...his music is personal, moody and skillfully wrought
— Anthony Tommasini on Stefan Weisman, The New York Times
*Please note for sold out performances of The Scarlet Ibis there is a possibility of no shows and cancellations, and a few obstructed seats will be sold at the door. The wait list will start 2 hours prior to curtain for each performance.
In North Carolina, in 1912, a boy was born so sickly that no one expected him to live. But he did. Only…he can’t walk normally. He just scoots backwards “like a doodlebug,” so Brother nicknames him Doodle. Brother has to lug Doodle everywhere in a red wagon that Daddy builds. Brother wants Doodle to walk and run like a regular kid, whatever it takes. He’s sick of having to watch over a “cripplerunt” all the time. One summer day, a scarlet ibis appears in the bleeding tree behind the family house. The boys’ fates are intertwined with this exotic tropical bird blown far off course. As war rages half a world away, Brother and Doodle fight their own battle.
Inspired by the 1960 short story by James Hurst, THE SCARLET IBIS is a family opera about brotherhood, illness, and the power of the imagination to soar above physical limitations. This world premiere by composer Stefan Weisman (Darkling) and librettist David Cote fuses singers, puppetry, and multimedia stagecraft to tell the story of a remarkable disabled boy whose older brother pushes him to be “normal.” Set in rural North Carolina a century ago, The Scarlet Ibis contrasts notions of physical wholeness versus mystical otherness. Episodic and expressionistic, the narrative draws on elements of Southern Gothic, boy’s adventure, and domestic tragedy. OBIE Award-winning director Mallory Catlett stages the premiere, and Steven Osgood conducts the American Modern Ensemble in a nine-member configuration. For audiences 12 and up. $15 tickets available to students with valid ID.
Music by Stefan Weisman
Libretto by David Cote
Inspired by the short story "The Scarlet Ibis" by James Hurst, first published in the July 1960 edition of The Atlantic Monthly
Directed by Mallory Catlett
Music Direction by Steven Osgood
Puppetry Design by Tom Lee
Set Design by Joseph Silovsky
Lighting Design by Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew
Costume Design by Andreea Mincic
Stage Manager Alyssa K. Howard
Featuring the American Modern Ensemble
Eric S. Brenner
Commissioned and developed through the HERE Artist Residency Program (HARP) and Dream Music Puppetry Program
Co-produced by Beth Morrison Projects & HERE
Produced in association with American Opera Projects
Show Run Time: 100 minutes
MALLORY CATLETT is an Obie Award-winning director of performance across disciplines. Most recently she directed This Was The End with sound artist G. Lucas Crane at the Chocolate Factory and Experiments in Opera’s Brother, Brother by Aaron Seigel at Abrons Arts Center. Other works of music/theater include: The Wanton Sublime by composer Tarik O’Regan and librettist Anna Rabinowitz at Roulette (EarHeart Music/American Opera Projects/American Modern Ensemble), Beowulf and The Fall and Rise of the Rising Fallen with Banana Bag & Bodice; Red Fly/Blue Bottle, Tinder and I went to the lighthouse and the light house wasn’t there (currently in development at Harvestworks) with Latitude 14/HERE; and OH WHAT WAR with the Juggernaut Theatre Co/HERE. These works have premiered nationally and internationally at HERE, PS. 122, Joe's Pub, NYC; EMPAC, Troy; American Repertory Theater, Boston; Exit Festival, France; Noorderzon Festival, Netherlands; Les Escales Improbables, Montreal; Kilkenny Festival, Ireland; Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Scotland; MayFest and Brighton Festival, UK; and the Adelaide Festival, Australia. mallorycatlett.net
DAVID COTE (Libretto) is a New York playwright, librettist and journalist. Plays include Otherland (commissioned by Gingold Theatrical Group), Rude News and Porlock. Opera libretti: Fade with Stefan Weisman; a triptych with Robert Paterson called Three Way, comprised of Safe Word, The Companion and Masquerade; We’ve Got Our Eye on You, a comic opera with Nkeiru Okoye commissioned by SUNY New Paltz and developed with American Opera Projects. David has written choral pieces with Paterson, including “Did You Hear?” and “Snow Day,” both recorded with Musica Sacra (cond. Kent Tritle) for release on American Modern Recordings. Other recent lyrics: IMPACT/Winter for Joshua Schmidt and 3 Introspections for James Adler, the latter recorded by Albany Records. Three Way was showcased in Fort Worth Opera’s Frontiers series. As a performer, David has appeared in work by Assurbanipal Babilla, Richard Foreman and Richard Maxwell. He directed Babilla’s acclaimed monologue Something Something Über Alles in 1998 and its 2013 revival starring Robert Honeywell. David is theater editor and chief drama critic of Time Out New York. He is a member of the New York Drama Critics Circle and a contributing critic on NY1’s On Stage. He is the author of popular companion books for the Broadway musicals Wicked, Jersey Boys and Spring Awakening. His reporting and criticism have appeared in The Guardian, Opera News and American Theatre. MacDowell Colony Fellow. Proud member of ASCAP and The Dramatists Guild. davidcote.com
JAMES HURST (1922–2013) was born on a farm in Onslow County near Onslow Beach, now the present site of the U.S. Marine Corps at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, he studied singing and acting at the renowned Juilliard School of Music in New York. After three years he abandoned his operatic ambitions and began a 34-year career in the international department of a large New York City bank. During his early years at the bank, he wrote a play and short stories. “The Scarlet Ibis,” his most successful story, first appeared in the Atlantic Monthly in July 1960 issue and won the “Atlantic First” award that year. Over the past 50 years, it has been frequently anthologized in many literature textbooks throughout the U.S.
