Various Artists | Paer & Parker: A Roadkill Opera

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Paer & Parker: A Roadkill Opera

by Various Artists

Music from 1804. Action set in 1988. A new opera (in just 59 minutes, in English). The story of the hour before the lights go up on opening night for a comedy improv troupe in Jackson Hole, Wyoming--the Roadkill On A Stick Frozen Foods Theatre Company.
Genre: Classical: Opera
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. A Roadkill Opera: "Overture"
Jeffrey Dokken, Martine Micozzi, Jeannine Altavilla, Sarah Robinson, Michael Thompson, Frank Peracchia, Ian Ross, Val Rauch, Kathy Augustine & Stephan Alexander Parker
9:02 $0.99
2. A Roadkill Opera: "Impress Them"
Jeffrey Dokken, Martine Micozzi, Jeannine Altavilla, Sarah Robinson, Michael Thompson, Frank Peracchia, Ian Ross, Val Rauch, Kathy Augustine, Laura Wehrmeyer & Stephan Alexander Parker
4:39 $0.99
3. A Roadkill Opera: "In a Clearing"
Jeffrey Dokken, Martine Micozzi, Jeannine Altavilla, Sarah Robinson, Michael Thompson, Frank Peracchia, Ian Ross, Val Rauch, Kathy Augustine, Laura Wehrmeyer, Andrew Webster & Stephan Alexander Parker
5:07 $0.99
4. A Roadkill Opera: "Cod Piece Dining"
Jeffrey Dokken, Martine Micozzi, Jeannine Altavilla, Sarah Robinson, Michael Thompson, Frank Peracchia, Ian Ross, Val Rauch, Kathy Augustine, David Timpane, Laura Wehrmeyer, Andrew Webster & Stephan Alexander Parker
4:09 $0.99
5. A Roadkill Opera: "Jello"
Jeffrey Dokken, Martine Micozzi, Jeannine Altavilla, Sarah Robinson, Michael Thompson, Frank Peracchia, Ian Ross, Val Rauch, Kathy Augustine, Laura Wehrmeyer, David Timpane, Andrew Webster, Natalie Spehar & Stephan Alexander Parker
0:52 $0.99
6. A Roadkill Opera: "Different Things"
Jeffrey Dokken, Martine Micozzi, Jeannine Altavilla, Sarah Robinson, Michael Thompson, Frank Peracchia, Ian Ross, Val Rauch, Kathy Augustine, Krista Monique McClellan, Natalie Spehar & Stephan Alexander Parker
3:31 $0.99
7. A Roadkill Opera: "Geo"
Jeffrey Dokken, Martine Micozzi, Jeannine Altavilla, Sarah Robinson, Michael Thompson, Frank Peracchia, Ian Ross, Val Rauch, Kathy Augustine, Krista Monique McClellan, David Timpane & Stephan Alexander Parker
4:35 $0.99
8. A Roadkill Opera: "Suppose"
Jeffrey Dokken, Martine Micozzi, Jeannine Altavilla, Sarah Robinson, Michael Thompson, Frank Peracchia, Ian Ross, Val Rauch, Kathy Augustine, Krista Monique McClellan & Stephan Alexander Parker
1:36 $0.99
9. A Roadkill Opera: "Butterflies"
Jeffrey Dokken, Martine Micozzi, Jeannine Altavilla, Sarah Robinson, Michael Thompson, Frank Peracchia, Ian Ross, Val Rauch, Kathy Augustine, Laura Wehrmeyer & Stephan Alexander Parker
5:09 $0.99
10. A Roadkill Opera: "Torn Down"
Jeffrey Dokken, Martine Micozzi, Jeannine Altavilla, Sarah Robinson, Michael Thompson, Frank Peracchia, Ian Ross, Val Rauch, Kathy Augustine, David Timpane, Krista Monique McClellan & Stephan Alexander Parker
4:10 $0.99
11. A Roadkill Opera: "Opening Night"
Jeffrey Dokken, Martine Micozzi, Jeannine Altavilla, Sarah Robinson, Michael Thompson, Frank Peracchia, Ian Ross, Val Rauch, Kathy Augustine, David Timpane, Krista Monique McClellan & Stephan Alexander Parker
6:12 $0.99
12. A Roadkill Opera: "Finished"
Jeffrey Dokken, Martine Micozzi, Jeannine Altavilla, Sarah Robinson, Michael Thompson, Frank Peracchia, Ian Ross, Val Rauch, Kathy Augustine, Laura Wehrmeyer, David Timpane, Krista Monique McClellan, Andrew Webster & Stephan Alexander Parker
3:54 $0.99
13. A Roadkill Opera: "Glory"
Jeffrey Dokken, Martine Micozzi, Jeannine Altavilla, Sarah Robinson, Michael Thompson, Frank Peracchia, Ian Ross, Val Rauch, Kathy Augustine, Stephan Alexander Parker, Andrew Webster, Laura Wehrmeyer, Krista Monique McClellan & David Timpane
5:22 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Based (loosely) on a true story from a fast-developing tourist town, this original English libretto by Parker is set to music by Ferdinando Paer (Napoleon’s maître de chapelle).

