The Death of Don Juan

donjuanpostcard

Opera Premiere: THE DEATH OF DON JUAN

a shattering role reversal for Don Juan
and the modern woman

Music, Libretto and Digital Imagery by
ELODIE LAUTEN
Directed by ROBERT LAWSON

Premiere May 5 at 8pm, May 6, 7 at 8pm
Sunday May 8: Presentation by Elodie Lauten at 2pm,
performance at 3pm
May 12, 13, 14 at 8pm, May 15 at 3pm
May 19, 20, 21 at 8pm, May 22 at 3pm
Information: 212-388-0202
elauten@yahoo.com
Tickets: $15 / $10 Seniors / Students 212-254-1109

www.elodielauten.net
www.theaterforthenewcity.net

Performed by:
ARIANNA ARMON, ALISHA DESAI,
MARY HURLBUT, COURTENAY SYMONDS
as Death Multiples
DOUGLAS MCDONNELL, as Don Juan
JONATHAN HIRSCHMAN, Guitar
ELODIE LAUTEN, Synthesizer & Electronic Orchestra


Made possible in part by a gift from the Argosy Foundation Contemporary Music Fund, and public funds from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, State Senator Daniel Squadron, the Fund for Creative Communities, supported by New York State Council on the Arts and administered by Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, the Manhattan Community Arts Fund, supported by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and administered by Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Materials for the Arts, and the support of Theater for the New City as a presenter. Sponsored by Lower East Side Performing Arts, Inc.

 

RELEASE

The Death of Don Juan’s premiere at Theater for the New City (TNC) in May 2011 is proof that opera is accessible to women as composers, and acknowledges the emancipation of women in general as it stages a Don Juan in the modern world, facing Death as a Woman in a shattering power reversal, as the social, emotional and spiritual aspects of the Don Juan myth and the nature of seduction are explored from a gender-free perspective. There was 25-year interval between the opera’s inception and its New York premiere. The Death of Don Juan was Lauten’s NYU Master’s thesis, realized through the revolutionary technology of one of the very first music computers, the Fairlight. The project received an NEA opera award, had a workshop in Boston, and the original LP was on WNYC’s Top Ten. Then Lauten moved on to other projects, and the piece fell into oblivion until, in 2005, director Robert Lawson who had come across the original LP at a friend’s house, staged a production of it with 30 students at Franklin Pierce University where he is on faculty. Later, the piece appeared on the internet on a Minimalist Top Ten list, and was recently rediscovered as “a long-overlooked masterpiece of new music” (Other Music) after its CD reissue on Unseen Worlds in 2008.

Lauten’s The Two-Cents Opera ran at TNC for 3 weeks in 2009, so The Death of Don Juan is her second production at TNC. It will be staged by Robert Lawson, with digital imagery by Lauten. It will feature baritone Douglas McDonnell as Don Juan, sopranos Courtenay Symonds, Arianna Armon, Mary Hurlbut and Alisha Desai as Death multiples, with an expanded score (2010) programmed for a state-of-the-art electronic orchestra.

Elodie Lauten is a composer, performer and media artist. As a leading exponent of post-minimalism, she was listed among the most influential composers of the last three decades (Sequenza 21). Her piano, electronic, orchestral compositions and five operas have had 30 releases on different major and independent labels in the US and Europe. Her music had venues at Lincoln Center Festival, the New York City Opera, The Whitney Museum, throughout America with performances and university residencies, and in Canada and Europe, notably at the Paris Museum of Modern Art. About her multimedia work shown as part of the Women Forward movement, James Baldwin Cohen said: “Her highly sophisticated use of today’s advanced technology has opened a new dimension in the art world.” She received a Bachelor’s in Economics from the Institut d’Etudes Politiques in Paris and a Master’s in Composition from New York University and has been on faculty at NYU and CUNY.

 

Synopsis

The Death of Don Juan addresses the myth rather than the actual story of Don Juan: heis an archetype, a symbol of the human desire for transcendence. The opera takesplace within Don Juan’s consciousness. The other characters are visions and projections of his own mind. In the modern world, he is faced with the newly acquired independence and power of women, and this shattering role reversal transforms him.How he comes to terms with this explosive revelation is the basis of the action.At the beginning of Act I, Don Juan reflects on the events of his life and begins toquestion himself. He has a strange vision: Death appears to him in the form of several women. These female spirits speak to him in different languages, and overwhelm him. But Don Juan falls in love with the vision, and an ambiguous seduction develops between him and Death: Don Juan is seduced by Death… or is Death seduced by DonJuan? For a moment, Death is on hold, and Don Juan is enlightened: he realizes that inhis lifelong search for pleasure, he has not experienced real love – until now. In Act II he duets tenderly with Death as a Shadow, but he misbehaves and the duetbecomes a duel. He is left in despair, as he struggles with thoughts of unfulfilled love and self-destruction. Death voices are repeating random words, mentally deconstructing him until he becomes temporarilty insane and he loses is ego-self. The madness subsides and Don Juan makes his final exit. The mantra concluding the opera expresses compassion and forgiveness.

CAST
Don Juan: Baritone
Death as a Woman: Coloratura Soprano
Death as a Lover: Soprano
Death as a Spirit: Mezzo-Soprano
Death as a Shadow: Alto

 

The Death of Don Juan: Composer's Notes

The Death of Don Juan was composed over a long period of time. It brings together operatic drama and new technology. The singing style combines operatic and natural voice techniques. It began as a series of 7x7 grids (inspired by correspondence tables between pitch, color, body parts, planets, metals, etc.) in which each of the 49 squares contains a pattern of pitch and rhythm. These “macros” were programmed on the Fairlight music computer. At first, the music was represented only as a computer program and a series of visual scores, and in a recording where vocal and instrumental improvisations were overdubbed to the programmed material. There was no ‘score’, so to speak. In preparation for the New York premiere at Theater for the New City, in 2010-11, I wrote the first score in traditional notation, creating new material based on the original concepts, and developed the libretto to extend the role of Don Juan. It is arranged for harpsichord, organ, dulcimer, flute, oboe, violin I&II, viola, cello, contrabass and electric bass. The most striking element in this orchestra is the unusual combination of electronically enhanced dulcimer and harpsichord. Once the piece was programmed in the Finale notation software, I exported the data as midi files into Reason, a digital audio workstation software. At that point, a complex programming took place in order to create the electronic orchestra, and to mix and produce the audio to accompany the singers. I created the digital imagery for projection in the theater, using a combination of fractal, photography, and video animation software to make new images and collage found images referring to inherited cultural elements addressed in the piece.

Elodie Lauten
2011

Additional Notes

The Death of Don Juan CD Reissue - Unseen Worlds

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