While most culture vultures associate the name Gertrude Stein with the 20th-century literary avant-garde, she also contributed to experimental opera, writing libretti for Virgil Thompson’s Four Saints in Three Acts (1934) and The Mother of Us All (1947) as well as Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights (1938). Now Stein herself is the subject of a new opera by composer Ricky Ian Gordon and librettist Royce Vavrek. The piece is 27, named after Stein’s longtime Paris address at 27 rue de Fleurus. In this 90-minute piece, Gordon and Vavrek imagine Stein and her famous partner, Alice B. Toklas, at home being visited by the shades of artists past: Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and others.
The opera had its world premiere in 2014 at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and is playing for two nights only at New York City Center in a semi-staged production presented by MasterVoices. The great American mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe (pictured above) plays Stein, while Heidi Stober is Toklas. Theo Lebow, Tobias Greenhalgh and Daniel Brevik take on the other roles. James Robinson is the stage director, while the orchestra is led by MasterVoices artistic director Ted Sperling. Click here for tickets; they’re going fast!
For fans of new opera—and those curious to hear what Gertrude Stein might sing about (lots of repetition, we’re guessing)—27 is the winning number.
Click on the video below to hear the beginning of the score.