Past Shows

Dog Days

Artist’s Praise

Among the top tier of musical theater masterpieces...You can’t imagine anyone else writing an opera that sounds like this one, though you devoutly wish someone would.
— James Jorden, NY Observer

With its boldly eclectic score and powerful libretto, “Dog Days” tells an apocalyptic story unstintingly.
— Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times

One of the best new operas of the past 20 years.
— Heidi Waleson, The Wall Street Journal

A modern classic.
— Russell Platt, The New Yorker

Acclaimed, intense, and apocalyptic… Anchored by intense performances from Lauren Worsham and the performance artist John Kelly, the plot is pushed to disturbing extremes by Mr. Little’s propulsive, eclectic, sometimes earsplitting score.”
— Zachary Woolfe, The New York Times

With a blunt, merciless libretto by Royce Vavrek and wheeling, nimble music by David T. Little, Dog by turns intolerable and superb.
— Justin Davidson, New York Magazine/Vulture

Impressive… There’s no better headliner for a festival that reveals a look into the future of opera now. A rare experience.
— George Grella, New York Classical Review

Amid a spate of ineffectual American operas on inoffensive themes, David T. Little’s “Dog Days" stunning in its ferocity…something like the “Walking Dead” of modern opera.”
— Alex Ross, The New Yorker

Invincible…each aria is truly a journey.
— David Patrick Stearns, WQXR Operavore

Mr. Little has great command of many musical genres that collide and collapse into each other, keeping us surprised throughout and always listening at a deep level…Musically and emotionally, Dog Days barrels to a visceral and shattering end leaving audience members stunned.
— Navida Stein, StageBuddy

Far afield from looking or sounding like anything else, including Little’s own previous creations…What impressed me most at Saturday’s New York premiere of Dog Days – a piece Little and his librettist, Royce Vavrek, have dubbed “opera theater” – was the diverse range of emotional effects the creative team has wrung from ingredients largely similar to those that went into Soldier Songs.
— Seth Colter Walls, The Guardian

While so much great opera is about overt virtuosity and self­conscious artifice, this score and even these individual performances seem designed not to reveal the care that has gone into creating them, but to disappear, subsumed by a unified, grippingly suspenseful new music-­drama.
— Daniel Stephen Johnson, Musical America

Captivating and powerful. A wonderful score and well-written libretto have established this work as one of the most important operas that the 21st century has produced thus far…
— Sam Reising, I Care If You Listen

[Dog Days] packed a huge punch, not just for the post-apocalyptic story but for the creative blend of compositional techniques — including some might scary white noise effects…‘Dog Days’ felt like a genuine event.
— David Shengold, Gay City News

Such moments [as Lisa’s aria] count as tender reflections in a finely calibrated score that elsewhere seethes with tension, especially in the final scene, shaped as a long-range crescendo that grows out of an incessant electronic hum.
— George Loomis, Financial Times

An electrifying chamber opera…Dog Days is extreme. It is like being Tasered with a 1000 volts of electrical energy, straight to the brain. It won’t kill you. It will jolt you alive…I am at a loss to make comparisons, because it is unlike anything I have heard or seen before in a theater. David T. Little has written some extraordinary, almost revolutionary music.
— Steven Pisano, Feast of Music

…The fierce intensity conveyed raw emotion on a level rarely encountered at the opera. After two hours of the unfolding tragedy, the finale was a white-knuckle, hold-your-breath experience.
— Susan Brodie, Classical Voice North America

A transcendent moment was Lisa’s second aria, “Mirror, Mirror,” where the barely-teenaged girl trembles in delight that her emaciated body finally matches what she understands to be society’s perception of beauty.
— Dani Lencioni, CultureBot

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About the Show

New York City Premiere

Dog Days is a work of contemporary opera-theatre that investigates the psychology of a working class American family pitted against a not-so-distant-future wartime scenario. Exploring the ultimate struggle of humanity—stuck between nature’s indifference and society’s barely restrained brutality—Dog Days asks: is it madness, delusion, or sheer animal instinct that guides us through severely trying times? Where is the line between animal and human? At what point must we give into our animal instincts merely to survive?

Composer: David T. Little
Librettist: Royce Vavrek
Based on the short story Dog Days by: Judy Budnitz
Director: Robert Woodruff
Music Direction: Alan Pierson
Scenic and Video Design: Jim Findlay
Lighting Design: Christopher Kuhl
Associate Lighting Design: Masha Tsimring
Costume Design: Victoria "Vita" Tzykun
Sound Engineering: Garth MacAleavey
Video Engineering: Eamonn Farrell
Prine's Wig Design: Anne Ford-Coates
Production Manager: Sarah Peterson
Stage Manager: Lindsey Turteltaub
Assistant Stage Manager: Alyssa Howard
Assistant Director: Ashley Kelly Tata

Howard (Father) – James Bobick
Mother – Marnie Breckenridge
Captain – Cherry Duke
Prince – John Kelly
Elliott – Michael Marcotte
Pat – Peter Tantsits
Lisa – Lauren Worsham

Featuring the chamber ensemble NEWSPEAK, with special guests

$20 student tickets available with code STUDENTDOG. Must bring ID.

