Zabette – An American Opera in Three Acts
Music by Curtis Bryant, Libretto by Mary R. Bullard
(duration 2 hrs. 15 minutes) Premiered in April 1999 in Atlanta’s historic Rialto Theater. It was produced by Georgia State University School of Music under the artistic direction of W. Dwight Coleman. Additional support was provided by the Southeastern Archeological Center, National Park Service. – View Details
The Secret Agent – A Two-Act Opera Thriller
Music by Curtis Bryant, Libretto by Allen Reichman
Based upon the 1907 novel by Joseph Conrad (duration 2 hours) The Secret Agent received its world premiere performances by Atlanta’s Capitol City Opera Company, directed by Michael Nutter in March, 2013. – View Synopsis.
For more details on the twists and turns leading up to the world premiere of The Secret Agent by The Capitol City Opera Company – View Details
“Bryant’s poignant ‘portrait aria’ from his opera Zabette and his three biblical songs aim at recapturing some of the melodious tonality ‘contemporary’ classical music of the twentieth century rebelled against.” (Marta Steele, Words UnLtd., 2003)
“Bryant is a chameleon composer [whose] catalog covers everything from opera to chamber music to film soundtracks.” (Pierre Ruhe, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2007)
Bryant and His Operas
It is no coincidence that Curtis Bryant developed an interest in the arts and history of his native South. Born in Atlanta with family roots going back to the city’s founding days, he counts several relatives who were accomplished musicians: a concert harpist, a violinist who performed with the Atlanta Symphony in its early days, and a great aunt who wrote songs. Bryant has long held an interest in opera, but his first opportunity to collaborate with a librettist came by pure chance. In 1995 he received a phone call from his friend Ed Weldon, then director of the Georgia Department of Archives and History. It turns out that Georgia historian and archeologist Mary R. Bullard had come across a story that she felt was material for an opera — the story of Elizabeth Bernardey, the mixed-race mistress of Cumberland Island plantation owner Robert Stafford. When she told Weldon that she felt that a Georgia composer should be found to write the music, he called Curtis saying “your the only composer I know.” Thus began the collaboration that eventually led to Bryant’s first opera, “Zabette.” – View Synopsis
Bryant’s second opera, “The Secret Agent,” is based upon Joseph Conrad’s dark novella published in 1907. The story of Bryant’s meeting with librettist Allen Reichman is equally full of twists. Reichman, a New York forensic psychiatrist who is also a long time opera lover, had nearly finished work on a libretto adaptation of “The Secret Agent” when he began his search for composers. After unsuccessfully contacting several well known candidates, he received a list of seven composers of recent operas who had submitted their works to the New York City Opera’s Vox Reading Sessions. In the stack of scores was Bryant’s opera “Zabette.” Bryant recalls, “an e-mail led to a several more exchanges and finally a phone call.” Their new collaboration was underway.
Reichman says “THE SECRET AGENT is the perfect story for an opera. After all, it has an accidental death, a maternal obsession, a murder with a pointed weapon, a betrayal, and a death by suicide.” After some discussion, Bryant and Reichman decided on a new working title for their opera: “The Anarchist.” Bryant says “We changed the name, because the original title seemed to connote a ‘cold war’ era theme, but its story line is much more relevant to today’s world of terrorism and our current xenophobic political climate.” The story is about an anarchist and reluctant terrorist named Verloc, who uses his developmentally disabled brother-in-law to plant a bomb at the Greenwich Observatory in London. The job is bungled and the young Stevie is blown to bits in the park. What Verloc doesn’t realize is that his wife, Winnie has a maternal attachment to her younger brother, and when she learns that her husband has been the cause of his death a new level of familial anarchy ensues. Several scenes of the work-in-progress were given workshop performances at Georgia State University. In preparation for the premiere of the full opera by the Capitol City Opera Company (March 15-17, 2013), Bryant and Reichman changed the name back to “The Secret Agent” in honor of Joseph Conrad’s original title – View Synopsis