layout layout

Chelsea Opera announces for October 2013:

Tenth Anniversary Season - Manhattan Premeire of

October 11, 2013 at 7:30pm
October 12 at 4:00pm

pref'd seats:$35adv/$45door
gen adm $30adv/$40door

Ballymore - Part One: Winners
by Richard Wargo

La Pizza Con Funghi by Seymour Barab

this program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.
the performance is made possible with public funds
from the New York State Council on the Arts,
a state agency.

Richard Wargo , Composer (Ballymore, Part One - Winners), was heralded by The Philadelphia Enquirer as "A fresh new voice in American opera" and by Opera News as "a born opera composer," He is a native of Scranton, PA and a graduate of the Eastman School of Music. He has received fellowships from the NEA, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the National Institute for Music Theater, and been granted residencies at the MacDowell Colony, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in County Monaghan in Ireland, where he worked on Ballymore, his adaptation of the play Lovers by the Irish playwright Brian Friel.  It was guest conductor Steven Crawford who suggested Mr. Wargo’s work to Chelsea Opera.

Winners (1999) is based on the play Lovers by Irish playwright Brian Friel.  In Richard Wargo's opera, Mag and Joe, two young lovers, celebrate their final days of high school, pending marriage and dreams of their life together.  But as foretold by two ballad singers, they will die later that day in a boating accident.  The lovers will leave the world with their love intact and their youthful aspirations unscathed, never to know heartbreak and disillusionment. In that sense, they are “winners?  

Seymour Barab , Composer (La Pizza con Funghi), has been composing operas for many decades.  His operas are among the most frequently performed in America, especially his comic one-acts and those for young audiences. A fellow composer, Miriam Gideon, has called him "the Rossini of our time."  His Little Red Riding Hood was the first American opera performed in China in its post-isolationist period.  His highly praised full-length Civil War opera Philip Marshall, which uses Dostoyevsky's The Idiot as its point of departure, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. A Chelsea Opera fan for several years, Mr. Barab has submitted a number of opera for production consideration.

La Pizza con Funghi (1988) is a parody on 19th century Italian opera: the soprano, in love with the tenor, plots to poison her older baritone husband.  Her mezzo maid spills the beans and as in many operas, no one is left alive at the final curtain!  The casting mirrors that of Winners (soprano, mezzo, tenor, baritone) and singers will appear in both operas.
Interview: Brian Friel - Keeper of the faith
Published on Saturday 8 August 2009 16:44
xternal image 2008-12-19-1129-29_1.preview.jpg  

AS BRIAN Friel sees it, every playwright works with just three tools: words, action and silence. Of those, he says, it is words that engage him the most. Indeed, the man regarded as Ireland's greatest living dramatist has a distinctively literary style. Look at the sonorous monologues that form Molly Sweeney, an award-winning hit for the Citizens' Theatre in 2005, and Faith Healer, the centrepiece of a residency by Dublin's Gate Theatre in this year's Edinburgh International Festival, and there can be little doubt that language is paramount in Friel's work.


But, as the playwright has pointed out, theatrical language is not the same as the language of the literary writer. The words of a play are designed to come to life in public through the medium of an actor standing before an audience, not in the privacy of the study. "They are used as the storyteller uses them, to hold an audience in his embrace and within that vocal sound," he writes. "So unlike the words of the novelist or poet, the playwright's words are scored for a very different context. And for that reason they are scored in altogether different keys and in altogether different tempi."

It is Friel's understanding of this that makes his plays so compelling. Faith Healer, which was first seen at the Longacre Theatre in New York exactly 30 years ago, consists of four monologues and has none of the interaction we would normally expect of a play. It tells the story of Frank ?aka the Fantastic Francis Hardy ?a man with a gift for miracle cures that turns out to be fatally inconsistent. With his wife and manager, he tours the small towns of Scotland and Wales, putting on a show for credulous audiences. Returning to his native Ireland, he attempts one cure too many and gets his comeuppance.

Frank, an inveterate storyteller with a shaky grasp of the line between fact and fiction, speaks the first and last monologues; his wife and manager deliver the other two. Each person's perspective shifts our understanding of the narrative, rendering the words untrustworthy and building dramatic tension by unconventional means. "When it was written in the early 80s it was rejected as 'not a play'," says Patrick Mason, whose productions of Friel's work include the 1990 premiere of Dancing At Lughnasa, which played in Dublin, London and New York, where it won three Tony Awards. "Fast-forward to now and we're coming down with monologues."

