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An American Soldier's Tale/ A Fiddler's Tale

by Igor Stravinsky / Wynton Marsalis

Libretto by Kurt Vonnegut / Stanley Crouch, adapted by Wynton Marsalis

 

This double-bill boasts fact and fable - sinister parables brimming with foxtrots, rags, marches and a healthy dose of Dixieland. In Marsalis’ Faustian allegory, a young, upstart musician strikes a devilish deal, biting off more than she can chew...  Kurt Vonnegut audaciously reimagines Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale into a vexing story of American wartime deserters: 40,000 fled the front lines of WWII, one was executed - this is his story.

 

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An American Soldier's Tale

Vonnegut replaced the original text by Ferdinand Ramuz in 1993 with his own version.  Vonnegut's new take on Stravinsky's L'Histoire du Soldat is a dramatic account of the case of Private Eddie Slovik, the first American soldier executed for desertion since the Civil War, in France in 1945. (This is one of the few classical recordings to come with a parental advisory warning.) The narration has four characters: Private Slovik, the General, the M.P., and Caroline the Red Cross nurse, who act out and describe the events leading up to Slovik's death. Vonnegut weaves his new tale into the existing music so naturally and brilliantly that it's hard to believe he hadn't actively collaborated with the composer on it. The historical specificity and visceral urgency of his rhymed text make the music seem even more bitterly sardonic than the original. Any fan of Stravinsky is likely to be intrigued by this novel realization of his classic and may even be swept away by its power.

A FIDDLER's TALE 

 With  A Fiddler's Tale, Wynton responds to Stravinsky's famous L'Histoire du Soldat ( A Soldier's Story) from the perspective of later twentieth century music, including but not limited to jazz. A Fiddler's Tale was commissioned by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center as a joint project of the Chamber Music Society and Jazz at Lincoln Center and premiered on April 23, 1998 at Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Igor Stravinsky

Igor Fyodorovitch Stravinsky was a composer of modern classical music. He wrote works in the neo-classical and serialist styles, but he is best known for two works from his earlier, Russian period: The Rite of Spring and The Firebird. For some, these ballets practically reinvented the genre. Stravinsky also wrote in a broad spectrum of ensemble combinations and classical forms. His oeuvre includes everything from symphonies to piano miniatures.

Stravinsky also achieved fame as a pianist and conductor, often at the premieres of his own works. He was also a writer. With the help of his protégé Robert Craft, who helped with the composer's English grammar, Stravinsky composed a theoretic work entitled Poetics of Music. In it, he famously claimed that music was incapable of 'expressing anything but itself'. Craft also transcribed several interviews with the composer, which were published as Conversations with Stravinsky.

A quintessentially cosmopolitan Russian, Stravinsky was one of the most authoritative composers in 20th Century music, both in the West and in his native land. He was named by Time Magazine as one of the most influential people of the century.

wynton marsalis

Wynton Marsalis was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on October 18, 1961, to Ellis and Dolores Marsalis, the second of six sons. At an early age he exhibited a superior aptitude for music and a desire to participate in American culture. At age eight Marsalis performed traditional New Orleans music in the Fairview Baptist Church band led by legendary banjoist Danny Barker, and at 14 he performed with the New Orleans Philharmonic. During high school Marsalis performed with the New Orleans Symphony Brass Quintet, New Orleans Community Concert Band, New Orleans Youth Orchestra, New Orleans Symphony, various jazz bands and the popular local funk band, the Creators.

At age 17 Marsalis became the youngest musician ever to be admitted to Tanglewood’s Berkshire Music Center. Despite his youth, he was awarded the school’s prestigious Harvey Shapiro Award for outstanding brass student. Marsalis moved to New York City to attend Juilliard in 1979. When he began to pick up gigs around town, the grapevine began to buzz. In 1980 Marsalis seized the opportunity to join the Jazz Messengers to study under master drummer and bandleader Art Blakey. It was from Blakey that Marsalis acquired his concept for band leading and for bringing intensity to each and every performance. In the years to follow Marsalis performed with Sarah Vaughan, Dizzy Gillespie, Sweets Edison, Clark Terry, Sonny Rollins, Ron Carter, Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams and countless other jazz legends.

