Cabaret Program




Excerpts from Salvation

  1. Clementine’s Lament
  2. Like a Drowning Man

Hampton Fancher, libretto

Rosalie Kaplan, soprano

Margaret Kampmeier, piano

Begun in 2014, Salvation was conceived as an opera trilogy. The libretto was written in collaboration with writer, director, and novelist Hampton Fancher, best known as the screenwriter of Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049. Together, over the past three years, we developed three interconnected one-act opera libretti that explore themes of transgression, redemption, and transfiguration through the lens of science fiction.

The composition of the music is currently in its initial stages. “Clementine’s Lament” and “Like a Drowning Man” are the beginning of my musically delving into a central character, Clementine. She’s a melancholy girl navigating the void between her father’s pyscho-sexual religious fantasies and the wiles of an alluring stranger who shows up in town with a menacing pet. Striving to overcome the wills of others, she avenges herself through a murderous act.



she (2017)

Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek, voice

Ninfea Cruttwell-Reade, Anna Pidgorna, Lynda Saponara, and Alyssa Weinberg, glass players

she is scored for high voice and a collection of drinking glasses played by four accompanying musicians. The accompanists create pure, quasi-vocal tones by rubbing their moistened fingers around the rims of each glass – a technique of producing sound that was famously employed by Benjamin Franklin in his glass harmonica of 1761.

Here, the sung text consists of the single word “she”, the singer dissecting the word and piecing it together over the course of the composition.



Fortune’s Will (2016)

Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek, mezzo-soprano

Jacqui commissioned this setting of two poems from the Findern Manuscript. We met at an opera course for composers and singers back in the UK several summers ago. My first attempt at the genre was a piece for solo mezzo-soprano for Jacqui, based on an idea that she suggested (a piece called Jackie K). This new piece – Fortune’s Will – is a kind of reference back to that earlier one.

An imaginary woman muses to herself upon fortune and the sadness of being parted from her beloved.



The Hand (from The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla)

Phil Kline, words (adapted from a letter written by Katherine Johnson wrote to Tesla)

Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek, mezzo-soprano

Lynda Saponara, piano



Know Your Kings and Queens

Anonymous, words

Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek, mezzo-soprano

Lynda Saponara, piano

As a half Serb-Croat Brit then living in Beijing, and now a US citizen, the NMC record company’s remit to write a song redolent of Britain proved a tough one. No royalist I, for some perverse reason I found myself half-remembering a history mnemonic from my mother that ordered the kings and queens into doggerel. Many versions abound, so I gingered this one up. The music is a stately passacaglia that gradually quickens and speeds up, redolent of the increasing rate of human endeavour and the switchback of history. ‘God Save the Queen’ (the anthem, not the Sex-Pistols classic) lurks in there too, subject to polite and not-quite-treasonable variation.



Excerpt from American Atheist

David Cote, libretto

Developed by American Opera Projects

Lauren Flanigan, Lead Development Artist

American Atheist tells the life and violent death of Madalyn Murray O’Hair (1919 – 1995), at one time the world’s most famous atheist. O’Hair won a landmark 1963 Supreme Court case against prayer in schools, then went on to found the advocacy group American Atheists. Thirty-two years later, she, her son and adopted granddaughter were kidnapped from their home in Austin, Texas. They were held for a month, then murdered, dismembered and their remains were buried in a Texas riverbank. Skipping through time and place, the opera uses elements from a Requiem Mass to illuminate major events in O’Hair’s life: her time serving in World War II, riling up audiences on TV talk shows and her final, embattled personal life. American Atheist is an irreverent yet ecstatic exploration of faith and freedom in modern America.

Composer Stefan Weisman will write for string quintet, soprano, baritone and tenor. Acclaimed opera and film director Kevin Newbury will offer dramaturgical guidance and stage the eight-scene, 70-minute work as a multimedia chamber spectacle. The creative team’s goal is to portray Madalyn’s story in all its exuberance, outrageousness and agony: a tragicomic survey of her extraordinary life and death.



Excerpts from Salvation

Hampton Fancher, libretto

  1. Clementine’s Lament

Here is a man trying to do

Something bigger than himself.

At least that’s what he says.

Marching north on a sheet of ice that’s floating south.

So he says and he says and he says.

A man of his word,

So he says and he says and he says.

Brought up by a mother who doubted his worth.

Fed him his beans and ironed his shirts.

Taught him belief, but not in himself.

Soon as he married she died.

