Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Anne LeBaron Portrait Concerts this weekend (pt. 2)

This Sunday at REDCAT, two arias from Bonnie and Clyde will be premiered as part of Anne LeBaron's Portrait Concerts. Bonnie and Clyde is an opera in development by Andrew McIntosh and Melinda Rice.

The following notes on Bonnie and Clyde are by Melinda Rice, the piece's librettist.

“A human being becomes human not through the casual convergence of certain biological conditions, but through an act of will and love on the part of other people.” Italo Calvino, Letters 1941-1985 
In its current stage, the opera Bonnie and Clyde (which is still being written) deals with absence and forgiveness. The title characters, infamous bank robbers, car thieves, and murderers Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, never appear, never sing a word. The tale rests in the stories of those people who came close to Bonnie and Clyde, those people who lost husbands and friends, and those who met the two on a good day and heard their jokes and were taken for a joy ride over a state border and dropped off unharmed.

In truth, the story of the outlaws Bonnie and Clyde has been told so many times that as Andrew and I discussed it, we asked ourselves, why are we interested in this? Why does this feel like such a good idea? 
For me, I became hooked as I formed a picture of Bonnie and Clyde as people - ordinary, poor people, not sociopaths or psychopaths - who grew to not value their lives at all. It is my opinion that they both had strong feelings, feelings of loyalty to family and friends, feelings of protectiveness for each other, feelings of rage at unfairness, and certainly feelings of desire. Yet, even with all these feelings, they did not care. They chose to not care at all. And the lives that came close to this couple who did not care show the imprint of Bonnie and Clyde. 
The arias in this concert at RedCat are both written for women. One is written for the character Blanche Barrow, who shares Clyde’s last name because she was his sister-in-law, married to his older brother Buck. Blanche and Buck ran with Bonnie and Clyde from around March to July of 1933, when Buck was shot and killed in a gunfight with the law, and Blanche was arrested. Bonnie and Clyde escaped. During her time in Missouri State Penitentiary, Blanche wrote a memoir, which was not published until after her death. In it, she recounts how she begged her husband to not join his brother, but Buck insisted on trying to save Clyde, and Blanche felt she had no choice but to follow her husband. Blanche was the kind of woman who was able to send her own husband to jail six months after marrying him (in her account, she discovered in 1931 after they were married that he was on the run from the law, and told him that he would have to serve out the rest of his sentence so they could settle down and live regular lives, and he agreed), but when up against Buck’s need to save his brother, Blanche could only follow. 
The other aria is written for the character Marie Tullis, a 20-year-old who was engaged to marry a highway patrolman named H.D. Murphy on April 13, 1934. H.D. Murphy was on one of his first patrols on Easter, April 1, when he and his fellow patrolman, Edward Bryan Wheeler, stopped to investigate a parked Ford V8 on West Dove Road, off Highway 114 in Texas. Clyde and Bonnie, as well as a new gang member, Henry Methvin, were inside that car, taking a rest from a trip to visit family on Easter and deliver a pet rabbit. They shot and killed both officers. Marie wore the dress she had intended to be married in to her beloved’s funeral. 
There is a third collaborator for Bonnie and Clyde, Berlin-based artist Claudia Doderer. Andrew got to know her when she had a residency in LA at the Villa Aurora, and we greatly admire her work. Claudia has created the still imagery for this performance at RedCat, and we will be continuing to work with her in developing the opera.
These are the lyrics from the opera scenes: 
Blanche Barrow: Words to Buck Barrow 
Flowers drop, and rain drops, and even the moon drops,
but don’t drop me, Daddy, don’t drop me

and illusions drop, and dresses drop, and then, if you are polite, eyes drop,
but don’t drop them for me, Daddy, there’s no need

I’ve been waiting to let hints drop,
and fingers drop,
and even tears drop
let your brother drop,
and stay with me 
Marrie Tullis: On the Death of H.D. Murphy

Wait for the end
The end of the end
Easter is over
The dead are still dead

The blue on your lips
The red through your shirt
Our wedding in two weeks
But you haven’t said the vows yet

which was is east? which way is east?
it is the last road my love took,the way he walked
into the sun
hands open
ready to point out directions
ready to change a tire
his uniform new around his shoulders,
across his chest,
when he stopped to help
and they shot him point blank

Wait for the end
The end of the end
As I stop on the doorstep,
Before I go in,
Be careful, my love,
Sentiment is for the brave and the young.

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