May 1, 1989 | UrbanArias
Photo-Op, A Presidential Campaign Opera
Composer:Conrad Cummings
Librettist:James Siena
Synopsis

Politics is an exciting but tricky subject to address in opera. Verdi set the bar very high with Don Carlo and Simon Boccanegra, and John Adams’ Nixon in China took that tradition and brought it compellingly into the 20th century.

Photo-Op is an unapologetically modern foray into the political, which lampoons stump speeches and presidential campaign tropes while simultaneously delivering a satiric, if grim, verdict on the state of politics today.

Conceived as a concert piece for two dueling candidates and a small instrumental ensemble, Photo-Op has received a variety of treatments and interpretations over the last twenty years.

UrbanArias’ version is an intimate collaboration between director Alan Paul and choreographer Lucy Bowen McCauley, with frequent input from me. We designed a take on the opera which has a more explicit narrative than it has received in previous stagings; we felt that a combination of traditionally acted scenes and dance could be very powerful.

I chose to produce this piece at this particular moment because it has obvious connection to the current campaign season, and because the timing of our production has particular resonance with the recent Republican and Democratic conventions.

While you will see a few references tonight that seem ripped from last week’s headlines, please know that we have not altered a word of James Siena’s text or a note of Conrad Cummings’ music. What they wrote in 1989 is just as relevant today. In fact, the immediacy of this opera twenty years later is uncanny.

We discovered over the last few weeks that it’s true – sometimes life does imitate art.

Robert Wood, General Director of UrbanArias


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