The Making of Americans
An opera by Anthony Gatto
text by Gertrude Stein
design by Chris Larson
photo by Chris Larson
Premiere at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
December 12 and 13, 2008
Performers for the premiere at the Walker Art Center: Rachel Calloway, soprano, David Echelard. counter tenor, Bradley Greenwald baritone, Michael Müller tenor, Elizabeth Munn soprano, Pamela Stein soprano, JACK Quartet: Violins Christopher Otto, Ari Streisfeld, Viola John Pickford Richards, Cello Kevin McFarland. Zeitgeist Ensemble: percussion Heather Barringer Patty Cudd, bass clarinet Patrick O'Keefe, piano Shannon Wettstein. Conducted by David Pinkard, directed by Jay Scheib.
Commissioned by the Walker Art Center and the Zeitgeist Commissioning Collective through the William and Nadine McGuire Commissioning Fund, the Jerome Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Meet the Composer's Commissioning Music/USA program, and the Professional Staff Congress/City University of New York.
Excerpts from the Walker Art Center premiere 12.12.08:
- Ballet of Wedding Preparations
- Act I Choral Finale: Once an angry man dragged his father
Choral text [from the opening lines of Gertrude Stein’s novel]:
Once an angry man dragged his father along the ground through his own orchard. “Stop! stop” cried the groaning man, “I did not drag my father beyond this tree.”
- Act II, Scene iii: David Hersland, Jr., Funeral Oratorio
If any one is sad
Some were very pleased
It was not interesting to her
Some were not certain
- Epilogue excerpt
Choral text [from the final chapter of Gertrude Stein’s novel]:
Any one has come to be a dead one. (2X)
Any one has not come to be a dead one.
Any one has not come yet to be such a one to be a dead one.
Many who are living have not come yet to be a dead one.
Reviews of the Walker Art Center performances:
A multigenerational chronicle of the Hersland family, dysfunctional avant la lettre, Stein's book modestly aspires to be "a history of everyone everywhere at every time" — surely the most unhistorical project imaginable, and the least operatic. (Chris Larson's set, a clapboard prairie house recalling Grant Wood's "American Gothic," provides a salutary dose of empiricism.)
Gatto's music was the evening's highlight; his score, while not disguising Stein's obsessive repetition, makes it less maddening. The composer grew up listening to the Met's Saturday broadcasts, and his regard for operatic tradition is plain. (Did I hear an echo of Verdi's "Questa o quella"?) Standing, by his own account, on the shoulders of Olivier Messiaen and Luciano Berio, Gatto writes respectfully and often catchily for the voice (though his six accomplished singers, somewhat harshly amplified, weren't always intelligible — a serious liability in so logocentric a piece). His instrumental writing, plangent and percussive by turns, deftly exploits the colors of an irregular octet comprising New York's JACK String Quartet and the Minnesota new-music ensemble Zeitgeist.
Larry Fuchsburg, Opera News (March 2009)
“Gatto has achieved with this original, lyrical, and mostly tonal work a fine balance between subtle references to the history of musical styles and his own musical voice. With this anchor into the distant and near past, he achieves an integrity that wakes up the senses." Karren Alenier, Scene4 Magazine Read More >
“commendable music…alternately playful and lush” Rohan Preston, Minneapolis Star Tribune Read More >
“approached the strange psychic landscape of Britten's Canticles, probing and inquisitive…” Mark Erickson, Walker Art Center Read More >
“Hometown new music-heroes Zeitgeist and the JACK Quartet from New York deftly performed Anthony Gatto's score. Much of Gatto's music was post-minimalist in character, appropriate for a work so dependent in form and content on repetition. At other points, though, passages sounded like an almost Bach-like chorale and, elsewhere, the rich, slow moving harmony of a Debussy piano etude; the joyous wedding music that opens the work was some of Gatto's best." Justin Schell, Walker Art Center Read More >Back to Top >
Photos from the Walker performances:
Photos by Cameron Wittig
The Making of Americans is available for future productionsBack to Top >