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Loyola Welcomes the National Opera Association for After Life, a Chamber Opera

Loyola press release - January 1, 2018

Tom Cipullo’s stunning one-act opera remembers the Holocaust, posing timeless and provocative questions about art, politics, and war

Loyola University New Orleans ushers in the New Year with the New Orleans premiere of After Life, a one-act chamber opera by composer Tom Cipullo and librettist David Mason. The opera — which will be performed Friday, Jan. 5 at 7:30 p.m. in Loyola’s Louis J. Roussel Performance Hall by members of the award-winning Loyola Opera Theatre program — serves as a highlight of the National Opera Association’s annual convention, to be held Jan. 3-7 at the New Orleans Loews Hotel, in celebration of the city’s Tricentennial and its renowned operatic history.

Cipullo’s After Life, first performed in Seattle in 2015, is the recently announced winner of NOA’s 2016-2018 Dominick Argento Chamber Opera Composition Prize, which encourages the composition of new works that can be produced by collegiate training programs. After Life was commissioned by the Seattle-based organization Music of Remembrance, whose mission is also to foster new works by today’s composers, specifically so that the horrors of the Holocaust will never be forgotten.

The idea for After Life originated in 2011 when a pair of art exhibits in San Francisco about Gertrude Stein suggested an imaginary scenario in which Stein and Pablo Picasso, the younger fellow avant-garde artist she had championed, confront each other in a posthumous debate. At the beginning of the opera Stein believes her beloved Alice B. 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 and careers, their complex relationship, and their activities during the Second World War. Their outsized 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?

“Working on After Life has been so rewarding for our entire team,” Rausch said. “Cara Consilvio, our director, staged Cipullo’s Glory Denied at Tri-Cities Opera in upstate New York this past fall right before coming to New Orleans, and loves his music; and our singers have immersed themselves in the history and personalities of the opera’s protagonists – they’ve held their own heated debates! Most of all, the composer himself has been in frequent touch by email, and so supportive of our efforts – we can’t wait to meet him!”

Loyola graduate students Zara Zemmels and Frank Convit will perform the roles of Gertrude Stein and Pablo Picasso. The Youth will be sung by Loyola senior Haley Whitney. All three singers are from the greater New Orleans area and are voice students of international opera star and Loyola Associate Professor of Voice Luretta Bybee. Cara Consilvio, who directed Street Scene for Loyola in January 2017 and will return later this year for Dialogues of the Carmelites, serves as the stage director. Carol Rausch, director of Loyola Opera Theatre and Chorus Master/Music Administrator for both New Orleans Opera and Chautauqua Opera, will be the conductor. The 5-piece orchestra includes players from the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra, as well as Loyola graduates: flutist Anne Chabreck; clarinetist Alex Morano; and staff pianist Yui Asano, Coordinator of Accompanying.

After Life will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 5, 2017 at Louis J. Roussel Performance Hall at Loyola, 6363 St. Charles Ave. The event is open to the public. Tickets run from $10 to $60 and may be purchased at presents.loyno.edu, by emailing tickets@loyno.edu, or at the door. Free parking is available in the West Road parking garage.

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