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CLIPS FROM RECENT

SORREL HAYS OPERAS

Please enjoy this video that includes several short clips from a variety of Sorrel Hays' opera works.

Many of these works are represented below in greater detail.

THE BEE OPERA

The Bee Opera, a two act comic pocket opera,  was premiered at Medicine Show Theater, New York City, October, 2003, with Peter Szep conducting, and Beth Griffith as Countersue Bee and Queen Elizabeth I. Early versions were performed during 2002-2003 at Catskills Livingston Art Center and New Music Indaba National Festival at Grahamstown, South Africa. With texts by Sorrel Hays, Denise Duhamel, Gertrude Stein, Eamon Grennan and Maureen Seaton, The Bee Opera is a ballad opera of arias, choruses, blues, extended vocal techniques in a kind of bee language, and girl duos and trios out of 1950s American pop culture. It takes place in a bee colony TV studio, with worker bees on strike, and various queens vying for the title of Queen Bee for Life- among them Queen Elizabeth I, Catherine the Great, African Rain Queen and Queen of the Blues.

“Inventive, sassy, totally original night of music. Wittily contrapuntal, and utterly postmodernist, in the sense that it blended and pirated and hijacked and hybridised all manner of musical manners and mannerisms, busily mingling and bustling like -- well, very busy bees.
 

Hays’ uses of percussion, the array of clicks and buzzes and clocks and thunks; text-spotting, the buzz on puckish Shakespeare,the Stein-bee-ings, contributed to the general tingling and vibrancy and chuckling wit. 
 

It is a very complicated piece, both verbally and sonically, considering which they were stunning singers and players-- engaged, enjoying themselves, and skilled.
 

I also loved the bee-tee-vee. My cats sit at the glass doors to the deck watching dozens of varieties of birds feeding outside, a few feet away. The cat tails swish and thunk; little moans and growls emit; an occasional scream...it's cat-tv, like the writhing bees. At the beginning, while the calamitous state of hive/tribe futures is discussed, it sometimes seemed like reality TV, or American Idol, with the contestants preparing to sing and strut their winning stuff, the ego parade, the jostling for attention, if not fame.
 

That's what I mean about postmodern. The audience could hear, imagine, add images and allusions. The "opera" contexts: the number arias, patter-song, ensemble, duo, recit, set piece sense of it all-- a modern ballad opera, with its political, musical, and metaphorical ironies, imitations, deviations, perversities. And over all, a freshness and sweetness and lightness and pure fun that came through from Hays’ wonderful, weirdly happy musical mind.”
   11/12/03  Dr. Elizabeth Wood

 
 

THE GLASS WOMAN

The Chattanooga Opera commissioned  Sorrel Hays to write The Glass Woman, which was produced in New York in 1989 and 1993 as one of Opera America’s Opera for the Nineties and Beyond.

"Sorrel Hays' opera "The Glass Woman" portrays six decades in the life of Anna Safley Houston, an antique dealer whose life's collection of precious glass objects is displayed in a museum in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Hays wrote the lyrics along with Sally Ordway, and the text-setting is so naturally done that I didn't think about it until afterwards... "Glass Woman" has much in common..with a number of American operas: its theme of a young woman dreaming about a world outside her rural background, its inventive grounding of musical form in rural hymnody and folk song, its confrontation between an embittered woman and society. ..It's high time a work in that vein was written by a woman, and the future of this one is worth keeping an ear out for."
Kyle Gann   Village Voice    8/22/89

BELLA, THE OPERA

BELLA is a two act opera developed by librettist Elizabeth Wood and Hays around the life and times of Bella Abzug, fiery congresswoman from New York, and her work with activist leaders Shirley Chishom, Betty Friedan and Patsy Mink. In the early 1950s young lawyer Bella went to Mississippi to defend the rights of a black man sentenced to death for supposed rape of a white woman. As a Jewish woman defending an African American, she was denied a place to sleep, so she slept in a railway station; weeks later she lost the baby she was carrying. Thus began her life long career defending the rights of the disenfranchised. She came onto the world stage as an organizer for women’s rights with her motto: equality for one is equality for all. Her flamboyant hats became her trademark; a female lawyer in a profession dominated by males, she wore hats and gloves so that she would be recognized as a professional.  With a supportive husband Martin at her back, she confronted two enemies- Mayor Ed Koch and President Richard Nixon- in a climate that was a struggle for female politicians to find equal footing in a male dominated arena.

 
 

MAPPING VENUS

The 1998 two act opera Mapping Venus, with principal text by Gertrude Stein, is based on the text-sound Hörspiel opera Dream in Her Mind which premiered at Westdeutscher Rundfunk Cologne in 1995. Dream in Her Mind uses an imaginary meeting of Gertrude Stein as chief Cartographer, Simone de Beauvoir, Hildegard, Jessamyn West and others on Venus to explore landscapes of personal consciousness by mapping the planet with women’s names. Hays has received eight commissions from German broadcasting since 1983, to compose and direct her work in productions for the experimental arm of the WDR Hörspiel department in Cologne. Given broad access to studios and technical assistance at the Cologne facilties, Hays developed remarkable combinations of vocal music with text and sound effect collage, that propelled her into theatrical stage works of electroacoustic opera such as Mapping Venus.

  • La Loca Sonoñdo
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  • Sorrel Hays
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  • Ecstatic Plain
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  • Sorrel Hays
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OUR GIRAFFE

Our Giraffe is a three act historical fable about the giraffe given by the Pasha of Egypt to King Charles of France in the early 19th century. Librettist Charles Flowers wove the story as a sometimes comedic, sometimes tragic commentary on life of those times-  the belief in ultimate answers through science, the fascination for the exotic in animals and in people, the fear of the unknown. The story is told mainly through the voice of Zarafa’s (the giraffe) keeper Ahmed, a  handsome Nubian. He attracts Parisian women, and his chief love Minette becomes a friend to Zarafa-- who, yes, does sing, although in operatic giraffia. The opera is woven around the saga of Zarafa and Ahmed’s journey over land and sea to reach Paris from Africa, and their lifelong bond. Ahmed slept on a high platform beside Zarafa every night of her long life in France. The opera was begun in 2007 and was performed in scene excerpts by New York City Opera cast and orchestra at the annual VOX Showcase of New American Opera May 10, 2008.

 

THE POLITICS OF CONTEMPORARY OPERA- Karen Alenier at www.scene4.com

..certain aspects of numerous works made this writer choose the following operas for her Favorites List: Our Giraffe (for the quirky vocalizations of Zarafa and the pleasing lyrical music accented by the harp...

Beth Griffith as Zarafa the giraffe.

  • Runaway
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  • Sorrel Hays
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Toowhopera

Toowhopera 2009, a comic fantasy cantatera, was premiered in 2009 as a commission of the Georgia Music Teachers Association. For seven soloists and nine instrumentalists, the opera is a whimsy on love in space flight, proprietary air rights and erotic flights of loneliness and lust.

  • TOOWHOPERA Cantatera
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  • Sorrel Hays
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  • Space Mad
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  • Sorrel Hays
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