STEVEN OSGOOD conducted the world premieres of Tan Dun’s Peony Pavilion, Xenakis’ Oresteia, Janice Hamer’s Lost Childhood, Paula Kimper’s Patience and Sarah, Missy Mazzoli’s Song from the Uproar, Daron Hagen’s Little Nemo in Slumberland, Mohammed Fairouz’s Sumeida’s Song, Kamala Sankaram’s Thumbprint, and most recently Daniel Sonenberg’s The Summer King. He was Artistic Director of American Opera Projects from 2001 until 2008, during which time he conducted workshops of many new operas, and created the Composers and the Voice workshop series. He has been a member of the music staff of the Metropolitan Opera since 2006, and has been called on to conduct workshops of operas by Nico Muhly and Scott Wheeler. Recent guest conductor engagements include Opera Memphis, Fort Worth Opera Festival, Hawaii Opera Theater, and Sarasota Opera. Upcoming productions include the world premieres of Laura Kaminski’s As One at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. His recordings of Virgil Thomson’s The Mother of Us All, as well as Lee Hoiby’s A Month in the Country, and Summer and Smoke are available on Albany Records. Missy Mazzoli’s Song from the Uproar is available on New Amsterdam Records.
STEFAN WEISMAN (Composer) is a composer living in New York City. The New York Times described his music as "personal, moody and skillfully wrought." When his song "Twinkie" was featured on the nationally syndicated program The Wendy Williams Show, the host said, "very unique. You're not going to hear opera like this anywhere else. Fabulous!" His compositions include chamber, orchestral, theater, dance and choral pieces. His opera Darkling, based on a book-length poem by Anna Rabinowitz, was commissioned by American Opera Projects. Darkling was included in the Guggenheim Museum's Works & Process series, premiered to great acclaim at the East 13th Street Theater, toured Europe in 2007, and was released by Albany Records in 2011. His opera Fade was his first collaboration with librettist David Cote. Fade was commissioned by the British opera company Second Movement, premiered in London in 2008 and also had productions in Philadelphia, San Francisco and Brooklyn. Among his other commissions are works for Bang on a Can, Sequitur, the Empire City Men's Choir, and Wild Rumpus. In 2012, Inside Jersey Magazine selected him as one of twenty-one artists from New Jersey who are "breaking big.” Presently, he is on the faculty of the Bard High School Early College in Queens, New York. He has also taught at Juilliard School’s Music Advancement Program, the City College of New York, CUNY, and the Princeton University Department of Music. His music is available on New Amsterdam Records and Albany Records. www.stefanweisman.com
The Scarlet Ibis is our second collaboration, following Fade, commissioned by the English opera company Second Movement in 2008. Stefan’s first opera, Darkling, premiered in New York in 2005, and toured Europe in 2007. Fade premiered in London, and has also had performances in Brooklyn, Philadelphia and San Francisco.
We conceived The Scarlet Ibis as a dark and intense chamber opera for adults and teens, in part to broaden the audience for new opera. Why? Opera is about 400 years old: younger than music, dance, drama, visual art and poetry (all of which it absorbs). And yet opera sometimes seems the creaky, feeble invalid of the arts. Audiences are growing older, and institutions are closing or facing disastrous labor disputes. We created The Scarlet Ibis to excite a new generation.
The story that inspired the opera is a staple of textbook anthologies, and is relatable for anyone, young or adult. Body image, gender codes and the psychic toll of bullying are part of the tale. There’s also a deep, almost spiritual connection to nature in the piece, whether it’s Brother’s fascination with the snakes and mud of the swamp or Doodle’s mystical connection to the scarlet ibis. We are drawn to this mix of “Southern Gothic” strangeness and themes of brotherhood or feeling like an outsider. In our conversations with the late James Hurst, he explained how the story was an expression of his own alienation from his family and particularly from his older brother, who couldn't empathize with the sensitive young James.
We have been very lucky to find remarkable collaborators to bring this story to the stage. Mallory Catlett is one of the boldest, most visionary directors in New York today. Tom Lee’s puppets capture the innocence and otherworldliness of Doodle. Joseph Silovsky has crafted real and digital environments to make the world real and magical. Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew on lighting and Andreea Mincic on costumes will give the world a luminous, textured wholeness. All of these artists—along with the master musicianship of conductor Steven Osgood—will make The Scarlet Ibis fly.
Stefan Weisman and David Cote