The Catholic University of America

Feb. 2, 2006

Third Installment of Operatic Trilogy to Premiere at Catholic University

"The Furies" Features Original Score, Libretto by CUA Faculty Members

Sarah Brown Ferrario and Andrew Simpson

"The Furies," the final installment of an operatic trilogy about the tragic house of Agamemnon by CUA husband-and-wife faculty members Andrew Earle Simpson and Sarah Brown Ferrario, will premiere at Catholic University Feb. 9 through 12.

Michael Scarola, a member of the New York City Opera's directorial staff, is director of the CUA production. Adam Turner, a graduate student in CUA's conducting program, will lead a chamber ensemble for the performances at the university's Ward Recital Hall.

Composer Simpson and librettist Ferrario have based the trilogy on the Oresteia, Aeschylus' three-part series on the house of Agamemnon. In the first part, Agamemnon, king of Argos, victorious after 10 years fighting the Trojan War, returns home only to be murdered by his wife, Klytemnestra. The second part details Klytemnestra's murder by her son, Orestes. The concluding part, "The Furies," depicts Orestes' acquittal of the crime.

By the end of "The Furies," the cycle of killing in return for killing is finally broken. A new order is set in motion by the goddess Athena - trial by jury instead of vendetta.

"The Furies" takes its name from the vengeful goddesses who are determined, at the beginning of the opera, to punish Orestes for the murder of Klytemnestra. By the end of the opera, the Furies have been transformed into Eumenides, benevolent deities who accept the new order established by Athena.

Simpson's music and Ferrario's libretto reflect that transformation.

"At first, the Furies' music is chromatic, angular and rhythmically complex," said Simpson. "By the end, as Eumenides, their music has become consonant, lyrical and rhythmically straightforward. The change mirrors the drama's shift from negative to positive emotions."

While Greek tragedies often use myth to comment on reality, said Ferrario, "The Furies" actually "represents a journey out of the legendary past on stage. At the beginning of the play, we are in the heroic age; by the end of it, we are in classical Athens, reflecting on - and rejoicing in - the triumph of knowledge and justice over ignorance and fear."

Simpson, associate professor of music, and Ferrario, visiting assistant professor of Greek and Latin, started collaborating on the Oresteia project in 2000. They would go over the drama, section by section, talking in detail, for instance, about a speech that would become an aria. Ferrario then would draft a translation and Simpson would compose the score.

"Agamemnon," part 1 of the trilogy, and "The Libation Bearers," part 2, both earned favorable reviews in The Washington Post when they premiered at CUA in 2003 and 2004, respectively. In 2003, the reviewer wrote that the story was told "with concentrated power in Simpson's music, modern in idiom but respectful of traditional values." The same review described Ferrario as "a Greek scholar with a knack for poetry and drama."

Murry Sidlin, dean of Catholic University's Benjamin T. Rome School of Music, described "The Furies" as a "boldly dramatic work with a rich score, at times forceful and at times beautifully lyrical. The Benjamin T. Rome School of Music is immensely proud of Andrew Simpson's accomplishment."

Performances of "The Furies" are at 8 p.m. Feb. 9, 10 and 11 and at 4 p.m. Feb. 12. An hour before each performance the composer and librettist will give talks about the opera at the music school, Room 139, immediately adjacent to Ward Recital Hall. The performances are free and open to the public, but seating is limited. For additional information, visit the opera Web site at http://music.cua.edu/furies/ or contact the composer at 202-319-5564 or simpson@cua.edu.

MEDIA: To cover "The Furies" contact Katie Lee or Chris Harrison in the Office of Public Affairs at 202-319-5600.

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Catholic University's Benjamin T. Rome School of Music is the only university music school in the Washington, D.C., area. The music school offers both undergraduate and graduate programs of study in performance of instrumental music (including chamber music and orchestral studies), piano, voice (including choral music and opera), composition and theory, musicology, conducting, musical theater, music education, voice and piano pedagogy. New programs include the Institute of Sacred Music, and a concentration of composition for the theater. The music school designs programs and curricula that encourage young musicians to be imaginative in developing audiences, in providing musical service throughout communities, and in connecting with the evolution of American arts institutions.

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Media contact(s):
· Chris Harrison, CUA Office of Public Affairs, 202-319-5600, harrisoc@cua.edu
· Katie Lee, CUA Office of Public Affairs, 202-319-5600, leect@cua.edu