A Dramatic Recital for Four Singers

Music by Daron Hagen  |  Words by Paul Muldoon


The story told by the opera concerns itself with the 1904 Feis Ceoil competition recital on 27 August 1904 in the Antient Concert Rooms in Dublin, Ireland. Legend has it that John McCormack and James Joyce competed that night in the Tenor singing competition. There is no documentary evidence of this; however, Joyce did win the Bronz Medal that year (it is said that he did not agree with the stipulation that competitors demonstrate their musicianship by doing some sight-reading, and left the stage). Many believe that it was McCormack's 1903 win of the Gold Medal that launched his career.

For the purpose of telling a story about the collision of words, music, performance, sex, death, and nationalism, the authors chose five traditional ballads that Joyce and McCormack may have performed that evening, and used them as the musical and textual foundation upon which the piece is built. Consequently, throughout the recital, the characters shift between "performance mode" and the expression of their internal thoughts.

Premiere Production

staged workshop
17 April 2005
The Princeton Atelier / Borromeo String Quartet /Daron Hagen
McCarter Theater
Princeton, NJ

concert broadcast premiere
16 June 2007
Bloomsday on Broadway XXVI
Peter Sharp Theater
Symphony Space, NYC

staged premiere
6 November 2007
The Phoenix Players
The Century Association, NYC

Running Time

64 minutes, with no intermission


  • James Joyce (lyric baritone)
  • John McCormack (tenor)
  • May Joyce (mezzo-soprano)
  • Nora Barnacle (soprano)