattan. Always attracted to lesser known works, his directing credits also include such rarely performed gems as Muriel Spark’s Doctors of Philosophy, the Al Carmines-Maria Irene Fornes musical Promenade, and Joe Orton’s television play Funeral Games. He ended up pursuing his day job, however, and had a successful career as a business journalist covering the consumer electronics technologies that have so altered our lives.

George M. Kopp, librettiste, a eu une carrière diversifiée comprenant le jeu théâtral, la mise en scène, le journalisme, l’édition de magazines et la recherche en marketing. Tantôt interprète, tantôt metteur en scène de nombreuses opérettes de Gilbert et Sullivan, il s'est aussi produit avec l'un des ensembles préférés de New York, le Light Opera of Manhattan. Toujours attiré par les œuvres moins connues, il a également mis en scène des joyaux rarement joués tels que Doctors of Philosophy de Muriel Spark, la comédie musicale Promenade d'Al Carmines-Maria Irene Fornes et la pièce télévisée Funeral Games de Joe Orton. En parallèle, il n’en a pas moins conservé un emploi stable, menant une brillante carrière de journaliste économique couvrant le monde des technologies de l'électronique grand public, qui ont tant métamorphosé nos vies.

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