(HERE Artist Residency Program)

The Scarlet Ibis Stefan Weisman & David Cote

Show Description

Brother is ashamed of his younger sibling, William, nicknamed Doodle. Doodle is sickly and weak. He wasn't expected to live, but he did. Mother and Father look after him as best they can. Doodle cannot walk, so Brother must push him along in a wheelbarrow to go places. One summer, Brother decides that enough is enough: He will teach Doodle how to walk. After much struggle, Doodle discovers that, yes, he can stand and walk. So begins an exciting summer, during which Brother takes Doodle down to Old Woman Swamp, where they play and fight and let their imaginations run wild. 

Based on the classic 1960 story by James Hurst, The Scarlet Ibis is a family opera about brotherhood, illness and the power of the imagination to soar above physical limitations.

Artist Bio

Composer Stefan Weisman creates playful and brooding soundscapes described by The New York Times as "personal, moody and skillfully wrought." His works include chamber, orchestral and choral pieces, and he has specialized in vocal pieces that explore edgy and compelling topics. His opera Darkling, commissioned by American Opera Projects, was included in the Guggenheim Museum's Works & Process series, premiered to great acclaim at the Classic Stage Company and toured Europe in 2007. His opera Fade, commissioned by Second Movement, premiered in London in 2008. Among his other commissions are works for Bang on a Can, Sequitur, and the Empire City Men's Choir. His song "I Would Prefer Not To," released on New Amsterdam Records, was selected by WNYC radio as one of the finest recordings of October 2010. His opera Darkling will be released on Albany Records in the summer of 2011, and his piece Everywhere Feathers will be released by New Amsterdam Records in 2011. A graduate of Bard College and Yale University, and recently received a Ph.D. from Princeton University. His composition instructors include David Lang, Joan Tower, Martin Bresnick, Steven Mackey, and Paul Lansky.

David Cote is a librettist and playwright whose plays include: Otherland and the "final" scene to George Bernard Shaw's Why She Would Not (commissioned by Gingold Theatrical Group). Operas: Fade (composer Stefan Weisman), and Atigun Pass/Ice Road Trucker (work-in-progress with composer Robert Paterson). He wrote the text for Paterson's 2011 choral piece, Did You Hear? for the Vermont Youth Orchestra. Fade had its world premiere in October 2008 in London and subsequent concert performances in San Francisco and New York City. David directed GreenlandY2K at HERE (1999) and Assurbanipal Babilla’s acclaimed monologue Something, Something Über Alles at the Emerging Collector (1998) and the Kraine Theater (‘99). As an actor, David spent the 1990s working with Babilla and Purgatorio Ink Theater. He also appeared in Richard Foreman’s Pearls for Pigs (1997) and Richard Maxwell’s Cowboys & Indians (1998). He is theater editor of Time Out New York. He has also reported or blogged for The New York Times, The Guardian and Opera News. Fellowship: The MacDowell Colony (2009).

Artist Statement

In 2005, my opera Darkling premiered in New York City, and toured Europe in 2007.  Following this, I co-conceived a short opera called Fade with librettist David Cote.  Fade had its world premiere in 2008 in a London production.  It has also had successful productions in Brooklyn, Philadelphia and San Francisco.  David Cote and I have now conceived a chamber opera for young audiences called The Scarlet Ibis, based on a moving story by James Hurst.

The HERE Artist Residency Program will give us the time and resources to complete and perfect the libretto to ensure that the opera works as a staged drama.  Our plan is to stage several libretto readings, which we found incredibly useful during our development of Fade.  We will then solidify decisions about our characters’ voice types, and the size and make-up of the accompanying instrumental ensemble.  We also plan to find ways to incorporate puppetry, video and other stage effects into the opera’s staging.  Finally, we will carefully fine-tune the music as the opera takes shape.

