DORA

music: Melissa Shiflett
libretto: Nancy Fales Garrett
conductor: Douglas Anderson
set design: John Scheffler
lighting design: Matthew Staniec
costume design: Kate Herman
video/slide projections: Lisa Bloch
choreographer: Marcos Dinnerstein
cast: Nita Baxani, Jeffrey Picón, Kathryn Wright, Peter Lurié, Peter Clark, Johana Arnold, Karla Simmons, Kayla Ny & Nate Morgan

performance schedule:
April 4th - April 14th
Thursday - Sunday 7:30pm
The Annex
$25.00


"Dora," a new two-hour, two-act opera for nine singers and chamber orchestra by Melissa Shiflett (music) and Nancy Fales Garrett (libretto), is an imaginative recreation of one of Freud's best-known cases. It is based on "A Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria" (1905), Freud's account of his failed analysis of a young girl, Dora Bauer, and even uses some of Freud's own words. La MaMa E.T.C. will present the world premiere of the work April 4 to 14 in its Annex Theater, directed by librettist Nancy Fales Garrett and conducted by Douglas Anderson, Artistic Director of American Chamber Opera Company.

In the fall of 1900, Dora's father, hoping the celebrated doctor could cure her hysterical symptoms, brought her to Freud's Vienna consulting room. Freud listened to Dora and her dreams and believed her when she complained that her father was offering her as a sexual reward to his mistress' husband, Herr K. But he was by no means sure; the case came at a turning point in Freud's career, when he was abandoning his belief that childhood sexual abuse was the leading cause of hysteria in his patients. A "great secret" was gradually dawning on him: that their childhood seductions, upon which his theory of hysteria had been based, were actually imaginings.

