Colorado College Professor of English David Mason has been awarded the prestigious Domenick Argento Chamber Opera Award from the National Opera Association for the opera “After Life.” The piece, by composer Tom Cipullo and librettist Mason, was commissioned by Music of Remembrance and beat out more than 45 other new operas for the award. The winner was announced last week at the association’s convention in Santa Barbara, California, following performance of excerpts from the three finalist operas
“After Life” is an intense one-act opera that explores the role of art in a troubled world through a confrontation between the ghosts of Pablo Picasso and Gertrude Stein. In life, the two maintained a fraught friendship, complicated by their starkly divergent ideas about art and politics. When their spirits meet in the opera, they argue over their legacies until a nameless young victim of the Holocaust enters and challenges them to think further about life and death, and about how they responded to evil in the world through their art.
Music of Remembrance produced the world premiere of “After Life” in Seattle and San Francisco, recording it on the Naxos label. Gramophone Magazine’s review of the recording notes, “Cipullo weaves David Mason's ingenious, rhapsodic libretto into an absorbing, often lively . . . narrative told in words and music that is translucently scored and makes full use of the five-member ensemble's colours, astonishingly vocal at times in their effect.”
The website DC Metro Theater Arts writes, “From verbally combative and scathingly accusatory to contemplative and reflective, with music that soars and roars, sears and weeps . . . this imaginatively conceived hypothetical meeting is operatic in both the most elevated, and most elemental sense of the word.”
“Working with Tom Cipullo and the great musicians at Music of Remembrance has been a dream,” says Mason. “I hope we've created something that will have a long afterlife.
As winner of the Dominick Argento Chamber Opera Competition, “After Life” will be presented in its entirety at the 2018 National Opera Association convention in New Orleans. Cipullo and Mason currently are collaborating on another Music of Remembrance commission, “The Parting,” scheduled for late 2019.
Mason, a 1978 graduate of Colorado College and Colorado’s poet laureate emeritus, also was the librettist for composer Lori Laitman’s “The Scarlet Letter.” The opera, based on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic novel, was performed by Opera Colorado last spring and garnered rave reviews.