Désirée: Chamber Opera / Cantata

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A Cantata for Solo Voices, Gospel Choir and Chamber Ensemble
Based on the short story Désirée's Baby by Kate Chopin (1851-1904), with six section adaptation, text and music composed and orchestrated by Malcolm Caluori.  Soprano, Mezzo-soprano and Tenor roles, plus Gospel Choir with soprano, alto, tenor and bass soloists. 

Désirée is currently persuing a commission. Specific details cannot be disclosed at this time. However, if you wish to submit an offer, please contact us here.

Note from Malcolm Caluori:

When, in the late spring of 2007, I first read the poignant and profound short story “Désirée’s Baby” by Kate Chopin (1851-1904), I was struck by its message, in that way that great literature has of carefully carrying one to a final destination via a path that lends stunning context to that destination. Most would likely regard the plantation era tale offhand as a story about race. I would consider this a fairly superficial assessment. “Désirée’s Baby” is a thoroughly human story, filled with passionate human longings, joys, and sorrows.

No question, Chopin’s comment is on how social implications around race irrationally bias our perceptions and—more insidiously—how our beliefs about society’s perceptions can be permitted to outweigh our own judgment and experience. But there is no preaching, no ethical theorizing, and I would be hard-pressed to attempt extrapolating any pithy moral at the story’s conclusion. Amazingly compact with not a word wasted, Chopin merely presents the dramatic narrative, skillfully maneuvering her reader through a brilliantly calculated series of offerings and withholdings that prepare us, at its end, to ourselves raise the pertinent questions to be contemplated. As artists, this indeed is our language. As a music dramatist in search of potential subjects, how could I not be so moved and inspired but to include this universal and ever-timely tale of love and grief on my back burner of works-in-waiting? The preliminary adaptation subsequently developed (included below) has, so far, waited a decade for an opportunity to be realized.

Due to the author’s architecture, the story, in my opinion, would be weakened were it to be “fluffed” into a full-length opera. For the same reason, it becomes apparent that the singers should rather “represent” characters than to “portray” them, and that dramatized incidents should perhaps be only semi-staged. In considering the dramatic genre best suited in this case, I imagined a chamber opera-type setting in a cantata-style format for soloists with chorus. The emotional expression would be better served with vocalists not designated as mere presenters (as with oratorio), but as actors empowered to dramatize their situations. My conception of the piece has been to convey the story through narrative where staging would undo (or intrude upon) the integrity of the author’s careful exclusions; but to include some staging and costuming where enactment would liberate (and enhance) the dramatic experience and presentation.

The adaptation as conceived could run approximately 40-50 minutes in duration. It does indicate instrumentation. However, the instrumentation originally selected is intended to be a preliminary indication only. I am hesitant to propose a final instrumentation prior to getting into the work of creating music for the piece.

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Malcolm Caluori's initial, preliminary concept and text for Désirée is now available to preview. This material is copyrighted intellectual property, and may not be copied distributed, or used in any manner or for any purpose other than the preview presented here. For all other uses or inquiries, please contact Melpomene.

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