Poet's Aria from Tight-Rope
for baritone (original) or tenor and piano / from Scene I of Tight-Rope (1985)

3 min.

Standalone premiere
1 November 1998
Gabriel Alfieri, baritone / Richard Cumming, piano
The American Voice: A Recital of American Music
Reisinger Concert Hall, Sarah Lawrence College
Bronxville, NY

First performances
University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and Department of Theatre and Drama
Carol Rennebohm Theater, Music Hall
5-26 October 1985
Luther Dance: John Reardon/Peter Halverson
Music Director, Karlos Moser

Libretto by Henry Butler

Baritone: B♭2 – G4Tenor: C#3 – B♭4

Commissioned by the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music for the celebration of its 90th Anniversary and the opening of its newly renovated Music Hall

Biscardi Music Press tenor: No. B48-85-1a; baritone: No. B48-85-1b
Classical Vocal Reprints No. CVR3619; baritone: No. CVR3620
Baritone: Print / Digital
Tenor: Print / Digital
Theodore Font Musical Literature, Inc.

The Story

The legend of Luther Dane, poet and cult hero, enhanced by his mysterious disappearance and presumed death, is now the subject of a film biography. On the first day of shooting, work is disrupted when the actor portraying Dane angrily insists that his lines could not be the words of the man whose life and poetry he so admires.

Left alone to sort out his feelings, the Actor is suddenly face-to-face with Luther Dane, very much alive, an unsuspected witness to the filming. Intrigued by the Actor's concern for integrity in his portrayal, the poet offers to piece together the not so well-known story of his life and "death."

Through Dane's memories and actual encounters, the Actor experiences the poet's explosive career, the women and men (a brash interviewer; his seductive manager; Sara, his first love; Kathryn, a mature love; two critics - one nonsensical, the other serious; and Willie, an alcoholic) who shaped his life, and his powerful influence when he spoke to his dedicated followers. Most important, the Actor learns the truth about Dane's escape from an unbearable public image.

When the poet abruptly takes leave of him, the Actor begins to find the words and images he must use if he is to portray with honesty the life of Luther Dane . . .

Time: The present.

"Poet's Aria:" End of Scene I. The sound stage of a film studio

Luther Dane:

I did not intend to be a poet,
no one, no one does,
the title has no meaning, and the profession less.
Day after day,
the words and pictures made me drunk,
tumbling through my head,
demanding that I give them order,
and that order is called poetry!

I found a voice to comfort me, as no one could,
I found an ear that heard me,
no matter how corrupt or frightened I might be.
And most wonderful, I found a way
to praise the utter beauty of everything I saw:
the faces, the colors of the air,
everything that grows and reaches for the sun,
the miracles of what the heart can feel,
the very fact that we are alive at all.
Oh, I was young, that too was miraculous,
and silence was impossible . . .
I wrote my praise and sang it in the streets!

For a moment, Dane is caught in the fire of his memory.

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