Marsalis assembled his own band in 1981 and hit the road, performing over 120 concerts every year for 15 consecutive years. With the power of his superior musicianship, the infectious sound of his swinging bands and an exhaustive series of performances and music workshops, Marsalis rekindled widespread interest in jazz throughout the world. He embraced the jazz lineage to garner recognition for the older generation of overlooked jazz musicians and prompted the re-issue of jazz catalogs by record companies worldwide. He also inspired a renaissance that attracted a new generation of fine young talent to jazz. A look at the more distinguished jazz musicians of today reveals numerous students of Marsalis’ workshops: James Carter, Christian McBride, Roy Hargrove, Harry Connick Jr., Nicholas Payton, Eric Reed and Eric Lewis, to name a few.

Wynton Marsalis is a prolific and inventive composer. The dance community embraced his inventiveness by awarding him with commissions to create new music for Garth Fagan (Citi Movement-Griot New York), Peter Martins at the New York City Ballet (Jazz: Six Syncopated Movements and Them Twos), Twyla Tharp with the American Ballet Theatre (Jump Start), Judith Jamison at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre (Sweet Release and Here…Now), and Savion Glover (Petite Suite and Spaces). Marsalis collaborated with the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society in 1995 to compose the string quartet At The Octoroon Balls, and again in 1998 to create a response to Stravinsky’s A Soldier’s Tale with his composition A Fiddler’s Tale.

With Citi MovementIn This House On This Morning and Blood On The Fields, Marsalis invented a fresh conception for extended form compositions. His inventive interplay with melody, harmony and rhythm, along with his lyrical voicing and tonal coloring assert new possibilities for the jazz ensemble. In his dramatic oratorio Blood On The Fields, he draws upon the blues, work songs, chants, call and response, spirituals, New Orleans jazz, Ellingtonesque orchestral arrangements and Afro-Caribbean rhythms; and he uses Greek chorus-style recitations to move the work along. The New York Times Magazine said the work “marked the symbolic moment when the full heritage of the line, Ellington through Mingus, was extended into the present.” The San Francisco Examiner stated, “Marsalis’ orchestral arrangements are magnificent. Duke Ellington’s shadings and themes come and go but Marsalis’ free use of dissonance, counter rhythms and polyphonics is way ahead of Ellington’s mid-century era.”

Marsalis extended his achievements in Blood On The Fields with All Rise, an epic composition for big band, gospel choir, and symphony orchestra –- a classic work of high art -– which was performed by the New York Philharmonic under the baton of Kurt Masur along with the Morgan State University Choir and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra (December 1999).

Kurt vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, on November 11, 1922. Vonnegut emerged as a novelist and essayist in the 1960s, penning the classics Cat's CradleSlaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions before 1980. He is known for his satirical literary style, as well as the science fiction elements in much of his work. After studying at Cornell University, Kurt Vonnegut enlisted in the U.S. Army. He was sent by the army to what is now Carnegie Mellon University to study engineering in 1943. The next year, he served in Europe and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. After this battle, Vonnegut was captured and became a prisoner of war. He was in Dresden, Germany, during the Allied firebombing of the city, and saw the complete devastation caused by it. Vonnegut himself only escaped harm because he, along with other POWs, was working in an underground meat locker making vitamins.

Soon after his return from the war, Kurt Vonnegut married his high school girlfriend, Jane Marie Cox. The couple had three children. He worked several jobs before his writing career took off, including newspaper reporter, teacher, and public relations employee for General Electric. The Vonneguts also adopted his sister's three children after her death in 1958. Showing his talent for satire, his first novel, Player Piano, took on corporate culture and was published in 1952. More novels followed, including The Sirens of Titan (1959), Mother Night (1961), and Cat's Cradle (1963). War remained a recurring element in his work and one of his best-known works, Slaughterhouse-Five, draws some of its dramatic power from his own experiences. The narrator, Billy Pilgrim, is a young soldier who becomes a prisoner of war and works in an underground meat locker, not unlike Vonnegut, but with a notable exception. Pilgrim begins to experience his life out of sequence and revisits different times repeatedly. He also has encounters with the Tralfamadorians. This exploration of the human condition mixed with the fantastical struck a cord with readers, giving Vonnegut his first best-selling novel.

