This is the fifth in an ongoing series of blog posts by the people behind the return of A Fleeting Animal in September, 2015.
A great deal has happened since our last post. First, on November 12, the respected Vermont weekly paper Seven Days gave us a full page article about the new production of A Fleeting Animal. Read it here: http://www.sevendaysvt.com/vermont/david-budbill-and-erik-nielsen-to-reprise-a-fleeting-animal-opera/Content?oid=2472108 . Then on November 15 we were notified that our application to the Northeast Kingdom Fund of the Vermont Community Foundation was successful and we were awarded $2000. We also have been given a $5000 challenge by a generous donor that we are close to 50% toward matching. My Hatchfund campaign is nearing the halfway point and is very close to 50% of its goal. Go to http://www.hatchfund.org/project/revising_a_fleeting_animal to donate. Finally, on November 23 we got another wonderful piece of early publicity in an article that appeared in the Sunday edition of the Barre-Montpelier Times-Argus and Rutland Herald written by Jim Lowe, their arts editor. Here it is:
Article published Nov 23, 2014
The Lowe Down: Another tale of two operas
There’s good news about opera in Vermont and there’s bad news. First, the bad
The Green Mountain Opera Festival will not present a 2015 season, it announced
last week. For the last nine years, the regional professional opera company has
been producing excellent performances of traditional operas at the Barre Opera
House and less traditional works in Warren and Waitsfield. The announcement,
however did not preclude future seasons. More about that later.
Now, for the good news.
“A Fleeting Animal: The Judevine Opera” is returning. The brilliant and heartwrenching
creation of Brookfield composer Erik Nielsen and Wolcott poet David
Budbill, the full-fledged opera set in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, premièred to
critical acclaim in 2000 — but for only six performances, in Montpelier,
Vergennes and Randolph.
The libretto, culled from Budbill’s “Judevine: The Complete Judevine Poems,”
further develops characters from the hit 1980s Vermont play “Judevine,” created
by Budbill and the late director Robert Ringer. The opera follows the ill-fated
couple, Tommy, a Vietnam vet with severe PTSD, and Grace, a 30-something
single mother on welfare.
Not only is the tale authentic, it is riveting and deeply tragic — and opera does it
Although “A Fleeting Animal” is truly a Vermont opera, it is decidedly not a folk,
pop or rock opera. Nielsen does incorporate French-Canadian folk and blues
styles, but the music is contemporary classical. Nielsen successfully managed to
create a score that is at once very accessible and deeply unsettling — perhaps
his finest work.
This is what contemporary opera can be — and we Vermonters can claim it as
In order to remount “A Fleeting Animal,” Nielsen and Budbill have created an
organization, Right Here Productions, to raise the estimated $60,000 cost of the
production. (It’s under the financial umbrella of Montpelier’s Monteverdi Music
School, where tax-deductible contributions can be made and information can be
found at monteverdimusic.org.)
Nov 23, 2014 The Lowe Down: Another tale of two operas
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Anne Decker, Waterbury Center resident and artistic director of TURNmusic, did
an expert job conducting the première and will return for the new production.
Montreal baritone Simon Chaussé has signed on to reprise his role of Antoine,
the French-Canadian logger who narrates. (Actor Rusty DeWees originated the
role in the play and adapted it into his touring show “The Logger.”)
Performances are scheduled for the Barre Opera House (Sept. 11), Elley-Long
Music Center in Colchester (Sept. 12), Hardwick Town (Sept. 15), Woodstock
Town Hall Theater (Sept. 18), Vergennes Opera House (Sept. 19) and Chandler
Music Hall in Randolph (Sept. 20).
Green Mountain Opera Festival might find more success with nontraditional
operas like this. For the past two seasons, its Emerging Artists Program
presented chamber versions of 20th-century operas by Benjamin Britten. Not
only were the productions outstanding, they were critical and popular successes
— with audiences demanding more.
GMOF seemed to get in trouble with its major productions, which did not sell out
and cost a fortune. Perhaps the company could solely present the Emerging
Artists program in more intimate — and decidedly less costly — operas.
Addison composer Jorge Martín’s brilliant “Before Night Falls,” premièred by the
Fort Worth Opera in 2010 and released commercially on Albany Records, has
been adapted into a 10-instrument version and is just the type of opera GMOF
could present. The tragic story of Cuban writer Reinaldo Areanas, it is decidedly
contemporary yet easily accessible. In fact, it’s riveting.
Vermont opera continues to have its woes, but it also continues to thrive.
Jim Lowe is music critic and arts editor of The Times Argus and Rutland Herald,
and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or
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As you can see from the article, our dates and venues are now set as well. So great things are happening, all with ten months until the production hits the stage. Remember, to make a tax-deductible donation to the production you can send it to
Monteverdi Music School, P.O. Box 1062 Montpelier, VT 05601-1062
Please put A Fleeting Animal in your check’s memo.
Or if you’d prefer to make a secure contribution online, go to:
Please put A Fleeting Animal in the “purpose” field.
Back to the A Fleeting Animal.
- Reflections on A Fleeting Animal, the Nielsen-Budbill Vermont Opera by Linda Henzel April 29, 2015
- STAGE ONE COMPLETED! February 20, 2015
- A Reflection by Margaret Ramsdell February 6, 2015
- An End-of-year update December 16, 2014
- Update: wonderful progress on several fronts! November 25, 2014
- My Hatch Fund Campaign November 3, 2014
- A personal recollection by Leane Garland October 6, 2014
- What I Did to Rewrite the Play for the Opera by David Budbill September 17, 2014
- A Fleeting Animal Returns! September 1, 2014