Adapted from The New York Times best-selling novel by William Kennedy, Roscoe is a fictional presentation of Albany's Democratic political machine set in 1945.
Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, granted a development deal to composer Evan Mack in 2013 to develop his book into an opera. The book Roscoe was originally written in 2002. The New Yorker declared it "thick with crime, passion and backroom banter."
Mack selected librettist Joshua McGuire to collaborate on the project. On August 3-6, 2016, Roscoe will have its world premiere at Seagle Music Colony in four staged performances. On October 15, 2016, it will have its orchestral premiere in one concert performance with the Albany Symphony and star dramatic soprano Deborah Voigt.
Mack is a driven composer who pursued both William Kennedy and Deborah Voigt in making the Albany Symphony concert performance possible.
Mack states, "I often thought about the voice of Deborah Voigt when composing my previous operas. When I had the chance to show her the score of my new opera, Roscoe, she wanted to collaborate in giving the opera its orchestral premiere with the Albany Symphony. I am truly honored to work with her."
Voigt states, "I am thrilled to have been invited to sing the orchestral premiere of Roscoe. I was flattered to learn composer Evan Mack had my voice in mind as he composed previous operas. When he sent me the score of Roscoe I felt certain we would make a good collaboration. This performance will mark the first occasion I've had to be part of a new opera."
About Deborah Voigt, soprano and musical personality
Deborah Voigt is one of the world’s most versatile singers and music’s most endearing personalities. Her HarperCollins memoir, Call Me Debbie: True Confessions of a Down-to-Earth Diva, recently came out in paperback, and 2016-17 sees her join the San Francisco Conservatory of Music as a full-time member of the voice faculty; serve as the new Artistic Advisor to Florida’s Vero Beach Opera; sing Wagner with the Danish National Symphony in Copenhagen and California; and reprise her beloved one-woman show, Voigt Lessons.
Having made her name as a leading dramatic soprano, Voigt has given definitive performances of iconic German operatic roles from Salome to Isolde. Also a devotee of Broadway and American song, she has sung with Rufus Wainwright at London’s BBC Proms, Kristin Chenoweth at Carnegie Hall, and Barbara Cook and Dianne Reeves at the Hollywood Bowl. Her extensive discography includes two EMI solo albums – All My Heart, named one of the “Best of the Year” by Opera News, and the Billboard bestseller Obsession – as well as Deutsche Grammophon’s Grammy Award-winning Blu-ray set featuring her Brünnhilde in Robert Lepage’s visionary Metropolitan Opera “Ring” cycle. She appears regularly as both performer and host in the Met’s “Live in HD” series.
Voigt’s numerous honors include first prizes in Moscow’s International Tchaikovsky Competition and Philadelphia’s Luciano Pavarotti International Voice Competition. A Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, she was Musical America’s Vocalist of the Year 2003, won a 2007 Opera News Award for distinguished achievement, and has received Honorary Doctorates from Smith College and the University of South Carolina. She was named one of the Los Angeles Times’s 25 cultural tweeters to follow.
About Evan Mack, composer
Composer Evan Mack is carving his name in the opera world. Opera News praised his work as "rousing...in the realm of Barber, Menotti, and Carlisle Floyd...a worthy contemporary opera" (in reference to his opera, Angel of the Amazon).
Mack’s largest work to-date, Roscoe, will have its premiere at Seagle Music Colony in New York followed by the orchestral concert premiere with the Albany Symphony starring soprano Deborah Voigt.
His micro-operas have received numerous performances. Beach and Moan won Atlanta Opera's 24-hour Opera Project in 2013 and #IsOperaDead (the first opera for Twitter) premiered in 2015.
Mack’s composing credits include five full musicals and a choral suite—Langston Hughes’ Dream of Freedom is a Selection Winner of the National Association of Composers, San Francisco and the UCM New Music Festival, and is published by Hal Leonard. He also wrote Pinocchio, hailed as “the Springtime Nutcracker,” premiered by the Charleston Ballet.
He holds a Doctorate of Musical Arts in Piano Performance from the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music and is currently Assistant Professor of Music at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY.
About Joshua McGuire, librettist
Joshua McGuire has written librettos for The Secret of Luca, (based on the novel by Ignazio Silone) and Roscoe (based on the novel by Pulitzer Prize-winner William Kennedy) with music by Evan Mack. In October 2016, Roscoe will receive a full performance by the Albany Symphony featuring renowned soprano Deborah Voigt in the lead role of Veronica. His collaboration with Mack also produced #IsOperaDead, the first-ever opera for Twitter. Most recently, Mack and McGuire wrote Lucinda y Las Flores de la Nochebuena, a children's opera commissioned by the Fresno State Opera Theatre with premiere performances for over 2,000 children upcoming in December 2016.
In 2015, McGuire was commissioned to write a libretto for Washington National Opera's American Opera Initiative, and the resulting one-act opera, Alexandra, with music by David Clay Mettens, was premiered at the Kennedy Center. He is also the author of The Secret of Music: a look at the listening life, a book of nonfiction essays on music and mindfulness. In 2014, McGuire was a resident artist at Yaddo.
McGuire serves as Senior Lecturer in Musicianship at Vanderbilt University's Blair School of Music, where he teaches courses in Musicianship as well as Meditation for Musicians.
