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Opera by Elodie Lauten from the poetry of Allen Ginsberg

During the summer of 1996, Allen Ginsberg gave to Elodie Lauten a selection of his poems on the theme of New York for a musical setting. Lauten met Allen Ginsberg when she first came to New York. As a member of the band Flaming Youth, she became a guest in his apartment on East 10th St, and accompanied him in his public readings. Ginsberg encouraged her to compose: one day he brought home a Farfisa organ for her to play - her first experience with an electronic musical instrument. He introduced her to Buddhism, and taught her how to chant mantras and meditate. Albeit unconventional, some form of mentoring took place, and she has always felt deeply connected to Ginsberg's life, poetry and philosophy. Waking in New York represents a cultural legacy as Ginsberg passed on in 1997 a few months after he gave Lauten the poems to set. The Allen Ginsberg Trust considers the project an important tribute to Ginsberg, helped obtain the necessary permissions and facilitated contact with Harper Collins, Allen Ginsberg’s publisher.

Waking in New York has been in progress for a number of years and is currently being expanded towards its fully staged premiere. It was seen in concert version and  semi-staged readings, including the New York City Opera's Vox series. The CD recorded at Sony Studios and released on 4Tay was well received: "a moving memorial"(New Music Box), "Compelling work" (American Record Guide), "One of the most influential works of the last 3 decades." (Sequenza21).

Allen Ginsberg

In Waking in New York, Ginsberg is just living his life moment to moment. From his apartment in the East Village, his writing is transparent: he tells us about his feelings, observations, perceptions, causes, how he sees the city and the diversity of its people. He is in a constant dialogue with his muses, Freedom and Compassion - characters created by Lauten to represent the ‘feminine’ side of Ginsberg. Suddenly, he may stop to look at the beauty of a tree, the odd shape of a roof top, even the fumes of an exhaust pipe… He tells stories about the odd mix of characters in the neighborhood. He expresses his love of life, humanity and compassion in a down-to-earth, occasionally satirical vision of the world, alternating with moments of deep emotion and poetic lyricism.

Click to view vocal score

Waking in New York uniquely sets the Ginsberg poetry as melody, which brings out the lyrical qualities of the text – as opposed to other settings where his text was set simply as narrative over music.  In Waking in New York every word is sung, even the most unlikely.  The current orchestration (one to the part) is scored for piano, violin I and II, viola, cello, contrabass, flute, oboe, trumpet, trombone, percussion (2).

Baritone Mark Duer (17 seasons with Grammy nominated group Pomerium), in the lead role of Allen Ginsberg
Soprano Meredith Borden  (lead roles on Broadway),  in the role of Compassion
Catherine Rothrock om tje role of Freedom 1
Mary Hurlbut in the role of Freedom 2























Mark Duer
Mark Duer

Meredith Borden

Catherine Rothrock

Mary Hurlbut