—Stefan Weisman


“"Fade" is a 25 minute piece by American composer Stefan Weisman, with a libretto by David Cote. In it, wealthy New Yorkers Gertrude and Albert enter their modern new house in the country, only to find that it cannot heal the problems in their relationship. Weisman's music is lyrical in a Philip-Glass-meets-John Adams vein, and he has an ear for a gracious melody.”
— Warwick Thompson, Bloomberg News
“Second Movement is a young opera company that stages rarely-heard, small-scale operas in often unusual venues - its fifth production is a neatly programmed all-American triple bill, featuring a world premiere by composer Stefan Weisman...to a libretto by American writer David Cote. A young couple, Albert and Gertrude, arrive in their new house as their new Housekeeper unpacks, and bickering ensues (perhaps tempered by the Housekeeper’s presence) after Gertrude discovers the place is less than fully eco-friendly - “Half sun, half grid. It’s a hybrid,” enthuses Albert. Albert’s attachment to the material world is poignantly emphasised in Gertrude’s ravishing, almost Straussian aria, in which she reminisces while admiring the sun’s reflection on the lake...the vocal music is sympathetically written for the voices, and Jane Harrington’s Gertrude, David Butt Philip’s Albert and Hannah Pedley’s Housekeeper all deliver fine performances.”
— Edward Bhesania, The Stage
“"Fade" involves [a] young couple. Gertie and Albert have just moved into their lovely summer home, built on what’s left of Gertie’s grandmother’s estate. A mysterious Housekeeper is unpacking. Weisman has crammed anxieties about terrorism and the environment, a Chekhovian dwelling on the ghosts of the past and the fragile beauties of nature into a short piece...The music aims at an ecstatic, John Adams-style, heightened reality, and at times it approached a disquiet and supernatural ambiguity reminiscent of the film "The Others."”
— Peter Reed, Opera
“"Fade" had attractive music with softer contours, leaning towards French impressionism. If you’re in a complimentary mood, you could say it was mesmerizing...David Cote wrote a libretto that I’d like to re-read at leisure. Stefan Weisman composed the music, which I might like to hear as an instrumental suite.”
— Steve Cohen, Broad Street Review
“Glimpses of the sterile lives and straining hearts that are the truth behind the Good Life in America, this...was a smart idea from a sassy, new, and evidently well-connected little company called Second Movement...The score consisted of largely instrumental texture underlying conversational exchange. The conversation was between a married couple and their maid as they moved into a new house and, by implication, into the downward spiral of their relationship...You have to applaud Second Movement for their enterprise in taking on a new work...Overall, there was a good feel about this young company: an energy, a sense of self-belief and keen ambition. And whatever its rough-edges musically, it had panache. The DNA of something special in the making.”
— Michael White, Opera Now
“It’s a tale of everyday American life, goodness knows that can be turbulent enough in these times…The piece is set in a new eco-house, but it’s an age-old conflict. It’s a couple who with time on their hands realize they haven’t as much in common as they might have…It’s the American dream gone wrong…But it’s very melodic, and it’s very approachable.”
— Sean Rafferty, BBC Radio

Project Feed

The Scarlet Ibis: Culturemart 2012

Here's a slide show from February's Culturemart performance of The Scarlet Ibis, scene 9, “Learning to Walk.” With countertenor Eric Brenner (Doodle), mezzo-soprano Hai-Ting Chinn (Brother) and pianist Mila Henry. Puppet designed by Tom Lee. In this scene, four-year-old Doodle...

AOP on board to coproduce Scarlet Ibis—and a concert

Good news! The awesome American Opera Projects (AOP) has come on board as a coproducer of The Scarlet Ibis. Stefan and I have a great relationship with AOP that goes back several years. First, the company produced Stefan's first opera,...

From the American Opera Projects concert presentation of <em>Fade</em> at Galapagos in Brooklyn, July 17, 2009. Pictured from left: Pamela Stein, Jonathan Hays and Amy van Roekel.

Weisman & Cote: Opera Is Our Business

Hello and welcome to the HARP project page for The Scarlet Ibis, a new opera that I'm creating with composer Stefan Weisman. We're both so thrilled to be working with HERE to develop a new opera for family audiences, based...