Lowell House Opera will present the world premiere of NIGHTTOWN
Lowell House Opera, the professional opera company in residence at Harvard University, presents the world premiere of NIGHTTOWN: a lyrical reimagining of James Joyce’s Ulysses, by composer and librettist Benjamin Perry Wenzelberg, based on the 15th and 18th chapters of Ulysses and the roots of the novel in Homer’s Odyssey. The performances will take place at the Sanders Theater at Harvard University and will be broadcast live March 10-12, 2022 at 7:30 p.m. and 3 p.m., 100 years after the novel’s initial publication. The performance is approximately 100 minutes long and the Sanders Theater is located at 45 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA 02138. The opera is performed in English with a fifteen-piece orchestra and will be conducted by Wenzelberg and staged by Lowell House Opera Executive. Producer and director Adrienne Boris.
Featuring a cast, orchestra and creative team made up of equal parts professionals and Harvard College undergraduates, NIGHTTOWN was commissioned by LHO in 2019 from Wenzelberg and musically advised by composers Jonathan Dove and Michael Gandolfi. This is the company’s first commission from an undergraduate composer and its first world premiere. The opera also serves as Wenzelberg’s main thesis as an English concentrator, advised by Professor Russell Rymer.
This bold and visceral new opera refracts one of the most monumental novels in the English language through the consciousness of a character who is still earning his voice 100 years after its publication. Homer’s epic Odyssey journey, as told through James Joyce’s portrayal of a single day in Dublin, Odysseus, is infused into the inner lives of interconnected characters shaken by grief. NIGHTTOWN presents the debauched “Circe” chapter of Joyce’s story through the perspective of Molly Bloom, whose final chapter soliloquy is the only time she focuses on storytelling in the novel. The opera depicts Molly’s own odyssey, full of contemporary overtones to this timeless story, from dreamy daydreams in bed next to her sleeping husband to a wild world of her own imagination. Through dramatic forays into sexuality, sedition, collision, confrontation, transgression and, ultimately, deep loss, NIGHTTOWN shows us that time and time again, “the longest way is the shortest way to to return”.
A composer and librettist, Wenzelberg began his operatic career at a young age as a child soloist and chorister at the Metropolitan Opera, performed as Miles in Britten’s The Turn of the Screw with the New York City Opera, and even appeared on several Sesame Street music segments. . Before coming to Harvard, he studied composition and conducting for eight years at Juilliard Pre-College. He won the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award for his opera Sleeping Beauty: A New Opera for Family Audiences, and recently conducted The Boston Pops as a winner of the Bernstein Centenary Conducting Competition. As a storyteller, he was featured on WBUR’s “From the Top” and was named the Boston District Metropolitan Opera National Council’s 2021 Audition District Winner and Nova Scotia Area Encouragement Award Winner. England.
Wenzelberg’s prodigious musical talent and interdisciplinary approach to operatic creation recently caught the attention of The Harvard Gazette and The Harvard Crimson who wrote a preview cover of NIGHTTOWN. His turn on the Boston Pops podium was also featured in the Boston Globe in 2018.
Of her creative process, Wenzelberg says, “Telling the novel’s narrative through the voice of Molly Bloom’s final chapter soliloquy was especially meaningful 100 years after the original work was published, and centering its story of great heartbreak and of deep love takes on special importance in my mind in contemporary times. I view NIGHTTOWN as a testament to much loss, personally and collectively, during COVID, and also a vehicle of newfound connection and deeply apt catharsis for 2022.”
The opera also features one of the only explicitly gendered characters in the operatic repertoire, based on the character of Ulysses Bella Cohen, who in the novel comes across as gender fluid and runs the brothel visited by Leopold Bloom. Wenzelberg renamed the character Bell*, offering several possible endings (e.g. Bella, Bello, Bellix, etc.) depending on who the performer was and/or the production’s interpretation of the character. The role’s musical range is also flexibly written. In Lowell House Opera’s production, Bell* will be sung by male soprano Elijah McCormick.
“The world premiere of NIGHTTOWN embodies Lowell House Opera’s mission to produce professional works featuring Harvard College students working as peers alongside professionals,” said Lowell Executive Producer and Director Adrienne Boris. House Opera, who co-commissioned the work with other professionals. advisor and musical director of LHO, Edward Elwyn Jones, in 2019. “Not only is Benjamin certain to take the opera world by storm with his talent and infectious enthusiasm, but he also writes contemporary opera that speaks to the audience. contemporary times in an inclusive way NIGHTTOWN is an accessible and moving story about collective grief, the changing nature of love and how our home shapes us in the world at large, themes that have only come to win in power during the opera pandemic. It is a remarkable work, especially for such a young composer/librettist, and Lowell House Opera is proud to share it with a wide audience this M arch.”
For tickets and live stream information, click here.