Emerging a new literary voice, Kurt Vonnegut became known for his unusual writing style—long sentences and little punctuation—as well as his humanist point of view.

He continued writing short stories and novels, including Breakfast of Champions (1973), Jailbird (1979), and Deadeye Dick (1982). Vonnegut even made himself the subject of Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage (1981).

Despite his success, Kurt Vonnegut wrestled with his own personal demons. Having struggled with depression on and off for years, he attempted to take his own life in 1984. Whatever challenges he faced personally, Vonnegut became a literary icon with a devoted following. He counted writers such as Joseph Heller, another WWII veteran, as his friends. His last novel was Timequake (1997), which became a best seller despite receiving mixed reviews. Kurt Vonnegut chose to spend his later years working on nonfiction. His last book was A Man Without a Country, a collection of biographical essays. In it, he expressed his views on politics and art as well as shed more light on his own life.

Kurt Vonnegut died on April 11, 2007, at the age of 84, as a result of head injuries sustained in a fall at his home in New York a few weeks earlier. He was survived by his second wife, photographer Jill Krementz, their adopted daughter, Lily, and six children from his first marriage. 

vonnegut's "Soldier's tale"

By Professor Harry James Cargas

The story of Eddie Slovik is the story of a man who didn’t count. Anyone familiar with the writings of Kurt Vonnegut will understand what attracted him to this person: his littleness, his dismal life, his tragic death.

As Vonnegut suggests in all of his writings, everyone counts, everyone matters. He would disagree, I think, with Aristotle’s requirement that the hero of a tragedy must fall from a high place. Slovik is a real life character who could have been the protagonist in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. Slovik mattered because he was.

The male character in L’Histoire du soldat was a petty criminal, a loser. Over a six-month period he embezzled $59.60 from a drug store and went to prison where no one visited him. This made him ineligible for military service during World War II. But, by the time he was 22, married, and had straightened his life out, the Army “overlooked” his early past and drafted him.

In less than a year he was in the front lines in one of the most vicious confrontations of the conflict. He deserted, surrendered to authorities, was tried and sentenced to death. There were 40,000 other deserters during the war; 49 were sentenced to death. Only Slovik was executed (under Dwight Eisenhower’s orders).

He died bravely; he knew what he was facing. It seems that the uncertainties of combat were what frightened him. As Vonnegut shows here — with the music of Igor Stravinsky, one of the major figures of 20th century artists — this is a tragic story, tragic for an individual, tragic for our world.

Synopsis

 

An American Soldier's Tale

The story of Eddie Slovik. Over a six month period he embezzled $59.50 from a drug store and went to prison where no one visited him. This made him ineligible for military service during World War II. But, by the time he was 22, married, and had straightened his life out, the Army “overlooked” his early past and drafted him.

In less than a year, he was in the front lines in one of the most vicious confrontations of the conflict. He deserted, surrendered to authorities, was tried and sentenced to death. There were 40,000 other deserters during the war; 49 were sentenced to death. Only Slovik was executed (under Dwight Eisenhower’s orders).

A Fiddler's Tale

A woman jazz fiddle player is seduced into commercialism by the Devil, a record producer named Bubba Z. Beals. The Fiddler 's life becomes miserable without her true creativity. A man whose love can redeem her, is thrown into a coma by Bubba. The Fiddler can save him -- and open the possibility of her own redemption -- only by breaking the Devil's commercial hold and creating music of genuine beauty in a pivotal series of three dances.

 

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Roger Guenveur Smith

Soloist

Roger Guenveur Smith adapted his Obie Award-winning solo performance of  A Huey P. Newton Story into a Peabody Award-winning telefilm. Inside the Creole Mafia, a "not too dark comedy", created and performed with Mark Broyard, was cited by the L.A. Weekly as Production of the Year for both its premiere and revival runs. Mr. Smith's newest solo, the acclaimed Rodney King, returns to Los Angeles this summer for the Grand Performances series downtown after an international tour. For the 2015 season, he and his longtime collaborator, composer Marc Anthony Thompson, have been commissioned by San Diego's Old Globe Theater to present Five Hundred Lives Per Mile, inspired by the construction of the Panama Canal and its human costs.

