the fox and the pomegranate

chamber opera (2011) for soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, and chamber orchestra  |  libretto by daniel j. kushner

about

The Fox and the Pomegranate, an ongoing collaboration with librettist Daniel J. Kushner, is an allegorical opera about the multifaceted nature of love, the fluidity of sexual identity and gender roles, and the nuances of infidelity.  The subject – a timeless, parable-like tale of love yearned for and mystery sought – is set in a surrealistic, forested landscape inhabited by a pair of lovers and a vulpine outlier.  Nate, a gender-fluid individual, must choose between familiar intimacy (a ritual involving face-painting with the juice of a pomegranate) with a past lover called Meg or a new tryst with an enigmatic young man in a fox mask named Aril.

Sarah Visnov as Meg, background; Kathleen Kane and Jacob James as Nate and Aril, foreground.  Pellicciotti Prize performance, Crane Opera Ensemble, 2014.

Sarah Visnov as Meg, background; Kathleen Kane and Jacob James as Nate and Aril, foreground.  Pellicciotti Prize performance, Crane Opera Ensemble, 2014.

Begun in 2011, The Fox and the Pomegranate is designed to be an opera mainly of questions rather than answers; what those questions are depends on the life experiences of the viewer.  To facilitate this, librettist/creator Daniel J. Kushner has imagined an intimate cast of characters whose complex interactions and individual choices resonate with the most basic of human empathy.  Love, fear, and denial are palpable in this fruited forest grove.

Meg, the only “traditional” gender role in the opera, is inflexible and staid in her approach to romance, whereas the gender-transitioning Nate desires to experience the full range of love’s mysteries.  Nate leaves Meg behind to discover another love, and Nate’s gender fluctuation seems at first to aid in his/her adaptability. Finally there is the beguiling Aril, a symbol of lust’s entrancement.  Even in the guise of a fox, Aril’s ability to easily seduce Nate demonstrates the extent of Nate’s willingness for sexual discovery.

Ultimately, Nate questions whether his/her departure from Meg is an mistake; perhaps the dedicated affections of Meg filled a greater need than Nate can achieve through his/her new-found freedom.  Can Nate rejoin Meg in the grove, or will Nate’s time with Aril have forever altered his relationship with Meg?

Jeni Houser as Meg with Amanda Robie as Nate in a reading at Fort Worth Opera in 2013.

Jeni Houser as Meg with Amanda Robie as Nate in a reading at Fort Worth Opera in 2013.

productions

Scenes from The Fox and the Pomegranate have been shown or workshopped at New York University (2012), the John Duffy Composers Institute (2012), and at Fort Worth Opera’s inaugural Frontiers showcase (2013).  Upon winning the 2014 Pellicciotti Opera Composition Prize, the entirety of Act One was fully produced by the Crane Opera Ensemble at SUNY Potsdam's Crane School of Music in November of 2014.

 

Below: excerpts from the November 2014 performance at SUNY Potsdam's Crane School of music, featuring Sarah Visnov as Meg, Kathleen Kane as Nate, and Jacob James as Aril.

 

Scenes from Act One were first heard with a chamber orchestra in May of 2012 at New York University's Provincetown Theater.  Below is the love duet, Tether, sung by Jenny Ribeiro (as Meg) and Jocelyne O'Toole (as Nate).

 

The very first aria written was Meg's "Ill, Is It?"  Soprano Jenny Ribeiro gave a performance (below) of the aria on a Composer's Voice concert in January of 2012 at Jan Hus Church on New York's Upper East Side.

The ideal eventual staging of this work imagines the audience standing and sitting amongst the forest grove, with no clear delineation between the stage and audience.  The actors move amidst the audience members, and the orchestra might surround the audience in a 360-degree configuration.