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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Tom Cipullo, After Life, Lori Laitman, In Sleep the World is Yours, Music of Remembrance

Today, a world premiere volume of recent American works, the short opera After Life (2015) by Tom Cipullo and the song cycle In Sleep The World is Yours (2013) by Lori Laitman (Naxos 8.669036). The chamber group Music of Remembrance under Mina Miller gives us a well paced and nicely realized chamber orchestra backdrop. Mezzo-soprano Catherine Cook, baritone Robert Orth and soprano Ava Pine perform the principal roles well for the opera. Megan Chenovick does a fine job in the soprano role for the song cycle.

Cipullo's After Life imagines an afterlife meeting of the ghosts of Pablo Picasso and Gertrude Stein who struck up a warm and mutually productive friendship in pre-WWI Paris, then gradually drifted apart, culminating in a turn to the right for Stein and to the left for Picasso--and subsequent opposing stances regarding occupied WWII Paris. The opera is a ghostly dialog about those decisions, the role of art in desperate political and social circumstances, what they might reflect on looking back today and the personal vulnerabilities of each.

The music is modern neo, basically tonal, well wrought, a meditation on the horrors of the epoch and its available responses.

The 20-minute Laitman song cycle gives us the poetry of Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger, a Jew who died in a Nazi Ukranian labor camp in 1942. It is stylistically akin to the Cipullo work, a bit more lyrical, and ultimately neo-romantic with a bit of a lineal relationship to Samuel Barber, perhaps. It is moving music.

The coupling of the two works makes perfect sense thematically and stylistically. Both are well worth hearing and well performed, very good examples of some of the significant tonal modern work being made right now in the US.

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