McGuire studied at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, where he pursued Master’s work in both guitar and orchestral conducting, holding assistantships in both areas. As an undergraduate at Vanderbilt University, he took the Bachelor of Music summa cum laude as well as High Honors in English Literature for his thesis on musical structures in the work of James Joyce. He currently resides in Nashville with his wife, pianist and vocal coach Jennifer McGuire, their son Thomas, and a basset hound.
David Alan Miller, Conductor
Deborah Voigt, Soprano
Evan Mack, Composer
Joshua McGuire, Librettist
Saturday, October 15, 2016
7:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Palace Theatre, 19 Clinton Avenue, Albany, NY, 12207
Scene 1: V-J Day, The Ten Eyck Hotel, Albany, New York. Roscoe Conway, a lawyer by trade and the behind-the-scenes operator of the Albany Democratic machine, conducts business as usual amid the revelry. A vision of his deceased father Felix reminds him how to run the Party best. Roscoe again steels his resolve to quit politics.
Scene 2: Later that night, at the Fitzgibbon Steel Mill. Roscoe has been summoned to deal with the suicide of his best friend, Elisha Fitzgibbon. A vision of the dead Elisha speaks to Roscoe. Roscoe finds an old photograph, and recalls his love for Elisha's wife, Veronica. Veronica arrives at the mill, grief-stricken.
Scene 3: After Elisha's funeral, populated with colorful personalities from the Party underbelly, Veronica summons Roscoe to her home. He reveals to her that Elisha's death was a suicide. She tells him that her sister, Pamela, is suing for custody of her son Gilby, whom Veronica and Elisha raised after Pamela gave him up. After much hesitation, Roscoe agrees to take the case.
Scene 4: Roscoe appears in court to defend Veronica and Gilby. As Felix and Elisha offer commentary from the realm of the dead, we see how Roscoe's young love for Veronica fell apart, and how he ended up in a brief and unhappy marriage to Pamela. Amid the melee, the judge orders the case postponed. Roscoe clutches his heart, overcome by sharp chest pains.
Scene 5: As payroll policemen stake one of the Party-controlled whorehouses, deceased gangster Jack "Legs" Diamond recounts in a ballad the story of his own assassination. Meanwhile, at a cockfighting pit, Party boss Patsy squares off against his brother Bindy in a fixed fight. While trying to broker peace between the brothers, Roscoe collapses from a massive heart attack.
Scene 6: Roscoe lies in convalescence at Veronica's home. They kiss. Veronica's older son Alex arrives home from the war. Once the golden boy mayor who left for the front, Alex must now fight for re-election. Mustering all his strength, Roscoe vows to help Alex win. Meanwhile, their fathers, Felix and Elisha, join them from the beyond in a rousing quartet to life, death, victory, loss, and the inevitable passage of time.
Scene 1: Alex campaigns for Mayor. As he lays a wreath at a new Veterans' Memorial, Roscoe sings the praises of the Albany Machine, passed from father to son. Roscoe remembers his father, Felix, and the scene flashes back twenty years to Felix's deathbed. Felix sings the praises of the Albany Machine, passed from father to son, trades barbs with the priest brought in for last rites, and dies - but not before willing the family brewery to Roscoe, sealing Roscoe's place in the Prohibition underbelly.
Scene 2: Mac, going behind O.B.'s back, informs Roscoe that Patsy's cops are about to raid the Notchery in retaliation for Bindy's theft of $40,000 in the fixed cockfight. Roscoe goes to the Notchery to urge Bindy to return the money. Suddenly, police break in: not Patsy's payroll police, as expected, but State Troopers sent by the Republican governor. As he is hauled out in handcuffs, Roscoe gives an improvised press conference, casting the Democratic Party and the good people of Albany as victim.
Scene 3: Bindy grudgingly returns Patsy's $40,000. O.B. confronts Mac for leaking news of Patsy's raid. Still consumed by jealousy over credit for killing "Legs" Diamond, Mac assassinates O.B. Distraught by the death of his brother, Roscoe remembers his generation's political high tide: the 1932 Democratic convention. At the convention, Elisha ruminates on his campaign for Governor. Roscoe and Veronica steal a moment of forbidden intimacy. Elisha's opponent Lehman is declared Governor. Alex, who is being groomed for a bright political future, steps into his Aunt Pamela's hotel room, revealing the incest that begat Gilby.
Scene 4: Alone in the courtroom, Roscoe deduces that Alex is Gilby's father. In an effort to protect Alex from scandal, Roscoe claims that Elisha fathered Gilby in a forcible encounter with Pamela, and that Pamela blackmailed the family. Veronica retains custody, and Roscoe & Pamela part on humorously acrimonious terms.
Scene 5: In the great Tristano Lodge, Roscoe sings a lullaby to Gilby, then takes Gilby upstairs to bed. Alone downstairs, Veronica packs up some of Elisha's things, realizing that her marriage is finally over. Roscoe comes back downstairs. In an ecstatic duet that recapitulates their young love theme, they undress and slowly turn out the lights.
Scene 6: A chorus celebrates Alex's election as mayor of Albany. Alex reproaches Roscoe for depicting Elisha as a rapist. Roscoe retorts that he knows the unmentionable secret of Gilby's true parentage. Alex declares the Fitzgibbon family off limits to Roscoe. Veronica approaches Roscoe, and breaks off their romance. Crestfallen and tired, Roscoe boards The Night Boat, where he walks among gambling tables populated by a wordless chorus of the dead.
Watch Roscoe Acts I and II below filmed from an opera workshop in 2015.