In 2000 I collaborated with revered Vermont poet and playwright David Budbill on my first opera, A Fleeting Animal. Our successful relaunch of that work in 2015 drove home the point that writing opera is very important to me.
Several projects got in the way of realizing my dream of creating a second opera until I encountered artist and author Dana Walrath’s graphic memoir, Aliceheimer’s. It is a poignant and beautifully illustrated account of Dana’s experiences with her mother, Alice and her dementia during the years that Alice lived with Dana and her family. The story had everything I was looking for: a powerful and complex central female character; social relevance; and a good balance of humor, drama and pathos. And I have found that working with Dana has been wonderful. Even though our opera is Dana’s first libretto, her skills as a writer have enabled her to give me what I needed. Not only has she proven herself to be flexible and accommodating but as an anthropologist by training and a keen observer of human behavior, she has captured the wide range of emotional depths that lend themselves to musical expression.
We are excited to reveal some of Aliceheimer’s in public. On November 6 and 7, 2021 two preview showcase performances of the opera will take place at Bethany Church in Montpelier and Town Hall Theater in Middlebury.
The performances will feature soprano Mary Bonhag as Alice, accompanied by pianist Alison Cerutti. Aliceheimer’s, as I mentioned earlier, tells the story of Dana’s mother Alice, and her dementia journey, from her perspective. As Alice lives her experiences in front of our eyes, we gain insight not just into her condition, but into Alice as a person. Whether remembering her childhood, loving food, struggling with memory loss, living with her daughter or in a care home, Alice shows us love, humor, regret, wonder, confusion, sorrow, anger and so much more, all brought to life through the power of storytelling and music.
The Montpelier performance will take place at 7 p.m. on Saturday November 6 at Bethany Church on Main Street. The Middlebury performance will occur at 7 p.m. on Sunday November 7 at the Town Hall Theater. Both performances are free of charge. Donations are encouraged and will help fund a full production of the opera. We are very grateful to the Monteverdi Music School for agreeing to act as our fiscal sponsor. Because of this relationship, any donations to fund our production will also help the school. To donate through Monteverdi, go to the donate page on this website.
Monteverdi Music School has been a center for music lessons and music activity in Central Vermont for 26 years, and now establishing its outreach to the online community!