In 2017, as part of the superb Writing the Rockies conference, I directed a staged reading of Act I of the new opera-in-progress Lottie Silks by librettist Enid Holden and composer Justus (Jay) Parrotta. This year, I worked extensively with Enid on revisions to the libretto for Act II, to deepen the characterizations, simplify the storytelling, and heighten the conflict. Her rewrites were excellent, and Jay was a superstar at reworking the score to align with all our changes.
The resulting workshop performance of Act II brought tears to the eyes of many in our audience–a good sign for a tragic opera! This piece is actually set in Gunnison, Colorado inspired by Enid’s house (which was once an 1800’s “dance parlor”), and the story is based on real (and heartbreaking) events.
My thanks to terrific accompanist/coach Sarah Holtan Stai (not pictured) and to our entire fantastic cast, many of whom joined us through special arrangement with the venerable Central City Opera. Pictured here Left to Right at our after-party are: me, Paige Sentianin, Margaret Siegrist, Adam Ewing, Clara Nieman, Joshua Zabatta, Composer Jay Parrotta, Librettist Enid Holden, and Jason Baldwin. The performance these singers gave, both in terms of musicality and honest theatricality, was nothing short of amazing given the two days of rehearsal we had together. They literally gave me goosebumps and made me cry. That’s not easy to do. Bravi!!
Audience response to Lottie Silks has been extremely positive. Next up: Enid and I will rework Act I and parts of Act II based on feedback, and prepare the entire piece for presentation in Washington, D.C. in 2020. I can’t wait.
The Opera Workshop at WSCU is, to my knowledge, the only program in the U.S. dedicated to originating new operas through development of libretti from within the university’s Creative Writing graduate program. We believe the focus on strong lyrical storytelling makes for more compelling opera, and gives the composer that much more inspiration.