LUCY (WESTERNA) HARKER: Soprano
DRACULA (OR 'THE STRANGER'): Countertenor
JONATHAN HARKER: Tenor
DR. JOHN SEWARD: High Baritone
DR. ABRAHAM VAN HELSING: Bass-baritone
TWO SAILORS: Tenor, Bass (from chorus)
Mark Adamo’s illuminating essay, On Ecstasy and Ruin
Mark Adamo therefore follows a well-trodden path with his retelling of Euripides’s The Bacchae – and promptly kicks up the ground by transplanting characters from… Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It takes a bold composer to set such a story and John Corigliano is more than up to the task.
Corigliano gives a nod to operatic tradition with lush moments in ‘Hush, darling: hush’, expertly sung by soprano Kathryn Henry, with an enjoyable musical howling motif representing Jonathan (David Portillo). It’s one of several whimsical morsels: elsewhere Corigliano creates a cipher in honour of B-A-C-C-H-A-E, following Bach’s tradition in using B= B flat, A, C, H=B natural. Further staging of this intriguing 2021 work (commissioned and premiered by The Santa Fe Opera) – with its unexpected ending – is eagerly awaited.
Claire Jackson , Classical Music
3rd October 2023
This opera shouldn’t have worked. The premise was too ridiculous: that campiest of horror novels, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, superimposed over a classic of Greek tragedy, Euripides’s The Bacchae. Yet composer John Corigliano and librettist Mark Adamo have defied all odds to create a disturbing parable that ranks among the finest American operas in recent memory.
Adamo provides Corigliano with a set of recurring mottos that serve as the basis for a corresponding system of leitmotifs. It’s a tried-and-true method of granting an opera musical structure, but one that contemporary composers have forgotten or snubbed. Moreover, the cyclic repetition of certain phrases — such as the three admonitions that Seward obstinately rejects — lends the drama a ritualistic atmosphere.
In response to the libretto’s blend of paganism and Gothic horror, Corigliano has composed a score that radiates eerie, nocturnal energy.
....by the final chorus, it becomes clear that the entire work stands as a larger, more universal allegory for repression — queer or otherwise. Dracula is no villain to be slain but a representation of the overwhelming carnal appetites that devour us when left unsatiated. The Odyssey Opera Chorus, softly yet severely intoning an a cappella medley of the work’s leitmotifs, imparts the terrible lesson of Seward’s downfall: “behold the danger / Of thwarting passion! Naming it sin! / You may assuage the priest without: / But not the beast within.”
Joe Cadagin, San Francisco Classical Voice
26th September 2023
In the literary world, this opera would be described as a page-turner. Logic seems just out of reach in The Lord of Cries – starting with the title – in a magic realist world that truly leaves you unable to guess what’s next. Whether or not there’s true resolution by the end is secondary to the question of whether it’s a substantial musico-dramatic journey. And it is.
Feel free to figure out the common denominator between Dionysus’s divergent credulity-challenging objectives – obedience, real estate and sex – or just enjoy the succession of highly operatic episodes that arrive in succession once the plot set-up and character expositions are out of the way. In his booklet notes, Corigliano gives listeners something to chew on in successive hearings: ‘When our characters lie to each other and themselves, it’s in clear keys in elegant arpeggi: the more truth they tell, the more we hear incessant drumbeats, trumpeting conchs, and dense clusters.’
David Patrick Stearns, GRAMOPHONE
Corigliano sets all this in queasy vocal lines that hesitate to resolve and an orchestration that coils around the singers and affords them plenty of room. There are exquisite touches like the flute solo that accompanies the description of worship in that moonlit glade, and the slowmotion timpani funeral march for Seward’s epiphany. When the orchestra does break out, it does so in hysterics of pounding timpani, discordant percussion, and whooping brass. The ritual chorus and sacred march representing the earthquake that destroys the abbey build to a frenzy that’s both cacophonous and sublime
Jeffrey Gantz, The Boston Globe
21st November 2022
Astonishingly, although there is much to absorb, the opera is consistently legible. The nearly 1.5- hour first act constitutes an intense musical tour de force. Corigliano has written music of dread, violence and chaos with the precision of a watchmaker. He gives the audience no quarter to relax. The music is extremely varied, with long stretches of pianissimo writing for only a handful of instruments alternating with earthquakes of full-orchestra outbursts. The music is tonal enough to avoid creating an atmosphere of alienation, but expressionistic enough to effectively depict horror and terror. Evidence: the vocal writing for a trio of women...Corigliano has written close harmony which occasionally sends one voice up into the coloratura stratosphere, conjuring a sultry eeriness. They regularly appear, sometimes in the foreground, sometimes blended into the orchestra, to comment on the action and prod it forward. It is an effect that in lesser hands might seem gimmicky, but which he deployed so well that one looked forward to its return.
Brian Schuth, The Boston Musical Intelligencer
21st November 2022
[Adamo's] libretto is a masterpiece of precision and psychological understanding: not a single word is wasted; and every one he uses is the right one for the character in that moment.
To be sure, this is as fluent a score as Corigliano has ever written, unfolding with a sweeping command of musical space, color, and time.
Jonathan Blumhofer, Boston Classical Review
20th November 2022
If the level of intermission chatter is any gauge of success, the undisputed hit of the Santa Fe Opera season was the premiere of The Lord of Cries by John Corigliano and Mark Adamo…
In Corigliano’s hands…Adamo’s retooled storyline becomes an assured world unto itself. From an initially thin texture, with voices often accompanied by single instruments (mimicking classical Greek oration), Corigliano’s orchestration builds into a full-on Bacchanal reminiscent of the hallucination scene in his score to Ken Russell’s film Altered States. The conductor Johannes Debus deftly guided various leitmotifs, used less for specific characters than for recurring emotional states; unlike Ghosts, where Corigliano often veered into cheeky riffs on Rossini and Mozart, his lyrical voice here remains clearly his own.
Ken Smith, Opera
…contains some of Corigliano’s grandest, wildest, most exuberantly inventive music.
…The fate of a new opera is hard to guess. “The Ghosts of Versailles” received few revivals after its triumphant début at the Met, in 1991, though in recent years it has experienced a comeback. Corigliano threatened afterward that he would never write another opera; it’s to our benefit that he relented. What’s notable about “The Lord of Cries” is its gleeful lack of caution — a commendable late-period turn for an artist who has at times been too calculated in his effects. Not, perhaps, since Verdi wrote “Falstaff” has an operatic composer made so much mischief past the age of seventy-five.
Alex Ross, The New Yorker
9th August 2021
…profoundly conceived and often mesmerizing new opera.
…Adamo makes his case persuasively and Corigliano’s music is no less persuasive in supporting it.
…Corigliano’s approach is far more measured and nuanced. He turns to advantage two common attributes of new operas I often find to be drawbacks. One is a tendency to proceed at a slow pace — justified here by Adamo’s expertly crafted text, which has the clarity essential to an opera libretto yet also a poetic elegance that avoids cliché. The other is an overly sparse use of orchestral resources. Singers are often accompanied just by solo instruments, but expressively so and in ways that enhance intelligibility. Vocal lines are often simple and almost chantlike.
…The Lord of Cries is a major addition to the canon of new operas.
George Loomis, Musical America
26th July 2021
…worth seeing and hearing
Mark Tiarks, The New Mexican
18th July 2021