ANTHONY GATTO (b.1962): The Making of Americans.
Catalogue Number: 08W057
Label: New Focus Recordings
Description: This is a very singular work. And it needs to be. Gatto plainly relishes adapting unadaptably individual and complex literature into performance pieces - see also "Wise Blood" elsewhere in this catalogue. The Making of Americans is a radio opera based on Gertrude Stein's enormous, widely deemed impenetrable to the point of unreadability, act of self-psychoanalysis masquerading as a modernist novel. The opera, like the novel, ostensibly following the fortunes of two families, and there is indeed aria-like material - soliloquies and impassioned dialogues, some extended and somberly beautiful - for these characters, but the dominant voice, as it is in the book, is that of Stein in recorded readings and interview material. The instrumental material consists of largely consonant, slow post-minimalistic chord progressions, and the recorded voice is presented in edited cut-ups and fold-ins, while the sung material and its accompaniment suggests the emotionally overwrought conventions of opera, except that consisting of brief unconnected fragments of dialogue, they entirely avoid presenting any kind of narrative. Stein's habit of repetition (Rose is a rose is a rose) turns up so often that it almost becomes a character in the drama. The whole, with its recording studio techniques, edits, loops and overdubs, is very listenable and approachable, but presents a completely different kind of listening experience to any conventional opera. Libretto included. Vocal soloists, JACK String Quartet, Zeitgeist (2 percussionists, bass clarinet and piano); David Pinkard.