Dog Days was originally produced by Peak Performances @ Montclair State (NJ) in association with Beth Morrison Projects.
Dog Days was commissioned by Peak Performances @ Montclair State (NJ).
Selections from Dog Days were commissioned and presented by Carnegie Hall for the Weill Music Institute.
Scenes from Dog Days were presented as part of New York City Opera’s VOX Contemporary American Opera Lab.
The 2015-2016 tour of Dog Days is produced by Beth Morrison Projects.
Dog Days is presented by arrangement with Hendon Music, Inc., a Boosey & Hawkes company, publisher and copyright owner.
Equipment generously provided by 3LD Art & Technology Center.
Co-presented with NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts - New York University.

Photo by James Matthew Daniel

Show run time: 2 hours 30 minutes

Post-Performance Conversation will follow the January 10 show. 


Artist Bio

David T. Little is “one of the most imaginative young composers” on the scene (The New Yorker) with “a knack for overturning musical conventions” (The New York Times). His operas Soldier Songs (PROTOTYPE Festival) and Dog Days (Peak Performances/Beth Morrison Projects) have been widely acclaimed, “prov(ing) beyond any doubt that opera has both a relevant present and a bright future” (NYTimes). Recent/upcoming works include the grand opera JFK with Royce Vavrek (Fort Worth Opera/ALT), a new opera commissioned by the MET Opera/Lincoln Center Theater new works program, the music-theatre work Artaud in the Black Lodge with Outrider legend Anne Waldman (Beth Morrison Projects), AGENCY (Kronos Quartet), CHARM (Baltimore Symphony/Marin Alsop), Haunt of Last Nightfall (Third Coast Percussion), Hellhound (Maya Beiser), and new works for the London Sinfonietta, The Crossing/ICE, and eighth blackbird/The Kennedy Center. His music has been heard at Carnegie Hall, LA Opera, the Park Avenue Armory, the Bang On A Can Marathon, BAM, Holland Festival, and elsewhere, and 2015-16 will bring performances at the LA Philharmonic, The Kennedy Center, Atlanta Opera, New York Festival of Song, PROTOTYPE Festival, MCA Chicago, Theater-Bielefeld, Theater-Schwerin, and more. Educated at Princeton and the University of Michigan, Little is co-founder of the annual New Music Bake Sale, serves on the Composition Faculty at Mannes-The New School and Shenandoah Conservatory, and is Composer-in-Residence with Opera Philadelphia, Gotham Chamber Opera and Music-Theatre Group. The founding artistic director of the ensemble Newspeak, his music can be heard on New Amsterdam and Innova labels. He is published by Boosey & Hawkes.  

Royce Vavrek is an Alberta-born, Brooklyn- based librettist and lyricist known as “an exemplary creator of operatic prose”(The New York Times) and “a favorite collaborator of the postclassical set”(Time Out New York). His writing has been called “sharp, crisp, witty” (See Magazine), “meticulous” (Operavore, WQXR Radio), “full-throated” (CulturePOP), “taut” (The New Yorker), “dramatically wild” and “exhilarating” (The New York Times). His collaboration with composer David T. Little has led Heidi Waleson of the Wall Street Journal to proclaim them “one of the most exciting composer-librettist teams working in opera today.” They are currently working on their first grand opera JFK commissioned by Fort Worth Opera and American Lyric Theater, about John F. Kennedy’s final night. Recent and upcoming projects include a new opera with Missy Mazzoli based on Lars von Trier’s Cannes Grand Prix award-winning film Breaking the Waves for Opera Philadelphia and Beth Morrison Projects; Strip Mall with Matt Marks for the Los Angeles Philharmonic; Stoned Prince with Hannah Lash for loadbang; Midwestern Gothic with Josh Schmidt for Signature Theatre, Virginia; O Columbia with Gregory Spears for HGOco; and development of The Wild Beast of the Bungalow with Rachel Peters through the Center for Contemporary Opera. Mr. Vavrek is co-artistic director of The Coterie, an opera-theater company founded with Lauren Worsham. He holds a BFA in Filmmaking and Creative Writing from Concordia University’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema in Montreal and an MFA from the Graduate Musical Theater Writing Program at New York University. He is an alum of American Lyric Theater’s Composer Librettist Development Program. 

Artist Statement

I believe that it is an artist’s duty to ask questions; in particular, questions that can be hard to hear, and difficult or impossible to answer. Dog Days pursues exactly this goal, exploring the nature of choice and consequence, the unspoken truth of what we become upon the dissolution of civilization, and what it truly means to be human.
Based on the short story of the same name by Judy Budnitz, Dog Days is told predominantly from the perspective of Lisa, a 13-year-old girl whose world slowly falls apart. We watch as her family slowly starves: as her mother gives up on life, her father struggles to fulfill the myth of the provider, and her brothers attempt to escape their boredom through an increasing assortment of antisocial activities.

When we meet Prince—a man in a homemade dog costume, begging for food, and truly seeming to believe he is a dog—his presence introduces unsettling questions about the nature of humanity.

It has been said that a society can be judged by the way it treats its animals. It also stands to reason that you can tell a lot about a person by how long they can remain truly human during the most traumatic of times. Dog Days explores the ultimate struggle of humanity–stuck between the dispassionate gaze of nature and the often violent artifices of society.

- David T. Little, composer