 
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Kevin Reich

Private Eddie Slovik

Kevin is thrilled to make his LBO debut. He is a Chicago native, and resident of New York City. New York: Charles Mee's Summertime and Wintertime, Spoon River Anthology, and Wizard of Oz directed by Jeremy Bloom. Chicago: Tattoo Girl; The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?; bobrauschenbergamerica; The Insect Play; Marisol and Young Americans directed by David Kersnar. B.A., Northwestern University's School of Communication.
 
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Tony Abatemarco

General

Co-Artistic Director, Skylight Theatre Company.  Awards: Ovation (Lead Performance), LA Weekly (multiple), & 3x LA Drama Critics’ Nominee (lead), most recently for: Rothko in Red at ICT, Long Beach.  Member  Antaeus.  Director: Regional & Broadway (Julie Harris in Lucifer’s Child) & London West End.  Film actor: Beverly Hills Ninja 2, Sleeping with the Enemy, etc.  TV Guest:  The L Word, E.R., Frasier, etc. 4 Nat’l commercials currently running. Teacher: USC & SMC Emeritus College.  Playwright (recent): Beautified, world premiere at Skylight Theatre, 2012.

 
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Mark Bringelson

Military Policeman

At Chicago Opera Theatre: Maria de Buenos Aires. At Long Beach Opera: Van Gogh/ Tell-tale Heart, Maria de Buenos Aires, The Difficulty Of Crossing A Field, Good Soldier Schweik, Threepenny Opera, Emperor of Atlantis, Orpheus and Euridice, etc. At Summerscape Fest New York: Les Deux Aveugles, Ba Ta Clan, Tulipitan. At Old Globe San Diego: Pump Boys and Dinettes. At Center Theatre Group Los Angeles: Nutcracker. At Redcat: Last Resort. Major Film Roles include: Heathers, Soldier, Lawnmower Man, Austin Powers, Clean Slate, Airheads, and Jim Jarmusch's cult western, Dead Man, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.

 
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Kristof Van Grysperre

Conductor

Kristof Van Grysperre, a native of Belgium, hailed by the Orange County Register as “gifted and stylistically impeccable" and as "a conductor with pugilistic power and sensitivity,” has an international career as conductor, pianist, chamber musician and vocal coach. He is the new associate conductor, chorus master and artistic administrator at Long Beach Opera. With a repertoire of over forty operas Van Grysperre conducted performances for Opera Pacific, Baltimore Opera Studio, Intimate Opera Company, SongFest and USC Opera. He collaborated with leading instrumentalists and singers, such as Maria Newman, Philip Webb and Susan Mohini Kane, with whom he forms the duo Kristof & Kane.

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David Schweizer

Stage Director

David Schweizer emerged from Yale to make his NY debut at the age of 24 at Lincoln Center with Trolius and Cressida. His extensive work in Southern California includes world premieres at the Geffin Playhouse, Mark Taper Forum and with companies like Actor’s Gang and his own Modern Artists. Notable opera work: Britten’s Albert Herring (Gotham Opera), Hartke’s The Greater Good (Glimmerglass Festival), Bennett’s The Mines of Sulphur (NYC Opera), Verdi’s Giovanna D’Arco (COT), Ullmann’s The Emperor of Atlantis (Boston Lyric Opera). With LBO: Ades’ Powder Her Face, Purcell’s La Indian Queen, Vivaldi’s Montezuma, among others. Upcoming, the world premiere of Beth Henley’s Laugh and Frank Martin’s Le Vin Herbe.
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Danila Korogodsky

Set Designer

Born in St.Petersburg, Russia. Graduated from St. Petersburg Theater Arts Academy, and worked as a resident designer at the Leningrad Theater for Young Spectators. Designed over 80 productions for various companies. Since 1989 he has worked in the US as a stage designer and professor. He has designed over 200 productions in the US and around the world including Chicago Lyric Opera, Opera Bielefeld, Opera Dessau, Opera Nantes, Pittsburgh Opera, Spoleto Festival USA, NYC Japan Society, Noise Within, Actors Gang, Pittsburgh Playhouse, Minneapolis Children Company, and ACT San Francisco. He currently teaches Set Design at CSULB.