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A Letter to East 11th Street

An original opera in one act in two parts
with a libretto by Mark Campbell and music by Martin Hennessy

"What a unique opera!"
Ned Rorem

Synopsis
One Act in Two Parts
Part I- early Fall 1989
Part II-approximately ten years later

Duration: 70 minutes

Characters
Rick (tenor) is 29. While the disease has left him thin and pale, it has not soaked him of his energy. He is dressed plainly, in pajama bottoms and a t-shirt.

Diva from the past: soprano (lirico spinto). A mature artist, dressed quite lavishly in a costume suggesting many famous operas, she is extremely melodramatic and acts in the old style yet with a dignity and truth.

Susan (soprano) is 30 in Part I, casually dressed, and physically looks a little careworn. Ten years later in Part II she is somewhat more comely with a better haircut and clothing.

The Story

Part I of A Letter to East 11th Street takes place in 1989. Rick Driscoll, a young man with AIDS, who has returned to the suburban house in which he grew up, videotapes a letter to his best friend and former roommate, Susan. In the video, he offers a tour of his childhood bedroom, muses about a new age treatment sent him by his friend, Moira, reminisces about his former lover Tom, and finally tries to explain why he suddenly left New York and needed to return home. While Rick tapes the letter, Susan watches it on her TV in the apartment they recently shared on East 11th Street.

Interlude: Rick underscores the final credits of his video letter with an opera aria. As he places the needle on the old phonograph, a famous diva from the past emerges dressed in a glittering gown. As her aria ends, the lights slowly go down on Oak Lane and up on East 11th Street.

Part II begins ten years later. Susan is leaving the old apartment and moving to Brooklyn. While she packs, the video tape Rick sent her in Part I falls out of the closet and hits her on the heard triggering a conversation with her dead roommate. She tells Rick about all the happenings in the ten years since his death: including progress in the AIDS epidemic, a new job, a new fiancée and move to Brooklyn and finally pours a glass a wine and toasts her best friend in a glowing but witty tribute.

Vox website

Orchestration

Flute (doubling Piccolo)
Clarinet in B flat
Horn in F (ordinary mute)
Trumpet in B flat (straight and Harmon mutes)
Timpani (4)
Percussion (2 players sharing the following:
Triangle, Cymbals, Maracas, Wood Block, Snare, Xylophone)
Piano
Harp
Strings

Setting

The setting of A Letter to East 11th Street consists of two playing areas. Rick’s area appears to be a teenage boy’s bedroom in a suburban house. There is a bed, a chair, a dresser, and a desk. Other pieces may be added to represent the room, if necessary, including posters from the ‘70’s of the Bee Gees, Peter Frampton and Farrah Fawcett. In Susan’s area there is a sofa and a small television set (faced away from the audience) with a VCR. This area should represent the front room of an East Village apartment and should look a little rundown. In Part I Ricks’ area is larger and more prominent while Susan’s area is less well lit and off to the side. In Part II Susan’s area, the apartment on East 11th Street, becomes more prominent and Rick’s bedroom recedes into the background.

History

Part I was commissioned by the Estate Project for Artists with AIDS, a project of the Alliance for the Arts.

Part I was given a staged reading at the Rose Studio, Lincoln Center with tenor, Michael Smallwood- directed by Robin Guarino.

A second staged reading was sponsored by American Opera Projects at Dance Theatre Workshop in Manhattan with tenor, Michael Slattery also directed by Robin Guarino.

Extended Excerpts from Part I and II were presented by VOX 2006: Showcasing American Composers at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts in New York City with George Manahan conducting the New York City Opera orchestra with tenor, Christopher Jackson and sopranos, Karen Frankenstein and Arianna Zukerman.
 
Click a thumbnail to learn more | Click here to listen to excerpts.

A Letter to East 11th Street. Click to enlarge.
A Letter to East 11th Street. Click to enlarge.
   
A Letter to East 11th Street. Click to enlarge.
A Letter to East 11th Street. Click to enlarge.

• American Opera Projects' production of A Letter to East 11th Street with tenor, Michael Slattery, as Rick Driscoll, a young man dying of AIDS in 1991. Photo credits: Michael Comlish/AOP


The Good Friar
A short comic opera

Libretto: Mark Campbell
Music: Martin Hennessy


based on "Third Day, Third Story" by Giovanni Boccaccio

Characters:
The Friar…………………..bass-baritone
Flaminia…………………... mezzo- soprano
Vincenzo……………….… tenor

Duration: 21 minutes

Synopsis:

The Good Friar is adapted from one of the sexier and more irreverent tales in The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio. In a series of three confessions, Flaminia, a beautiful, married woman manipulates her confessor, The Friar, into unwittingly serving as a go-between for her and a handsome, young man named Vincenzo, culminating in a tryst between the two.

The Set:

A confession box. Later, the balcony of a small villa.

Orchestration

Flute
Clarinet in B flat
Oboe
Bassoon
Horn in F (ordinary mute)
Trumpet in B flat (straight and Harmon mutes)
Timpani
Percussion: Chimes, Triangle, Wood Block, Snare, Cymbals, Suspended Cymbal (1 player)
Harpsichord
Strings