The action takes place on Independence Day weekend in 1988—exactly 25 years prior to the CD release.

In June 2012 A Roadkill Opera was workshopped in Crystal City, Virginia, by Jeffrey Dokken at Artomatic, the Washington area’s largest free creative arts event. Dokken is best known as music director and conductor of the Symphony Orchestra of Arlington, Virginia. Maestro Dokken reassembled most of the workshop’s chamber orchestra and singers over the next year for a series of recording sessions in Maryland.

The cast for the recording includes Laura Wehrmeyer (Holly), soprano; Andrew Webster (Eddie), baritone; David Timpane (Stephan), bass; Krista Monique McClellan (Debby), soprano; and Jeffrey Dokken (Dave), tenor.

The orchestra for the recording includes Martine Micozzi, flute; Jeannine Altavilla, clarinet; Sarah Robinson, bassoon; Michael Thompson, trumpet; Jeffrey Dokken, timpani; Frank Peracchia, violin I; Ian Ross, violin II; Val Rauch, viola; Kathy Augustine and Natalie Spehar, cello; and Stephan Alexander Parker on hammer, 2×4, and cymbal.

A Roadkill Opera was recorded, mixed, and mastered at Blue House Productions by Audio Engineer Jeff Gruber.

The CD, piano/vocal score, and sheet music for string instruments for A Roadkill Opera are available in Gaithersburg, Maryland, at Lashof Violins and in Jackson, Wyoming at Valley Bookstore and at Gifts of the Earth. CDs and books are available through numerous online entities, including CD Baby,, CreateSpace, and Barnes & Noble.

Backing tracks from the studio recording are available as A Roadkill Opera, Wanted: Vocals.

A Roadkill Opera
"the underground opera sensation"


About The Original Workshop Recording Personnel

Laura Wehrmeyer (Holly) is an active performer in opera and musical theatre. DC-area credits include: IN SERIES: Gianni Schicchi (Lauretta), Clemenza di Tito (Servilia), Love Potion #1 (Gianetta), WAM (Susanna/Bastienne/Blondchen), From Shuffle to Showboat (Natasha), Maria La O (Tula), Carmen (Frasquita), Noel and Cole (Norah), Casino Paradise (Doxie). WASHINGTON SAVOYARDS: HMS Pinafore (Josephine), The Zoo (Laetitia). VICTORIAN LYRIC OPERA: Desirée (Desirée), Ruddigore (Rose Maybud), The Gypsy Baron (Arsena). SIGNATURE THEATRE: Les Misérables (swing/ensemble), Anyone Can Whistle in concert (soprano soloist/ensemble), Tamar and the River workshop (the river). TOBY’S DINNER THEATRE: Phantom of the Opera (Christine). OTHER MUSICAL THEATRE: The Secret Garden (Lily), Sweeney Todd (Johanna), Pirates of Penzance (Mabel). SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA OF ARLINGTON: Tatiana’s Letter Scene (Eugene Onegin), SOA Goes Broadway concert. International credits include: INTERNATIONAL GILBERT AND SULLIVAN FESTIVAL (UK): Iolanthe (Phyllis), Patience (ensemble), The Mikado (ensemble). Laura is the soprano soloist at St. John’s Norwood Parish, where she recently appeared as the Evangelist in the Heinrich Schütz St. John Passion. She holds a Master’s degree in Vocal Performance from Towson University, where she studied with Gran Wilson.

