Listen: Vocal works
Cuatro Corridos: Dalia (2013)
Chamber Opera scena for soprano, guitar, percussion and piano
This collaborative chamber opera, set to a libretto by Jorge Volpi, was written by four composers-- two Mexican and two from the United States. Librettist Volpi writes that "the stories told in the opera help us to hear and see precisely what we prefer to ignore and pass over in silence." Cuatro Corridos has toured the U.S. and Mexico to critical acclaim and had repeat broadcasts on Mexican National Television. Learn about the new Bridge Records recording here.
Arlene Sierra's movement, Dalia, is a portrait of a complex character who reveals her malice while describing the beauty and innocence of her past self.
Listen to an excerpt of Dalia performed by Susan Narucki, soprano and the Cuatro Corridos ensemble:
Opera in one act for six voices and orchestra
An opera in development with playwright Lucy Thurber after the novella by Emma Tennant, with support from NY City Opera VOX, ROH2 at Royal Opera House Covent Garden, and Aldeburgh Young Artist Residencies. It is the story of an older woman, Muriel, who sells her soul to the devil for eternal youth because she is in love with her daughter's lover.
Click here to see the dedicated page on this site.
Hearing Things (2008)
For soprano and piano
This work is a short dramatic scena to poetry by Carl Sandburg and Catherine Carter. It explores both the wonder of the pastoral and the sense of guilt we share about our effect on nature, conveying an inner dialog of present-day conflicting sensibilities. The piece was commissioned by British soprano Claire Booth and pianist Andrew Matthews-Owen.
1. Look at Six Eggs (Carl Sandburg)
2. Hearing Things (Catherine Carter)
Look at six eggs In a mockingbird’s nest.
Listen to six mockingbirds
Flinging follies of O-be-joyful
Over the marshes and uplands.
Look at songs
Hidden in eggs.
- from Cornhuskers (1918) by Carl Sandburg
Listen to excerpts of movements 1 and 2 performed by Yunjin Kim, soprano, and Emi Okumura, piano:
Streets and Rivers (2007)
For baritone and piano OR for soprano and harp (new version of songs 1 & 2, 2016)
This song cycle, with text by American and British woman poets, explores the aspects and anxieties of urban life along the Hudson and the Thames.
1. Upper Broadway (Adrienne Rich)
2. Sudden Collapses in Public Places (Julia Darling)
3. Diving Girl (Helen Dunmore)
4. Hungry Thames (Helen Dunmore)
The cycle was commissioned by Welsh baritone Jeremy Huw Williams with funding from the Ralph Vaughan Williams Trust.
Listen to excerpts of movements 1 and 4 performed by Thomas Lehman, baritone, and Lisa Gonella, piano:
Neruda Settings (2002-5)
For soprano and 10 players
Pablo Neruda wrote four volumes of Elemental Odes between 1954 and 1959. The Odes pay homage to animals and to common objects; fusing brilliant, concise description and profound reflection, at once personal and philosophical. My settings of Odes to the Lizard , the Artichoke, the Plate, and the Table are concerned with imagery, motion and rhythm in the language as well as the many double meanings in the texts of these poems. The Ode to the Lizard wonders at the ability of the reptile to blend with its surroundings and also to call up a happy childhood memory. The Ode to the Artichoke is a humorous character study of an 'armored vegetable' and an affectionate homage to its tender hidden heart. The Ode to the Plate sparkles with celestial metaphors for the perfect disk of a plate, as well as the urgency and necessity of its role in daily life. Finally, the Ode to the Table takes us from the realm of domestic memory to one of political and moral decision: the world is a table and we must choose sides, for war or for peace.
Neruda Settings, a Paul Jacobs Award commission, was first performed in an initial version at the Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music in 2002 and completed in 2005.
The reduced version Two Neruda Odes includes Ode to the Plate and and Ode to the Table arranged for soprano with cello and piano. It was recorded by Susan Narucki for the CD Arlene Sierra, Volume 1.
Listen to excerpts of Neruda Settings performed by ICE, Susan Narucki, soprano, Jayce Ogren, conductor:
Hand mit Ringen (2002)
For soprano, violin, piano and cimbalom
Hand mit Ringen was commissioned by the 2002 Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival for Sarah Leonard, soprano, and members of Psappha. It is a setting of the poem by Glori Simmons.
Hand mit Ringen - from Bertha Roentgen's hand X-ray
This is my bone bound with your ring.
Hinged in brevity my hand fans,
My skin is a requiem. Remember me 1896.
In the gesture I beckon:
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Crawl between the piping of my satin casket.
Here are the keys dangling from my pelvis-
Touch my skeleton.
This is the way into my darkness
Where I inhume the whalebone beneath
The window then nestle into the pine box bed
To shroud myself with the less
Gentle sex. Slamming doors, letting the wind
Blow through my legs. Skull & cross-
Bone mad. Here, I vanish
Only to arrive days later, disheveled.
The X-ray's predilection for cells
Out of place suits me. This debridement
Is better than the old cinch & buttress.
Exhume my first wanton hologram:
The rat's nest & glass eye, my ten charred nails
I am radiant.
- Glori Simmons
Used with kind permission from the author
Listen to an excerpt performed by Psappha, Sarah Leonard, soprano :