The music for Part I of A Letter to East 11th Street was commissioned by the Estate Project for Artists with AIDS, a project of the Alliance for the Arts.
"What a unique opera!"
— Ned Rorem
Part I of the opera takes place in March 1991. Rick Driscoll, a young man with AIDS, has returned to the suburban house in which he grew up—and now videotapes a letter to Susan McCormick, his friend and former roommate in New York. In the video, he offers a tour of his childhood bedroom, muses about a new age treatment sent to him by their friend Moira, reminisces about his former lover Tom, and finally explains why he needed to leave New York so suddenly and 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 occurs ten years later, in March 2001. Susan is leaving the apartment she once shared with Rick and moving to Brooklyn. While she packs for the move, the videotape Rick sent her ten years ago has fallen from the closet and hit her head. This triggers a conversation with her former roommate, now deceased, in which she tells him about all that has happened in her life and in the world since his death.
Aria composed in the old Italian style for the Diva’s Interlude with soprano, Karen Frankenstein and the NYC Opera orchestra conducted by George Manahan
Susan’s aria from Part II sung by soprano, Marnie Breckenridge with composer at piano
To discuss licensing or to purchase orchestra score and parts and/or PV score please contact the composer via the Contact Page. Perusal scores are available upon request.
Four Arias from A Letter to East 11th Street available here:
Rick Driscoll (Tenor), 29 years old. While AIDS has ravaged Rick and left him very thin and pale, it has not soaked him of all his energy and edge. He is dressed plainly, in pajama bottoms and a t-shirt.
Diva from the past: (Soprano) is 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 McCormick (Soprano) is 30 years old in Part I; she is casually dressed and looks a bit physically careworn for her age. Ten years later, she has aged very well, and become more confident in manner and dress.
A Letter to East 11th Street was the featured winner of the first Domenic J. Pellicciotti Opera Composition Prize and was mounted in a full production by the Crane Opera Ensemble in November of 2014. The production was directed by Carleen Graham and conducted by Kirk A. Severtson at SUNY Potsdam's Crane School of Music.
Extended Excerpts from Parts I and II were presented by Vox 2006: Showcasing American Composers on May 6-7, 2006 at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts. George Manahan conducted the New York City Opera Orchestra and the excerpts were sung by tenor, Christopher Jackson and sopranos, Karen Frankenstein and Arianna Zukerman.
American Opera Projects produced a workshop production of Part I of A Letter to East 11th Street at Dance Theater Workshop in New York, June 2004, performed by tenor, Michael Slattery (seen below) and directed by Robin Guarino.
A Letter to East 11th Street charts the impact of the AIDS epidemic on two best friends, first in the early years of the disease and then 10 years later.
Libretto: Mark Campbell
Duration: 60 minutes
Winner of the first Domenic J. Pellicciotti Opera Composition Prize 2014
Rick’s Aria to his deceased lover sung by tenor, Michael Smallwood, and composer at the piano
A Letter to East 11th Street
A chamber opera in two parts for tenor, two sopranos and 13 players
Flute (doubling Piccolo)
Clarinet in B flat
Horn in F (ordinary mute)
Trumpet in B flat (straight and Harmon mutes)
Percussion (2 players sharing: Triangle, Cymbals, Suspended Cymbal, Whip, Tam-tam, Maracas, Castanets, Wood Block, Snare, Xylophone)