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Dec 6, 2013 - Dec 8, 2013

The Italian Lesson & The Stronger

Raphael Benavides and The Poet's Den Theater and Gallery proudly present soprano and guest curator, Darynn Zimmer, in two English language operatic miniatures in this beautiful proscenium theater, tucked away in a trending neighborhood. Both works have not been performed in New York for more than twenty years.

In 1981, Lee Hoiby (1026-2011), a composer of operas and songs that balance unabashed lyricism and careful craftsmanship, set The Italian Lesson, based on Ruth Draper's famous monologue about the lovable, super multitasking lady of means, Mrs. Clancy. Ruth Draper is an iconic figure in the world of acting, having essentially created the monologist's genre. In 1952, Hugo Weisgall wrote The Stronger, based on the Strindberg play of the same title. It was commissioned by, and dedicated to Lucille Lortel.


The Stronger is a drama of consummate bitchery. Darynn Zimmer...an agile lyric soprano...sang the demanding role of Estelle....By the time she....trilled a sugary ‘Merry Christmas,’ she’d exploded every weapon in her arsenal..." (Westport News)

Hugo Weisgall was born on October 13, 1912, in Eibenschutz, Moravia (now Ivancice, Bohemia). At the age of eight, Weisgall immigrated to the United States with his family. He studied at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore, Maryland and at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Later, Weisgall earned a Ph.D. in German literature at Johns Hopkins University. During World Wat II, Weisgall was assigned to General S. Patton as an assistant military attache. From 1949 to 1951, Weisgall was the director of the Baltimore Institute of Musical Arts. He later became a professor at Queens College, the Julliard School, and the Jewish Theological Seminary, all located in New York City. In 1952, he founded the Hill Top Opera Company.

Weisgall was raised in a family of several generations of cantors. Throughout his life, he would maintain an interest in both sacred and secular Jewish music. In 1992, Weisgall was appointed by the Friends of the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary to compose a song cycle, Psalm of the Instant Dove, commemorating the 500th anniversary of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain.

Weisgall is best known as a composer for opera and vocal music; although he has also composed ballets, chamber music, and choral works. Among his most famous works is his most elaborate opera, Athaliah, and his very popular opera, Six Characters in Search of an Author.

In 1955, he was awarded the Columbia University William Schuman Award. Weisgall died on March 11, 1997, in New York City. (Bio courtesy of the Milken Archive).                  

In these revivals, Ms. Zimmer, will sing both Mrs. Clancy and Estelle, having performed the Weisgall in 1995, directed by Adelaide Bishop, (Estelle in the 1955 New York premiere), at Lucille Lortel's White Barn Theater, in Connecticut. Her partner onstage will be multi-faceted artist and former Dance Theater of Harlem star, Francesca Harper, in the role of Lisa. Zimmer and Harper are reunited here, since their featured roles in the world premiere earlier this year of Zinnias: The Life of Clementine Hunter, directed by Robert Wilson.

The mono and duo-dramas will be performed with piano accompaniment. Ted Taylor, conductor and pianist, and stage director Beth Greenberg, both veterans of The New York City Opera, will guide the productions.


For tickets and further information: www.eastharlempresents.org


Poet's Den Gallery and Theater, 309 East 108th Street, NYC


From: Dec 6, 2013
To: Dec 8, 2013


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