February 17, 2017

The Queens Speak

National Opera Center
330 Seventh Ave (7th FL), New York, NY 10001
tickets / more info

Soprano Emily Woodruff presents The Queens Speak, a multimedia production pairing contemporary song with projected imagery and electroacoustic elements to narrate the lives and experiences of King Henry VIII's wives. The program includes world premieres of song cycles by American composers Jennifer Bellor, George Brunner, George N. Gianopoulos, and Devin Cholodenko, paired with custom artwork by Drea Bim, Dustin Brown, Emory Schuett, Narin Shech, and Alicia Jean Vanderelli. From My Doleful Prison (Bellor) and God Save the Queen for Soprano and Piano (Gianopoulos) are based on letters written by Anne Boleyn. Cholodenko's cycle The Most Happy combines the words of Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, and Henry himself with excerpts from Shakespeare's Henry VIII. Inspired by a letter Anne of Cleves wrote to Henry in 1540, Brunner's Anne of Cleaves: The Sentence presents a new libretto by Monica Harte.

Libby Larsen's published song cycle Try Me, Good King: Last Words of the Wives of Henry VIII serves as an introduction to the program, treating each of Henry's first five wives in chronological order. None of the composers have chosen to set the words of Katherine Parr, Henry VIII's sixth and final wife. In Larsen's words, "Her role in the story of Henry's wives is that of a peaceful catalyst." The songs presented on this program are anything but peaceful, presenting the trials and tragedies of five tormented women.