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Opera in One Act
Music & Dramatization by Elodie Lauten
Text by Michael Andre
Composed: 2003

Concert Version, Merkin Hall, The Queen's Chamber Band,
conducted by Rudolph Palmer, 2004
CD release, 2004

Orfeo/Orfreo/the artist Ray Johnson/Dante: Countertenor
Crow/Persephone/Eurydice/Beatric: Soprano
Lethe: Mezzo-soprano
Lion/CaT: Bass-baritone
Harpsichordist Spoken text

Harpsichord, string quartet, contrabass, flute, oboe

There are over 200 operas based on the myth of Orpheus. How is Orfreo different? And why use the subject? Orfreo is Orf-Ray-o, Orfeo reenacted by Ray, Ray Johnson, the conceptual artist who disappeared in 1995. All we know is that he carefully planned the date and time at which he would jump into the Peconic River, but the exact motives of his suicide remain a mystery. Paradoxically, Ray's art is funny. In the Soho art scene of the sixties and seventies, he was an important player who deserves to be remembered. Orfreo relates Ray's experience to the classic myth of Orpheus and Dante's Divine Comedy. The river is the Lethe, the water that makes you forget, borderline between the dead and the living. The action takes place by the river at the moment he is about to cross over to the other side, to join his beloved. Orfreo interacts with characters from hell: Lethe the River, a Crow who is actually Persephone in disguise, and a Lion. The mood of the piece is complex as there are two sets of subtext: the lyrical subtext of Orfeo, metaphor of the artist's despair and longing for his love, and the subtext of Ray's iconoclastic attitude. This ambiguity of mood, neither light nor dark, but bitter and sweet, is expressed with contrasting dynamics from very soft parts with just the harpsichord and the cello to excited tuttis with fast moving chords. In the exuberant finale, Orfreo is helped across the river by his newly found friends and returns from hell with two women - only one thing is certain, neither of them is Beatrice.

"Michael Andre has set Orfreo / Ray in the company of mythic personages, and a crow. To this listener, Ms. Lauten's score was ravishing. The Queen's Chamber Band inspired. The assembled voices, in various roles stunning."
Fletcher Copp


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