Libretto by Elizabeth Reeves
Duration: 20 minutes
Norman Garrett, Malachi Harris (baritone)
Soloman Howard, Phillip Duffy (bass)
Shantelle Przybolo, Catherine Burns (soprano)
Tim Augustin, John Burns (tenor)
Patrick O’Halloran, John Ruddy (tenor)
flute, clarinet/bass clarinet, french horn, string quartet, piano, percussion
Duffy’s Cut(2013) was commissioned by the Washington National Opera American Opera Initiative, and was premiered in the Terrace Theatre at the Kennedy Center on November 13, 2013. Her writing was praised as showing a “flair for full-bodied, operatic sound,” (Washington Post), and “using contrasting rhythms and clever harmonies to an intriguing effect” (Huffington Post).
“The appearance of this fatal malady in our favoured country is calculated to awaken the most serious reflections, and to excite the mind to close self-examination. That is a dispensation permitted to a wise and gracious Providence as a chastisement for the sins of the people, and as a solemn warning to repent and amend their ways,
I have not the smallest doubt.” —June 30, 1832; The Friend, a Quaker newspaper
“All were intemperate, and ALL ARE DEAD! The house, or rather hovel, in which they lived with all its contents, was burnt immediately after the bodies were buried.”
—September 8, 1832; The National Gazette and Literary Register
Late August, 1832.
The work camp of Track Mile 59, known as Duffy’s Cut, in rural Malvern, Pennsylvania. The ground is scarred from the effort of cutting away the hillside and creating a fill, or land-bridge, over the valley below for the Pennsylvania and Columbia Railroad. Some yards away from the worksite, the door of the Irish workers’ abandoned shanty flaps desolately in the late summer breeze. The tools of their labor—a wagon half-filled with dirt, shovels, and pickaxes—as well as the sundry remains of their daily lives—bone pipes, tin cups, empty whiskey bottles—lie scattered, forsaken, over the ground.
A video/audio recording of the premiere was not available. For information on an audio recording for rehearsal purposes, please contact me.
This is a video of the premiere April 28, 2013 at the Eastman School of Music featuring:
Lindsay Warren Baker, director
Danko Daniel Drusko, conductor
Pablo Bustos, Narrator
Natasha Drake, Christabel
Emily R. Mills, Geraldine
Alicia Mastrella,Christabel dancer
Katie Rhea, Geraldine dancer
Andrew Pramuk, Sir Leoline
John Leighton, Bard Bracy
Emlyn Johnson, flute
Wai Ki Wun, clarinet/bass clarinet
Lauren Cauley and Elizabeth Ehrlich, violin
Kelsey Farr, viola
Audrey Snyder, cello
Wan-Ling Chuang, bass
Chiao-Wen Cheng, piano
Megan Arns and Drew Worden, percussion
Synopsis of First Act
The Narrator introduces Christabel, the young, pure, and beautiful daughter of Sir Leoline, as she is walking by herself in the forest close to midnight. Suddenly, she notices a woman lying in the forest in distress. The woman introduces herself as Geraldine, and after explaining to her that soldiers kidnapped her and then left her in the forest to die, she persuades Christabel to take care of her in her father’s castle. As she is traveling back with Christabel, weird events occur that foreshadow Geraldine being evil: she shrieks in pain as she crosses the threshold of the gate, the dog barks at her, and when they arrive to Chrstabel’s bedroom, she starts casting a spell on her. The first act ends with Chistabel unrobed and lying in bed next to Geraldine.
Synopsis of Second Act
It is the next morning, and Christabel and Geraldine are waking up. Christabel brings Geraldine to her father, Sir Leoline. She then recounts the story to her father about who Geraldine is and how she was found. Sire Leoline realizes that Geraldin’es father has been a friend of his, but long ago, after a horrible altercation, they stopped speaking. Sir Leoline feels sorry for Geraldine, and out of respect for his old friend, and possibly out of remorse, wants to make sure Geraldine is taken care of and escorted back to her father. He summons his knight, Bard Bracy, to accompany Geraldine back to the castle. However, Bard Bracy tells Leoline of a horrible premonition he had last night: that a beautiful dove was being strangled in the forest by a snake. Sir Leoline is so enraptured by Geraldine at this point that not only does he think the dove is Geraldine, but he also does not notice that Geraldine is casting a spell on Christabel, causing her to act strange, jealous, possessed, and snake-like. Sir Leoline is so disgusted, and ashamed of his daughter’s actions that he walks out of the room with Geraldine, while Christabel is on the floor coiled up and hissing.