Available: spring 2020

Premiere: APRIL 2020, Chicago College of Performing Arts



A traditional theatrical venue is perfectly fine, but productions in bars, restaurants, and banquet halls is preferable.

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 9-10 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 inserts 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 is an award-winning composer, librettist, stage director, conductor, collaborative pianist, and essayist. He is the recipient of the 2015 American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Academy Award for “the artist who has achieved his singular voice.” His music is performed worldwide—from the Ullens Center in Beijing to the Louvre in Paris, the South Bank in London to Lincoln Center in New York City, from Suntory Hall in Tokyo to McCaw Hall in Seattle. Commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, Seattle Opera, and The Philadelphia Orchestra, among many others, his catalogue includes nine operas, five symphonies, twelve concerti, dozens of instrumental works, and over 300 art songs and cycles. A member of the Artist Faculty at the Chicago College of the Performing Arts and Chair of the Composition Faculty of the Wintergreen Music Festival and Academy, he has taught at Bard College, the Curtis Institute of Music, and the Princeton Atelier. He has served as president of the Lotte Lehmann Foundation, and artistic director of the Seasons Music Festival Academy in Washington, conducted the cast recordings of several of his operas, and stage directed the premieres of others. Twice a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow at Bellagio, he has received the Guggenheim Fellowship, the Kennedy Center Friedheim Prize, the ASCAP-Nissim, Barlow Endowment, and Columbia University Bearns Prize. A Lifetime Member of the Corporation of Yaddo, he is a graduate of Curtis and Juilliard, and now lives in Rhinebeck, New York with his wife and two sons.



Formed in 2017 by artistic director Daron Hagen and named after Orson Welles' Mercury Theater, the New Mercury Collective exists to create and sustain a laboratory for artistic exploration, creative risk-taking, and performance in which its members can collaborate on the creation and performance of post-genre works combining theater, music, and emerging technology for audiences of all types underpinned by a fierce committment to social justice and civic activism. NMC's members bring a staggering breadth of practical experience, training, and expertise to the development of Orson Rehearsed, the collective's first project, was premiered in September 2018 by the Chicago College of Performing Arts with the collaboration of the Fifth House Ensemble. For more information, click here.

2018 Opera Demo Reel

The Chicago College of Performing Arts presents ORSON REHEARSED, debuting in September 2018 at the Studebaker Theater in Chicago. A New Mercury Collective production conceived, composed, and directed by Daron Hagen starring Robert Orth, Robert Frankenberry, and Omar Mulero, and featuring the Fifth House Ensemble. More information at