Chamber Opera in One Act
Libretto by David Mason
Music by Tom Cipullo
Duration: ca.50 minutes
Commissioned by Music of Remembrance (Mina Miller, Artistic Director)
Premiered at Benaroya Hall, Seattle, Washington on May 11, 2015
Gertrude Stein mezzo-soprano
Pablo Picasso baritone
Young Woman, a victim of the Holocaust soprano
flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano
After Life imagines a post-mortem reunion of Pablo Picasso and Gertrude Stein. Stein believes her beloved Alice Toklas has conjured her back to life, while Picasso wonders which of his many lovers has called him up from the abyss. When both realize, to their disappointment, that their great loves are not present, the two towering figures discuss their lives, their complex relationship, and, in particular, their activities during the Second World War. Their outsize egos clash, resentment between them boils over, and, as they confront each other, a third voice rises from the darkness. A young girl, a victim of the Holocaust, appears, and it is her questioning that has brought Stein and Picasso back from the dead. Why did she die while they lived on? Can the two artists, whose work endures, ever know death as she does? Who will remember her, when she barely remembers herself?
After Life is available from Naxos Records in its American Opera Classics series.
After Life is the winner of the 2017-2018 Dominick Argento Chamber Opera Composition Prize
from the National Opera Association.
"devastatingly effective... Cipullo shows himself to be a natural master of writing for the voice."
Thomas May, Bachtrack May 12, 2015
"Cipullo's music, unfailingly inventive, is mostly in an appealingly varied extended tonal language,
but during appropriate passages he provides the angular, driving dissonances one might expect from
an opera about these two avatars of modernism. Cipullo cycles nimbly through the full spectrum
of emotions Stein and Picasso provoke in each other, unfailingly setting Mason's illuminating
and provocative libretto so it can be declaimed with great clarity."
Joshua Rosenblum, Opera News, July 2016
"Cipullo's ever-compelling musical score... conveys the contradictory complexity of the two
artists and the aching innocence of the Parisian girl with such potent authenticity... Cipullo
shapes his melodic phrases with an uncannily perceptive ear for each character's profile
and personality, and the harmonic language beneath is an exquisite kaleidoscope of colors.
The chamber orchestra accompaniment is a bold yet never overbearing presence, and it
serves up every emotional flavor this story requires, from biting pain and bitter tragedy
to transcendent beauty and stirring hope."
Gregory Berg, Journal of Singing
November 1, 2016
"...a compelling hour of musical theater."
Alice Bloch, Seattle Gay News
May 15, 2015
"...from verbally combative and scathingly accusatory to contemplative and reflective, with
music that soars and roars, sears and weeps - the music is by Tom Cipullo, the libretto
by David Mason - this imaginatively conceived hypothetical meeting is operatic in
both the most elevated and most elemental sense of the word."
Leslie Weisman, DC Metro Theater Arts
April 5, 2016
Opera Colorado (2019)
Chelsea Opera (2019)
Boston University Fringe Festival (2018)
University of North Texas (2018)
Loyola University, New Orleans and the National Opera Assn. (2018)
After Life is published by E.C. Schirmer.
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