At 80 years old, Friel is being celebrated by the Gate with three productions that have already played to acclaim in Australia and now call into Edinburgh en route to Ireland. As well as Faith Healer, the company is presenting two Chekhov-inspired pieces, The Yalta Game and Afterplay. The former reworks a theme from the Russian master's short story The Lady With The Lapdog, about a womaniser whose holiday romance lasts longer than planned. Meanwhile, Afterplay brings together those two lost souls, Sonya, the niece of Uncle Vanya, and Andrey, brother of the three sisters, in middle age.

Together, the three plays were described by the critic of The Age newspaper as "a peerless tribute to the work of Brian Friel". Mason, who directs The Yalta Game, believes that Friel's 50-year theatrical career puts him at the forefront of a formidable generation of Irish playwrights. The three plays brought together here give a flavour of the author whose major works include Philadelphia, Here I Come! and Translations.

"The Yalta Game is absolutely a joy to do," says Mason. "It begins with an interesting little trick when the central character, Dmitry Gurov, who's a very unreliable narrator of his own story, says to us, 'Believe me.' It's the innocence and simplicity of Friel. It makes you think, 'Do I believe this man?' And, of course, you do because that is the nature of the theatre, and no sooner have you done that than Friel turns the whole thing on its head again. It's the essence of play. He's playing with the theatre and our propensity to believe what we're told. It's the definition of drama: you can't quite see where this thing is going to go, but you can't leave it because it's taking you with it every moment."

Faith Healer, 15-18 August and 1-5 September; The Yalta Game, 29, 31 August and September 2-5; Afterplay, 31 August, 1, 3 and 5 September, all King's Theatre, Edinburgh,


Brian Friel in Conversation - Paul Delaney, Editor ook cover for 'Brian Friel in Conversation'

Reflections by the author of Dancing at Lughnasa on Irish writers, the theater, nationalism, Catholicism, and his childhood

The reluctance of contemporary Irish playwright Brian Friel to speak with the press is legendary. Fortunately, his willingness on occasion to grant interviews has fortuitously coincided with the productions of his pivotal works, including the highly celebrated Dancing at Lughnasa, recently released as a motion picture starring Meryl Streep. In this comprehensive volume, theater critic and scholar Paul Delaney gathers an amazingly broad and consistently engaging range of Friel's conversations with interviewers on both sides of the Atlantic.

Friel talks with disarming openness about his own life. He is also surprisingly candid in decrying a "dehydration of humanity" in Pinter and an "abnegation of life" in Beckett, in pondering the dangers of Irish writers who are "having to use a language that isn't our own," in revealing that his plays grow out of a willingness to "delve into a particular corner of yourself that's dark and uneasy," and in talking about the way that Dancing at Lughnasa manifests his sense of "a need for the pagan in life."

Friel has preferred to talk primarily with Irish interviewers throughout much of his career, and many of his most important interviews were printed in rather obscure publications. Brian Friel in Conversation makes available interviews that were formally virtually inaccessible, as well as more recent interviews in places such as the New York Times, Vanity Fair, and Vogue. The book concludes with an extensive bibliography and discography of Friel interviews to aid further reading and research.

Paul Delaney is Professor of English, Westmont College. He is the author of Tom Stoppard: The Moral Vision of the Major Plays and editor of Tom Stoppard in Conversation, a collection of interviews.


 Brian Friel: trapped in silence

With a new production of Friel's first play at the Donmar, Colm Tóibín re-examines the works of a writer whose characters' words often conceal as much as they reveal

In all his work, Brian Friel has been fascinated by the theatrical possibilities of the double, the trickster, the shape-changer, the figure in exile from self or community or family ?or indeed from language itself. As a playwright, he is interested in what words can conceal as he is also in what silence can show. Thus in his play Philadelphia, Here I Come!, Gar Public and Gar Private are trapped in a set of linguistic illusions that move between exuberance, cliché and pastiche, just as SB, the father of Gar, is trapped in silence, or something close to silence. Nonetheless, within the energy of Gar's public and private language there is the same hidden pain as in the inertia of his father's tone.

SB's failure to say much contains an implication that he too has a powerful private self, a secret double, filled with locked feelings. Madge, who works for him, tells Gar when he complains about his father's silence on the eve of his departure: "He said nothing either when your mother died. It must have been near daybreak when he got to sleep last night. I could hear his bed creaking."