According to Freud, Dora was in love with her father, with her father's mistress, with the mistress' husband, and, quite possibly, with the analyst himself, so it was Dora's own refusal or inability to acknowledge sexual desire which was making her ill. After a short period of treatment, Dora broke off the analysis, leaving Freud disappointed, angry, and not at all assured of her future mental integrity. Modern interpreters have seen Dora as struggling with anti-Semitism and sexual imperialism, neither of which she could recognize, and her story has been continually troubling and fascinating to today's minds. The historical story is intact in the opera, but the events subsequent to Dora's analysis are telescoped in time and altered slightly, including the climactic scene in which the young girl confronts the K's while they are mourning the drowning of their son. The opera is both modern and lyrical, combining Shiflett's distinctly American sound with turn-of-the-century Viennese elements (waltzes, Schrammelquartets, gypsy tunes). Reviewing the 1991 concert version, the Brooklyn Journal (William Everdell) cited it as an exciting combination of music and book with an exceedingly powerful story (drawn partly from Freud's proud letter to Fleiss). The review noted how the grand and ongoing revision of Freud's reputation--and psychoanalysis in general--has turned the title character of this opera into a modern hero. Yet Freud was "saved from being taken as a villain" by a sensitive performance and by having his own psychobiography brought on stage. The presence of Freud's daughter, Anna, served to "ironize and deepen" his analysis of Dora. The action of the play is not, primarily, the analysis, but the dramatically-drawn relationship between Dora and her "seducers." The simple line, "Father, I am your daughter," is sung in three different places by three different characters, with Shiflett's music taking advantage of each repeat with complex and powerful results. The part of Freud is written for a tenor, since Herr Doktor's relationships with Dora and with his own daughter, according to his own theory, were basically romantic--and the tenor is the romantic voice. The product of twelve years' development, "Dora" was selected by The New York City Opera for its first annual Showcasing American Composers in 1999. Previous to that, a concert version was sung at the West Kortright Center in East Meredith, NY in 1990 and at a benefit sponsored by St. Ann's School at the First Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn Heights in 1991. In 1993, selections were sung in a workshop at Theater 22 in 1993 as part of Golden Fleece, LTD's Square One series. When the orchestration was completed in 1997, the American Chamber Opera Company staged a workshop production at the Liederkranz Club in NYC. The initial research in Vienna was funded by a NY State Foundation for the Arts fellowship received by the playwright in 1989. This production was partially funded by a benefit sponsored by the Foundation of the New York Freudian Society and by a grant from the Aaron Copeland Fund for New Music.Composer Melissa Shiflett has had operas produced by the Pennsylvania Opera Theatre, the Minnesota Opera and the American Chamber Opera Company in New York City. Her art songs, "Songs on Beauty, Death and Nature and Water Dreams," will be premiered at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall by soprano Shauna Holiman, April 18th, 2002. These songs are recorded for release this spring on Albany Records. Librettist/director Nancy Fales Garrett is author of the plays "Playing in Local Bands" (National Playwrights Conference, Eugene ONeill Theater Center, 1982; Yale Rep and Magic Theatre, 1983) and "Some Sweet Day" (Long Wharf Theater, Main Stage, 1989), but nothing in her dramatic work before "Dora" remotely foreshadowed this work, which has a distinctive character of its own, being a simultaneous collaboration with composer Melissa Shiflett. Her three earliest plays were presented by La MaMa, "How They Made It" (1969), "Predicates: A Dance" (1970) and "ARK" (1974), a musical theater piece with jazz compositions by Sonelius Smith. (She directed the second one.) She teaches playwriting at St. Ann's School, Brooklyn and annually stages Shakespeare comedies with teens for Shakespeare in the Valley in East Meredith, NY.Conductor Douglas Anderson founded American Chamber Opera Company in 1984 and is its artistic and administrative head. The company has presented over sixty productions, primarily modern chamber operas, and has achieved an international reputation for theatrical boldness and originality. Its productions have been featured on local, national and international radio, including NPR, Pacifica and Voice of America. With the Downtown Symphony, Anderson conducts four to five concerts a season, including two orchestral concerts, an annual Messiah Sing-along (now in its 13th year), a children's concert and an opera in concert outdoors. He has composed chamber works, orchestral works, concerti, vocal music (including synthesized voice), electronic music, radio drama, jazz, film scores, and musical theater. Set design is by John Scheffler; lighting design is by Matthew Staniec; costume design is by Kate Herman; video/slide projections are by Lisa Bloch. Choreographer is Marcos Dinnerstein. THE CASTNita Baxani (Dora), soprano, was born in Hong Kong, raised in Virginia and educated in New York City. She was the featured soprano soloist with Moving Forward: Asian Contemporary Dance Program at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Her roles have included Pamina in "The Magic Flute," Antonia in "The Tales of Hoffman," Amore in "Orfeo ed Eurydice," Serafina in "Il Campanello", Roberto in "La Griselda" and at La MaMa, Teenage Mao in "Mao Zedong - Jealous Son." Jeffrey Picón (Freud), tenor, most recently created the role of Mike in :A View from the Bridge" for the Lyric Opera of Chicago. He debuted with Anchorage Opera as Jupiter in Handel's "Semele" and Count Almaviva in "Il Barbiere di Siviglia" with Portland Opera Repertory Theater. Other significant roles include Joe in "Ballymore" for Skylight Opera Theatre, Vicente in David Bishop's "Esperanza" in Madison, WI, and the American premiere of Alexander Goehr's "Arianna" at the Opera Theatre of St. Louis, where he has also sung Pedrillo in the "Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail." Kathryn Wright (Frau K), soprano, has appeared in recitals, operas and concerts with over sixty orchestras, premiering works with the Kennedy Center, National Chamber Orchestra and Chanctonbury Chorus, England, and singing lead roles with the Metropolitan Opera Guild and Minnesota, Chautauqua, and Central City Operas. She may be heard on Capstone Records. Peter Lurié (Herr K), tenor, grew up in Johannesberg, South Africa and is also an architect. He has appeared across the US and in Germany, Belgium, Great Britain, and the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, SC. He will make his debut at the Royal Belgian Opera, Brussels and the Rouen Opera in 2003. He sang Herr K in the first Dora concert recital in 1990.Peter Clark (Herr Bauer), baritone, has sung recently at the Teatro dell'opera di Roma in Krenek's "What Price Confidence?", at Caramoor Opera in Verdi's "Otello" and "Mozart's Die Zauberflute," and with the American Opera Company in Puccini's "La Boheme." He appeared in Theodora Skipitares' "A Harlot's Progress." A frequent recital partner of composer/pianist Christopher Berg, he created the role of Iachimo in the NYC concert premiere of Berg's opera based on Shakespeare's "Cymbeline." Johana Arnold (Frau Bauer), mezzo soprano, originated the role of Dora in the premier concert recital of the opera over ten years ago. She sings frequently with the Folger Consort in Washington, DC both in concert works and in Baroque operas, including "Dido and Aeneas," in which she sang the role of Dido. Ms Arnold has worked with Steve Reich, Phil Glass, Meredith Monk and Mark Morris. She resides in upstate New York and teaches at Hartwick College.Karla Simmons (Anna Freud), soprano, is a graduate of the Julliard School who received her early training from the New York City Opera Company and attended the High School of the Performing Arts. She has given solo concerts in the New York area since the age of twelve and has won the Leontyne Price, Lena Horne and Whitney Houston awards.Kayla Ny (Zinnie K), soprano, is 13 and attends Manhattan School of Music Preparatory Division where she studies music theory and voice. She has sung with numerous choirs since she was eight and has performed on 4 CD's. Nate Morgan (Heinrich K), boy soprano, played Young Scrooge in "The Christmas Carol" at Orpheus Theatre in Oneonta, New York and Sr Angelica's Son in Puccini's "Sister Angelica" at SUNY College Music Dept Oneonta. www.dora-the-opera.com




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