Douglas J. Cuomo's "Arjuna's Dilemma" at Brooklyn Academy of Music's Next Wave Festival
Following its run of preview performances in Purchase, New York last August, Douglas J. Cuomo's chamber opera Arjuna's Dilemma comes to the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Next Wave Festival on November 5 for its long awaited premiere. A fusion of western and eastern musical idioms, the opera takes its libretto from a portion of the ancient Hindu text the Bhagavad Gita, in which the noble Prince Arjuna finds himself in a state of paralyzing confusion on the eve of a civil war and seeks guidance from the divine Krishna.
Scored for female chorus and a chamber ensemble that includes tenor saxophone and tabla player, Arjuna's Dilemma features tenor Tony Boutté in the role of Arjuna while the god Krishna is brought to life by extraordinary vocal improvisations and piercing laments of Hindustani singer Humayun Khan. This musical synthesis of east and west is central to the sound world Cuomo creates as he utilizes North Indian performance styles, melodic structures, odd time signatures and rhythmic patterns alongside western instrumentation, harmonies and forms. Improvisation is common to both musical worlds, with the Indian singer, tabla player and jazz saxophonist each using their respective improvisatory traditions to reach for the ecstatic, the sublime and the terror that make up the emotional world of this work. Donald Rosenberg, music critic of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, had this to say on the commercial recording of Arjuna's Dilemma, released this summer by Innova:
However Arjuna's Dilemma unfolds in the theater, it is a gripping experience on compact disc. The score is a mesmerizing blend of vocal and instrumental possibilities. Arjuna is assigned to a tenor who must negotiate high-lying lines, tender gestures and dramatic points, all the while singing in Sanskrit.
Produced by Music-Theatre Group, directed by Robin Guarino and conducted by Alan Johnson, Arjuna's Dilemma opens at the BAM Next Wave Festival in the Harvey Theater on Wednesday, November 5 at 7:30 PM with follow up performances on Thursday, November 7 and Friday, November 8. Mr. Cuomo also appears in a post show ‘artist talk' on November 7 with Limor Tomer, Adjunct Curator of Performing Arts at the Whitney Museum and Executive Producer for Music Programming at WNYC Radio.
For precise ticketing information, visit www.bam.org.
To learn more on the music of Douglas J. Cuomo, go to www.douglasjcuomo.com.
To read Matthew Gurewitsch's article on Arjuna's Dilemma in the New York Times, go to www.nytimes.com.
To purchase the commercial recording of Arjuna's Dilemma, go to www.innovarecordings.com.
For more information on Music-Theatre Group, visit www.musictheatregroup.org.
Douglas J. Cuomo
Arjuna's Dilemma (2008)
chamber opera in one act
libretto (English, Sanskrit and Hindi) by the composer from the Bhagavad Gita and poetry of Kabir
translation by Dr. Ramananda Prasad
for Indian vocalist, Tenor, 6 or 8 voice female chorus