Part of the energy within Friel's theatrical universe is his fascination with acting. His characters create roles for themselves and move between them. They have a presence within the text that is protean and hard to pin down. They learn roles. They love games and bits of speeches and snatches of songs. In the background somewhere working against them there is a force that is stable and hard, often dark and damaging. It comes in many guises. It may be disappointment; it may be a realisation that the performing self will dissolve and be replaced by very little; it may even be violent; it may be death. It may also be exile.

In Friel's play Translations, there are two languages ?Irish and English ?doubling, operating against each other and indeed within each other. Just as Sarah has no speech, Manus the teacher will perform for anyone who comes his way. In the great love scene, Maire, speaking only Irish, and Lieutenant Yolland, speaking only English, will perform for each other and slowly manage to communicate despite language rather than because of it.

In Friel's play Faith Healer, Frank Hardy will perform for the audience, as he once performed for his followers who needed healing. When he comes on to the stage a second time for his last monologue, he will appear as his own double as he recounts the story of his death. Speech makes him become anything he wants to be, including magical; but eloquence has its limits. In the background, in the two other stories told in the play by Hardy's wife and his manager, there is the tough world of facts and poverty of feeling which will, we know, become poisonous and destroy the faith healer, the great talker.

In Dancing at Lughnasa, the music will lift not only the protagonists, but the action on the stage itself. The music, however, will be merely part of the illusion that is at the very heart of Friel's theatre. And it will be broken by poverty, by memory, by silence. What happened will be seen as a moment of self-delusion as much as grand illusion. The world will go back to being itself, and two of the sisters will leave, never to return.

As the poet and novelist Seamus Deane has pointed out, Brian Friel is a deeply political playwright whose work takes its bearings from history and conflict in Ireland, and an artist who has searched, using the stage, for an alternative space where illusions can be created. "Out of volatility," Deane has written, "one can make a style." Friel's style is restless, ready to change and shift from comedy to pure sadness, it is ready to release energy for the sheer sake of it and then force that energy to undergo every possible dark pressure, including dullness, destruction, silence and, of course, exile.

The secret history of Ireland over the 150 years is exile and emigration. No matter what changed, each generation lost people they loved. Emigrants went to England or America or Australia in large numbers after independence as much after the Famine; often they went when they were young and returned seldom or not at all. Any reckoning within Ireland, any dramatisation of its emotional contours, has to include that idea.

This, however, is only partly what makes Philadelphia, Here I Come! such an important play. Friel's work always manages to avoid easy solemnity or self-importance. He speaks not for his nation but rather seeks to create something new and tricky and uncomfortable. It is from this impulse, which has its anarchic and self-mocking elements, rather than the need to explore a large national question, that Philadelphia, Here I Come! takes its freshness and its originality.

Of all Friel's performers, Gar Public is the most innocent, the most touching and the most hilarious. The society he is about to depart from, represented by his father and Master Boyle, and led by Senator Doogan and the Canon, is a place of stultifying boredom and deep monotony. It is worth noting that two of the questions SB asks his son concern barbed wire and rat traps. Just as in the court of Denmark where Hamlet is forced to double himself, to put an antic disposition on all the more to feel alienation and grief, Gar's using a public and private self seems less a theatrical device than a necessary strategy. Just as Hamlet is maimed by his father's death, the death of Gar's mother haunts Friel's play. To be a single self in this world of palpable absences is to have lost everything. Either you are double or you are nobody. Then, as the play proceeds, it emerges that the one who is double also becomes nobody.

America, here, is the land of dreams. Gar inhabits its idioms even before he goes. In America, your descendants can become President, as an audience would have been vividly aware in 1964, when the play was first produced. In Britain, on the other hand, there is no chance that anyone belonging to you can become King or Queen. In Britain, the Irish worked in factories or diggings tunnels. In America, they did this too, but the myth was that they could become a millionaire, a figure of power and glamour.

Or at least they could get a new accent. Lizzie, Gar's aunt, is both a returned Yank and a Donegal woman performing the part of a returned Yank. She appears in opposition to Madge, who operates as a sort of chorus and moral centre in the play, the only character who survives her singleness.

If America is a place of dreams, Ireland has dreams too, and they come in one of those images of startling beauty of which Friel is capable, as Gar remembers a magical day on a lake with his father 15 years before. It is so powerful an image that Gar begins to wonder if it could be true. It is part of Friel's genius to take the image apart slowly, almost naturally, as son and father almost have a conversation. Such scenes are essential parts of the drama of radical instability that Friel has made his own.








WNYC New York Public Radio
NY Charities
Jet Blue Airways

© 2013 Chelsea Opera. All Rights Reserved