Premiere City: Vienna
Premiere Venue: Home of Christine Reiter, soprano
Premiere Date: 18 Feb 2019
Premiere Performer / Ensemble / Presenter: Christine Reiter, soprano Kei Endo, piano
Here are four very short and snappy songs based on some pithy and clever poems by Gevorg Emin, an Armenian poet whose son, Artashes, I met while working on my opera, The Illuminator, in March of 2017 in Yerevan. Artashes sent me the poems, translated into English, and has given me permission to use them in song settings. The poems are, as I say, clever and evocative, and quite political. They all speak of ordinary things in odd ways. I love them! #1 is about trees budding in early spring - the poem warning them that it is too early, frost is on the way, and they are being cruelly fooled - a warning not to listen to political promises? #2 speaks of a firefly, stupidly showing off its location to predators - a warning to idealistic candidates? #3 speaks for itself, the politician in his coffin looking dignified for perhaps the first time. #4 tells of a monkey trapped when he reaches into a cage to get a jar of sugar water. He can't get it out, and can't let go, so he is trapped. The songs are short, like the poems, spiky in their harmonies, dissonant, even atonal, but I have tried to keep the vocal line as clear and easy as possible, giving clues and cues in the piano accompaniment. My wife, Andrea, has been learning them too. She curses me, but says she loves them!
3. Political Funeral
4. We Never Discuss Trapping Monkeys