This is the eighth in an ongoing series of blog posts by the people behind the return of A Fleeting Animal in September, 2015.

Yesterday morning, fourteen months of copying A Fleeting Animal — turning my hand-written score into a music software document — came to an end. I must say I feel a sense of accomplishment, even though, as the title says, this is only the end of the first stage of the process. What was more important for me to notice was how much I am still moved by this piece, almost fifteen years after seeing it for the final time on stage. The end of the first act made me take a deep breath because it was so powerful. Tommy’s death and Grace’s descent into madness at the end of the opera brought me to tears multiple times. I don’t know why this is, but I have an idea.

Earlier this week filmmaker Susan Bettmann, who made the outstanding documentary about pianist Michael Arnowitt, Beyond 88 Keys, came with her crew to interview me. She is making a film about the revival of A Fleeting Animal and all of us at Right Here Productions are thrilled that this will give people an inside look at the process. During our interview I spoke about how much the story, taken from David Budbill’s Judevine, meant to me. It had everything I was looking for in writing an opera: a powerful love story, fascinating and wonderful characters, and a social context that spoke to many of the issues faced by the characters. Those problems are still with us today: the difficulties returning veterans face, mental health issues, rural poverty, racism. The characters, flawed as they (and we) are, bring out our sympathy. We are moved by their stories and troubles that are both specific to Vermont and universal at the same time. It’s this combination of living, breathing characters and the social realities they represent that tapped into a deep well of emotion in me just waiting to be drawn up and turned into music. The fact that the work still moves me so strongly tells me I must have done something right.

But I’m not finished yet. I have learned a great deal about composing in the last 15 years. This has allowed me to see places where I can make the music even more powerful and accessible. The revision process is Stage Two and it begins Monday!


Back to the A Fleeting Animal.