Hi! David Lang here. I am very excited that today is the world premiere CD release of my opera the difficulty of crossing a field. It is my most favorite piece that I have ever written, ever. I mean it. I am so happy about this CD.
And you can click here to listen to a podcast about it!
the difficulty of crossing a field was commissioned not by an opera company but by a theater — for many years I was composer in residence at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, and their Artistic Director, Carey Perloff, commissioned me to do a project with the legendary playwright Mac Wellman. Mac came up with the idea of adapting a tiny short story by the 19th century writer Ambrose Bierce and I had the idea of writing a piece that would be a stylistically fluid hybrid of sung text, spoken text, stage actors, actor / singers, singer / actors and opera singers. The story is supernatural and strange and I wanted the music to be hard to pin down as well.
The original story is simple enough — a slave owner in the pre-civil war American South walks across his field and disappears, in plain view of his family, his neighbors and his slaves. That is pretty much it. What Mac did to the story was tease out, Rashomon-like, the contradictory relationships between the man and everyone around him. Everyone has his or her own sharp view of what that disappearance means, of why it had to happen, and of what will happen now that there is a “hole” where a man used to be. No one knows the truth, and maybe there is no truth. But you definitely start to sense that the cosmos may be punishing this man for something — slavery, maybe? The slaves are the only people in the opera who seem to have their act together. And they see everything.
The CD stars Jay O. Sanders as the plantation owning Mr. Williamson; Beverly O’Regan Thiele as the unhinged Mrs. Williamson; Laquita Mitchell as the most vocal slave, Virginia Creeper; Nicole Mitchell as the Old Woman; Isaiah Robinson as the clueless Boy Sam; Cree Carrico as the Williamson Girl, the planter’s very confused daughter; Daniel Zippi as Armour Wren, the planter next door; Christopher Burchett as Andrew, Mr. Williamson’s brother; Mari-yan Pringle, Martin Bakari, Jorell Williams, and Brandon Coleman round out the slave chorus; the music is played by the Harlem String Quartet, conducted by Douglas Kinney Frost and directed by Bob McGrath.
Again, I can’t believe that we got the chance to make this amazing CD – I really feel like I am going to burst with happiness. I really hope you like it. In fact, I really want to know if you liked it — after you hear it please feel free to let me know.