KINGSTON, R.I. — February 16, 2007 — Tamar, a brand new three-act opera, will premier in a concert production at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston, RI, on Sunday, March 4. A powerful match of contemporary poetry and music, the opera is in English and examines age-old yet thoroughly modern issues including the consequences of rape.
Written by Pulitzer Prize-nominated poet Maurya Simon of California with a score by composer and RI resident Eliane Aberdam, the opera premiere begins at 7:30pm. Simon will fly in for the debut and will engage in a discussion with the audience after the performance. A reception for performers and audience will follow.
Tamar is the biblical story of King David’s daughter, who was raped by her eldest half-brother Amnon and avenged by her brother, Absalom, when their father turned a blind eye. Their tragic tale of consequent murder, war, and grief involves some sensational themes such as adultery, incest, fratricide, and vengeance, but out of these the poetry and music in Tamar weave larger themes and raise questions about the human condition, love, and perhaps most contemporary of all, the responsibilities of leadership at many levels –parental, national, and global.
Nathan Zullinger will conduct a concert cast consisting of: soprano Norma Caiazza (Tamar), baritone Rene de la Garza (King David), tenor Mark Conley (Absalom), and bass-baritone Michael Wrobleski (Amnon), with soprano Barbara Youmans (Bathsheba), Brooke Bovard (Abishag), Gregory Bonin (Jonadab and Joab), Audrey Cardany (Shepherd Boy (young David)), and the URI concert chamber choir “Lively Experiment.”
Instrumentalists who will accompany the performance include URI faculty members Susan Thomas, flute; Elizabeth Gates, horn; Ronald Stabile, percussion; Eric Mazonson, piano, and John Dempsey, violin, with guest artists Christine Harrington, cello, and Richard Marchetti, clarinet.
Award-winning writer Maurya Simon is the author of seven volumes of poetry, including Ghost Orchid, nominated for a 2004 National Book Award in Poetry, and Speaking in Tongues (Gibbs Smith, 1990), which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Her book of ekphrastic poems, WEAVERS, was published in 2006, and another volume, The Mapmaker’s Art, will be issued this spring by Red Hen Press. Simon is the recipient of an NEA Fellowship in poetry, an Artist’s Residency at the American Academy in Rome, and an Indo-American Fulbright Fellowship, among others, and won a University Award from the Academy of American Poets as well as the Celia B. Wagner and Lucille Medwick Memorial Awards from the Poetry Society of America. She teaches creative writing at the University of California, Riverside, and lives in the Angeles National Forest in Southern California.
Eliane Aberdam, a prolific and diverse composer whose works have been premiered in Hungary, France, Israel and throughout the U.S., accepted the challenge of setting Simon’s libretto to music. A native of France, she received her early musical education at the Conservatoire National de Region in Grenoble, and holds B.A. and M.A. degrees in Music and a PhD. in Music Composition. Formerly on the faculty of the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Northern Iowa, the Rubin Academy in Jerusalem (Israel) and the Beth-Rivkah College in Paris, she studied electronic music at IRCAM (Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique-musique, Paris) and has received commissions for chamber ensemble, symphony, orchestra and theater productions in the U.S and Europe. A strong advocate of musical and cultural diversity, she is the recipient of both international composition and musician-in-residence awards. She resides in Westerly, RI, and coordinates composition and theory for the URI Department of Music as well as teaching modern era music history, electronic music, form and analysis, choral arranging, instrumentation and orchestration, and eighteenth century counterpoint.
The concert, part of URI’s University Artist Series, will be held in the Fine Arts Center Concert Hall off Upper College Road on URI’s Kingston campus. Admission is $8 for the general public, $2 for students, with seating on a first-come basis. The box office opens 45 minutes before the concert.