A traditional theatrical venue is perfectly fine, but productions in bars and restaurants are preferred. The producer can rent the space for the evening, and the audience can buy dinner and witness the opera during coffee and dessert. The cast, of course, is also served dinner in the course of the opera. I envision it being premiered in an Italian restaurant in Little Italy.
9-10 is a dramatic opera for six singers who will perform tonal, yet compositionally sophisticated, stylistically assimilative music accompanied by a pre-recorded accompaniment that emanates from either a boombox or a juke box, unspools in a series of flashbacks, dream-sequences, and flash-forwards. The resulting through-story is a mobius strip rather than a straight line. We meet and get to know six New Yorkers the night before their rendezvous’ with destiny not in a taxicab like their Auden-esque forbears, but in an Italian Restaurant in New York’s Little Italy.
Aaron, a highly successful Manhattan lawyer in his forties, is alienated from the people in his life and the idea of an afterlife. He is estranged from his brothers Victor (an alcoholic veteran serving as a firefighter based in the Engine 55 Firehouse) and Oliver (a tenor appearing in the Metropolitan Opera’s current production of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo.)
Aaron’s secretary Gwen (as close to a spouse as he’ll ever get), Victor’s Japanese wife Kate (a triage nurse), and Oliver’s boyfriend Alex (a blandly careerist opera director) arrange to bring the three brothers together in hopes of a reconciliation on the evening of 10 September 2001—the one year anniversary of their mother’s death.
Over the past thirty years, I have co-written the treatments for my operas with librettists Paul Muldoon, Sandy McClatchy, Gardner McFall, and Barbara Grecki. I have already written several libretti (the final act of New York Stories, and Songs of Madness and Sorrow, and –co-author– A Woman in Morocco) myself. I am looking forward to serving as composer/librettist for this opera, and, down the road, serving as stage director for several productions, to learn its secrets onstage in that manner.
The intertwined strands of the six lives that find their knotting point the night before and a few blocks away from Ground Zero provide an opportunity to explore themes of redemption, loss, forgiveness, fate, and personal reinvention particular to (but certainly not exclusive to) a handful of New Yorkers at the beginning of the 21st century.
I believe that this project represents the culmination of my three decades of development as an opera composer. A distillation of and transformation of my experiences as a New Yorker (I have lived in Manhattan since 1984 and experienced 9-11 firsthand), my aim is for the work to provide for audiences and performers an opportunity to recollect themselves, reconnect with loved ones, and to heal.
Since the score is pre-recorded, it is possible to incorporate electro-acoustic sounds, musique concrete, and pre-recorded acoustic music of all styles. I have already incorporated "pre-records" in A Woman in Morocco, Vera of Las Vegas, and in the revised version of Shining Brow. The score of 9-11 will have six set pieces, each of which highlights an aria for one of the six characters. Each aria will emerge from a "pop ballad" that will begin on the juke box when a character insterts a coin, then flesh out into pop ballads (Aaron), noirish torch music (Gwen), evocative soundscapes (Victor), contemporary Japanese-inspired music (Kate), schmoozy, Korngoldian opera pasticcio (Alex), suave minimalism (Oliver), etc., depending on the character spotlit and the intended characterization. (All of the links are to music and soundscapes by Daron Hagen.)
Daron Hagen has composed nine operas for national companies (Seattle Opera), regional companies (Madison Opera, Kentucky Opera), and college companies (Butler Opera Center, Austin; Moores Opera Center, Houston), and is currently working on two more: Orson, about the last hours of Orson Welles' life, for Fifth House in Chicago, and 9/10, an opera that takes place in a restaurant the night before 9/11, for the Phoenix Ensemble in New York City, to be staged in situ at a restaurant in Little Italy. He has co-written the treatments for all of his operas, and co-written the libretti with Barbara Grecki for two, A Woman in Morocco, and New York Stories.
Information about Hagen's operas may be found here. A detailed biography of Hagen may be found here. A detailed timeline of his career may be found here. The links on this page lead to pages on the comprehensive website devoted to his work.