The composer’s 75th un-Unbirthday was actually last March 16th, but it was celebrated in style on March 25 and 26, according to Operation Brooklyn, with a performance of “Haddocks’ Eyes” at the Galapagos Art Space in Brooklyn, starring Amy van Roekel and with Del Tredici playing piano. The show was presented by Opera on Tap (“born as a barroom presenter of arias” according to the Times,) and American Opera Projects.
David Del Tredici
Is the White Knight, who sings Alice his famous nonsense song in “Through the Looking-Glass,” really a caricature of Lewis Carroll himself? Like the knight, Carroll had shaggy hair, mild blue eyes, a kind and gentle face. Like the knight, his mind seemed to function best when it saw things in topsy-turvy fashion. . . Of all the characters Alice meets on her two dream adventures, only the White Knight seems to be genuinely fond of her and to offer her special assistance… His melancholy farewell may be Carroll’s farewell to Alice when she grew up (became a queen) and abandoned him. With this idea in hand, David Del Tredici’s uses his post-Romantic musical style to bring a touchingly personal dimension to the Alice universe. “Haddocks’ Eyes” was commissioned by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and premiered at Alice Tully Hall in 1986.
Then there were other “Alician” pieces on offer, described by the New York Times:
The programs veer off into very different territory with “Through the Peeping Glass,” described as a “burlesque/cirque” performance by the burlesque artist Rita MenWeep. Sunday’s show includes excerpts from the opera “Dreaming of Wonderland” by Manly Romero and on Monday with portions of Susan Botti’s opera “Wonderglass.”
That’s apparently not the first time Rita MenWeep has done Carrollian Burlesque at the Galapagos Art Space. We found this youtube featuring MenWeep from the gallarey’s Alice in Wonderland-themed 2010 Spring Ball, called “Dances of Vice.”
If you’re in Pittsburgh this weekend, the symphony will perform Final Alice (1972) by David Del Tredici, the Pulizer-winning American composer who spent much of his earlier career being inspired by Carroll’s writings. Final Alice is “an opera in concert form for soprano, folk ensemble, and orchestra.” Leonard Slatkin conducts and Hila Pitmann sings the Soprano Alice part at the Heinz Hall, tonight and Sunday. There’s a nice profile on Del Tredici and the piece in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette today: ‘Wonderland’ led composer through looking glass preview by Andrew Druckenbrod.
Soprano Hila Plitmann as Alice in "Final Alice"
As Mr. Del Tredici started to traverse the fantastical world of Carroll (the Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, 1832-98), he slowly began to shift from 12-tone music to the lush tonal style that occasionally recalled the Romantic sound of the 19th century.
“I did it very gradually,” he said. “My first ‘Alice’ work — ‘Jabberwocky’ (from ‘Pop-Pourri’ of 1968) — was atonal. It was a monster and it could be atonal, but there was a chorale in it; I was using found tonal objects.”
“An Alice Symphony” (1969) cast tonality “like a visitor from another planet.” “Vintage Alice” (1972) went further — it is tonal, but with different keys competing with each other. It was only in “Final Alice” (1976), which the Pittsburgh Symphony will perform in its rare full version this weekend, that Mr. Del Tredici took his biggest step. Written for soprano-narrator, folk group and orchestra, he felt “it had to be really Romantic and tonal.”
It was “Final Alice” that really jolted the orchestral community in the United States. No less than the Chicago Symphony Orchestra premiered it in 1976.
The 1980 recording with Sir George Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is on Amazon here. There are some extensive program notes here by Slatkin about the piece when he performed it at the Kennedy Center.