David Timpane (Stephan), a native of Arlington, VA area, earned a Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance from Manhattan School of Music in 1994. Since graduating, he has performed both nationally and internationally as a soloist in operas and oratorios. He has been featured regularly in performances of Handel’s Messiah, Brahms’ Requiem, Fauré’s Requiem and numerous other oratorios. His operatic repertoire includes Marcello and Schaunard in La Bohème, Silvio in I Pagliacci, Gianni Schicci in Gianni Schicci, Falke in Die Fledermaus and Oreste in Iphigènie en Tauride. David was named “a voice to listen for” by Opera News.

Krista Monique McClellan (Debby) is a Brazilian-American lyric soprano from Washington, DC. She has performed leading roles including Dido (Dido & Aeneas); Donna Anna (Don Giovanni); Lucy (The Telephone) and Giulietta (Les Contes d’Hoffmann). Recently, she performed at the Embassy of Germany in Washington, DC as part of the Emerging Singers Program of the Wagner Society of Washington. She is a frequent recitalist and has performed numerous concerts throughout the United States and Brazil.

Andrew Webster (Eddie), baritone, is an undergraduate student at James Madison University where he is currently pursuing degrees in both Vocal Performance and Business. He has appeared in a number of productions, including the roles of Peter in Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel, Aeneas in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, and Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music. Andrew is currently in the studio of Professor David Newman.

George Spelvin (Marvin) has an extensive biography on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Jeffrey Sean Dokken (Music Director and Conductor; Timpani; Dave).
Maestro Dokken is one of today’s most exciting and vibrant conductors, composers, and musicians. Over the past decade Jeff has performed all across the United States, and in some of America’s greatest venues including the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall. In December 2011, Dokken had the distinct pleasure of conducting at the White House in Washington, DC. In May 2012, Jeff had the incredible opportunity to conduct tenor Jackson Caesar in concert with one of the world’s leading gospel choirs, Patrick Lundy and the Ministers of Music. During 2013, Jeff will be conducting across the United States and in South America with the Symphony Orchestra of Arlington and as a guest conductor of many leading orchestras, soloists, and choirs. In addition to composing, conducting, and performing on opera, classical and musical theatre CDs and DVDs, Jeff is the musical consultant for the largest health care corporation in America, Kaiser Permanente. Dokken maintains a private voice and piano studio and is active as an educator and adjudicator.

Stephan Alexander Parker (Librettist; Hammer, 2×4, Cymbal) began his professional writing career when he noticed that Magic Industries, Inc., publisher of The Magic Magazine, had relocated their business offices to Nashville; he talked his way into a job filling mail orders and ended up writing catalogue descriptions. Within two years, he was shifting inventory between stores and making deliveries for Mills Bookstores. He had plenty of opportunities to gather material directly and through stories he heard while working as a bus driver, whitewater rafting guide, front desk clerk, technical writer, research manager, and light and sound man. After stints in Nashville, Branson, Chicago, Orlando, Jackson Hole, New Jersey, and Washington DC, he now lives in the old railroad town of Gaithersburg, Maryland, with photographer DJ Choupin. He is currently working on The Annotated Roadkill Opera. Or his show business memoir, I Rode With Ben Johnson. No, probably the opera thing.

Ferdinando Paer (Composer) was active in Vienna, Dresden, and Paris. He wrote dozens of operas. Leonora, the first act from which the score for A Roadkill Opera was derived, has only been commercially recorded once. Paer’s Leonora was issued on CD for the first time in February 2013.

