The Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College will present a double bill of two Bruce Saylor operas: “My Kinsman Major Molineux” (in its New York premiere), and “The Image Maker” based on the verse play by James Merrill in its world premiere. Performances are on May 4 through 6 at the Goldstein Theatre at Queens College.
Merrill’s work, “The Image Maker,” is a Santeria-based fable set in the Caribbean about a puppet maker whose creations come to life. Saylor captures the theme of magic and folk religion with music that ranges from serene to bright and sun-splashed, to dark, atonal and dissonant.
The new work will be presented along with Saylor’s one-act opera, “My Kinsman Major Molineux,” which has a libretto by Cary Plotkin, and is based on the short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne. “Major Molineux” premiered in Pittsburgh in 1976 and is the first opera Saylor ever composed. It has undergone orchestral revisions since its premiere, which will be reflected in its New York debut.
Both operas will be conducted by Maurice Peress. The stage director is Lorca Peress. Sets and lighting are designed by Harry Feiner. Costumes are designed by Sam Fleming. Projection design is by Jan Hartley. Choreography is by Carolyn Webb.
Saylor has received fellowships, grants and awards from the Guggenheim, Mellon, and Ingram Merrill Foundations, the National Prize for Composition from the National Society of Arts and Letters, the Music Award and Charles E. Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, numerous scholarships and prizes from Juilliard, and from the Fulbright Commission for study in Rome. He has composed four operas, among them “Orpheus Descending,” based on the Williams play, for Lyric Opera of Chicago where he was composer-in-residence.
He has collaborated with American soprano Jessye Norman on two best-selling holiday CDs, on music for several important national occasions, and on concert versions of Duke Ellington’s sacred music.
The operas are a joint presentation of the Aaron Copland School of Music, the school’s Opera Program, and the Department of Drama, Theater and Dance. Since 2002 the music school, in partnership with the Drama Department, has presented 12 opera productions, two of which have won National Opera Association Awards; a New York premiere; three Mozart Operas, and 20th Century works by Bernstein and Argento.
The current production features performances by talented students from the Opera Program complemented by professional contributions both onstage and behind the scenes. In 2006, ACSM presented the New York premiere of Mr. Saylor’s “Orpheus Descending.”
Performances: Friday, Saturday, May 4, 5 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, May 6 at 2:30 p.m.