About the Work

The May 9, 2009 performance at Carnegie Hall marked the work’s World Premiere.

Notes on the Work

How do you deal with your world, when madness becomes the behavioral norm? Based on a short story by Judy Budnitz, Dog Days is a contemporary opera that investigates the psychology of a working class American family against a not-sodistant-future wartime scenario. It asks: Is it madness, delusion, or human and animal instinct that guides us through severely trying times? Where exactly is the line between animal and human? At what point must we give in to our animal instincts to merely survive?

Told predominantly from the perspective of 13-year-old Lisa, we watch as the world slowly falls apart: Her family starves, her mother gives up on life, her father struggles to fulfill his own myth of being the provider, and her brothers forfeit everything for the illusion of escape through drug use. We then meet the Prince, a man in a dog suit begging for food. Is he mad, or is he the only one who can still see clearly?

Scenes from Dog Days presents the structural foundation of what will eventually be a 60- to 90-minute opera written in collaboration with librettist Royce Vavrek. This condensed version provides the narrative skeleton of the piece, presenting three emotionally pivotal segments from the beginning, middle, and conclusion of the work.

Many thanks to both Dawn Upshaw and Osvaldo Golijov for this opportunity, and for their sage advice along the way.

—David T. Little 

About the Composer

Fusing classical and popular idioms to dramatic effect, David T. Little’s music is widely performed—including at the Tanglewood Music Center, the Aspen Music Festival, the MATA Festival, and the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, as well as by eighth blackbird, So Percussion, the London Sinfonietta and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra conducted by Marin Alsop. Currently completing a doctorate degree at Princeton University, Little teaches music through Carnegie Hall’s Musical Connections program and serves as the first-ever Digital Composer-in-Residence for the UK-based dilettantemusic.com. An active percussionist, Little can be heard performing with the International Contemporary Ensemble and with his ensemble Newspeak.

Bio current as of February 2010