Avow (1999; revised 2010)


12 min



premiered by

Remarkable Theater Brigade

commissioned by

Purchase score

A short opera in one 12-minute scene, really, but it’s done as often in a recital setting with piano as in its original chamber-orchestra guise. Jonathan Sheffer’s Eos Orchestra commissioned in 1999; something of a sequel to Barber and Menotti’s A Hand of Bridge, Avow imagines a conflicted bride, her avid mother, the haunted groom, the ghost of his father, and a celebrant who really should make better efforts to remember which ceremony he’s performing.


THE MOTHER: Soprano. Avid, elegant.
THE BRIDE: Mezzo-soprano. Wry, ambivalent.
THE CELEBRANT: Tenor. Glib, daft.
THE GROOM: Baritone. Earnest, haunted.
THE GHOST: Bass-baritone. Cool, steadfast.

The wedding morning.

Composer Note

It was Jonathan Sheffer’s idea in 1999 to recreate the Spoleto Festival’s famous 1959 evening of one-act operas that had introduced, among scores by Hindemith, Foss and others, Samuel Barber’s comedy of domestic discontent A Hand of Bridge, to a libretto by Gian-Carlo Menotti — and he graciously asked me to write a new work to end the evening.

I came up with the idea of the emotions experienced on a wedding morning by an ambivalent bride, her avid mother, the haunted groom, the glib, daft celebrant, and, the ghost of the groom’s father; and, in a gesture to history, I made the groom’s father David, that large-hearted husband caught in a too-small life whom Barber scored as a baritone in A Hand of Bridge but reappears as a bass-baritone in my score.

Avow is scored for soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, baritone, bass-baritone, and either piano or chamber orchestra, and is dedicated with respect and gratitude to Jonathan Sheffer: it was introduced by Eos Orchestra in New York in May 1999.