The Steiney Road to Operadom: The Making of American Operas
by Karren LaLonde Alenier, Unlimited Publishing LLC ©2007, 310 pages.
Review by Constance MacDonald and William Scott
The newly released book by Karren LaLonde Alenier, The Steiney Road to Operadom: The Making of American Operas, is an interesting personal memoir of the author’s experience writing an opera in collaboration with composer William Banfield. The opera, entitled Gertrude Stein Invents a Jump Early On, was performed at the Encompass New Opera Theater in New York City in 2005.
In the introduction to this book of essays, Ms. Alenier posses several interesting questions. “How are operas created? Do the words or music come first? Who writes the words of an opera? What happens when a poet becomes a librettist? What is an American opera? What contribution did Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson make to the repertory of American opera? Why is opera so expensive to produce?”
While the book does offer several stories about developing and producing contemporary opera, the author’s focus is primarily on her own journey. A more expansive roadmap might have been crafted with additional research. As an example, we would have benefited from a more in depth discussion of why Gertrude Stein was chosen as an opera subject.
Alenier’s style is chatty and the book is full of interesting gossip that will entertain the opera buff. She does describe the dedication, drama, and luck necessary to successfully write and produce an American opera. This book exposes its audience to a unique niche in today’s musical arts, new American opera. Opera fans will enjoy the book.
Constance MacDonald is a musician and vocal, instrumental, and experimental theater piano accompanist. She majored in music during undergraduate studies at the University of Louisville and has a Master of Information Management from the University of Maryland, College Park (College of Information Studies). Her career has covered information-related technology, including satellite and technical communication and applications.
William Scott is a violinist, lawyer, professor of military and political science, and a retired colonel in the U.S. Army. Colonel Scott carried his violin with him to duty stations, playing with community orchestras in Vietnam, Germany, and in the United States. He holds a juris doctor degree from the University of Maryland and masters degrees from Baruch College of the City University of New York and St. John’s College of Annapolis.