And then there was me.

But my mother couldn’t take care of my father and left.

Left him to me.

Her name is mine. Clementine.

All she left was a note,

Three words,

Her name, my name and goodbye.

(A silence. Then:)

For the greater good,

The saving of his people is what he says he must do.

I believe it. I hope I do.

The man is a dreamer of more than himself,

Papa, the precious dreamer.

What ever he’s done to his wife and his daughter,

He’s done worse to himself.

A congested soul in a storm of ideas

And too many black trucks in the night

My Father’s plight.

For good or for bad, I do what I do.


  1. Like a Drowning Man (Aria)

 Like a drowning man,

Dreaming of a lake,

Lake simulacrum.

When forever is over

Is where he dreams to be.

But forever is always late.

Yet here it comes!




American Atheist


David Cote, libretto



The Discovery of Madalyn’s Remains

Projected title: January 28, 2001 Camp Wood, Texas.


Baritone enters as a Crime Scene Investigator, dressed in white protective coveralls and sunglasses. He unrolls a line of yellow barricade tape across the front of the stage:


Tenor enters as Reporter, in regular street clothes. He carries a small handheld tape recorder which he uses to record notes and quotes from Baritone. Baritone moves to a spot down center, a small mound of dirt. He carries a small shovel, brush and evidence bags. Tenor follows. Baritone squats and digs. Tenor observes, bending to get a closer look. Under the music, their movements have a dreamy, heightened quality. The light caresses them in a mysterious glow. Something Caravaggio about it.


Oh God, let them sleep,

And let light shine upon their graves.

We praise you God, across America,

Dust is where all flesh comes from.

Let them sleep, let her sleep.

Shine your light on all of them.

Oh God, let them sleep,

And let the sun shine upon their graves.

(Tenor records notes in his recorder.)


Caucasian female, late seventies, metal hip.

Missing six years, probable victim of murder.

She had enemies.

(Baritone takes off sunglasses. To Tenor:)


You have to dig pretty far down

To find the place where she is now.

Give you one guess: It’s hot!

(The tone shifts into a “holier” but intense mode.)


Where is the most hated woman in America?


Where is the woman who banned the Bible in school?


Where is the woman who sued the Pope?


Where is the woman who tried to kill our God? Our God!

(This builds to an angry climax. Subsides. Madalyn enters far back, slowly approaches, as the music moodily accompanies her. She’s weaving distractedly as she walks: a woken ghost.)



Oh, Gawd…


Killed your God?

You can’t kill something that doesn’t exist!

Even Nietzsche got it wrong.

“God is dead.”

God is not dead!

Because he was not alive!

A dog can die.

A horse can die.

Whale. Snake. Cat. Mosquito.

Bacteria by the billions!

People die all the time.

But God will never die.

Because he never was alive!

(Madalyn, curious, approaches the excavation site.)


Dirt begat dirt begat dirt begat rocks.

Rocks begat dirt begat worms!

When I die,

When I die, no fuss, no tears.

Don’t let them baptize me.

When I die,

Let me lie,

Let me rot,

Below the roots,

Far underground,

Don’t want to be found.


I think I see a glimmer.

Something shiny in the dirt.


Worms and dirt.

No nonsense,

No ritual.

Burn me,

Burn me,

Scatter me.


I’m finding you.

Finding you.


Don’t want a ceremony.

No hoodoo voodoo,

Like them Christians do.

Scatter what remains.


A hidden grave.


A hidden grave, yes.

(Baritone holds up a metal hip like a holy relic. It glitters in the light.)


It looks like an insect.

Or something broke off a spaceship.

Or… an ancient spike to smash the skull of infidels!


Was that in me?


Metal hip replacement.


There’s a serial number. We can check the number.


(Spoken, to the audience)

If anyone thinks I’m Madalyn Murray O’Hair haunting you from beyond the grave, or looking down from Heaven as I strum a harp, or I’m getting a pitchfork in my ass…! Sorry. I’m not Madalyn. I’m Lauren Flanigan.* And this is only pretend.


When I die,

Let me lie.

Let me rot,

Or burn me, burn me

Scatter me.


I’ve found you. Found you.


Before they baptize me.

And please, please:                                                              BARITONE & TENOR:

No ceremony.                                                                            No ceremony.
Here she rests.

Don’t baptize me!                                                                 But not for long.

Don’t let the bastards baptize me!                            Madalyn will rise!

(Triumphant flourish.)