New Music at Carnegie Hall: Carnegie Hall Commissions
Commission at a Glance
Scenes from Dog Days
David T. Little
Recorded on May 9, 2009
at Zankel Hall

Mary Bonhag, Soprano; Megan Taylor, Soprano; Tania Rodriguez, Mezzo-Soprano; Patrick Cook, Tenor; Sung Eun Lee, Tenor

Workshop Ensemble: Alan Pierson, Conductor; Carol McGonnell, Clarinet; Nathan Botts, Trumpet; John Ostrowski, Percussion; Jared Soldiviero, Percussion; Matti Kovler, Piano; Yael Manor, Piano; Brandon Seabrook, Guitar; William Holshouser, Accordion; Keats Dieffenbach, Violin; You-Young Kim, Viola; Lev “Ljova” Zhrubin, Famiola; Claire Bryant, Cello; Jane Cords-O’Hara, Cello; Kristoffer Saebo, Bass; Jeremy Flower, Laptop


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