The Orchestra

Frank Peracchia (Violin I) has been performing as an orchestral and chamber musician since graduating from the Cleveland Institute of Music in 1992. He was a founding member of the Del Sol String Quartet in San Francisco, CA from 1992-1995 and second violinist with the Sausalito String Quartet from 1995 to 1998. The Sausalito went on to win top prizes in both the Fischoff and Coleman National Chamber Music Competitions. He is indebted to all of the wonderful instructors in his training: the Suzuki Method with Joyce Dumm and Virginia Wensel in Penfield, NY; Orchestral training with John Turner, Howard Weiss and Carl Topilow in Rochester, NY and Cleveland, OH; Studio instruction from Oliver Steiner, Paul Statsky, James Stern, David Updegraff and Donald Weilerstein from the Eastman School of Music and the Cleveland Institute of Music. Frank is proud father of two wonderful boys, cellist Camillo, age 10 and violinist Giovanni, age 8.

Ian Ross (Violin II) Born into a musical family, Ian Ross began studying violin at age 6. Over the past two decades, he has performed with numerous American orchestras, including the Binghamton Philharmonic, Catskill Symphony, Tri-Cities Opera Orchestra, Binghamton University Symphony, Brevard Music Center Orchestra, Maryland Symphony Orchestra, Two Rivers Chamber Orchestra, Prince George’s Philharmonic, Washington Sinfonietta, and the Avanti Orchestra. While living in Germany from 2007-2010, he performed with the Sinfonie Orchester TonArt of Heidelberg. He currently resides in Falls Church, VA, with his wife Colleen, and children Liam and Cecilia.

Val Rauch (Viola) is a violist from the Pittsburgh, PA area. She graduated from James Madison University with a degree in Music Education and is pursuing a degree in school technology at George Mason University. She is currently an orchestra teacher for Fairfax County Public Schools. Val has performed with the Symphony Orchestra of Arlington, The McLean Symphony, The Reston Community Orchestra, and the Vino Trio. She has enjoyed recording A Roadkill Opera!

Kathy Augustine (Cello) has studied a cello for the past sixteen years. She attended at James Madison University with Carl Donakowski where she received a Bachelors of Music, and was inducted into the music honor society Pi Kappa Lambda. While there she became the first cellist to minor in jazz. She has studied privately with jazz/fusion cellist Erik Friedlander, principal bassist with the Marine Band “The President’s Own” Glenn Dewey, and freelance cellist Jennene Estes. She spent a summer abroad studying jazz in Montreal, Quebec. She debuted her composition Ice with the Woodbridge Dance Academy. She has taught master classes in Fairfax County Public Schools. She currently is the Orchestra Director at Edgar Allen Poe Middle School in Annandale, Virginia, as well as teaching students in her own studio. She performs across the Northern Virginia area with her group the Vino Trio, is the principal cellist for the Symphony Orchestra of Arlington, and is in the cello section of the McLean Symphony.

Natalie Spehar (Cello). An accomplished classical, rock, and folk cellist, Natalie has performed as a member of several ensembles, including most recently the Élan Duo (with Doug O’Connor, saxophone), the Great Noise Ensemble, the Low End String Quartet and the Washington, D.C. based cello rock ensemble, Primitivity. With a strong interest in contemporary music, Natalie has enjoyed mastering and premiering new and experimental works for cello, including several recent projects with live electronics and tape. Natalie has performed as a soloist with Graham Reynolds in The Kennedy Center’s presentation of The Difference Engine, with the University of Maryland Percussion Ensemble, and with the Canton Symphony Orchestra, and has presented world premiere performances in venues including Ravinia, Severance Hall, and the National Gallery of Art. Natalie holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Cello Performance as well as a Certificate in Arts Leadership from Eastman School of Music, where she studied with Alan Harris. An avid supporter of music outreach, Natalie has recently served as an Arts & Learning Intern for Young Audiences, Inc., an educator with Music For Life, and a performing member of the MacDowell Music Club, all national organizations dedicated to encouraging and providing community music education. She currently resides in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, and looks forward to the upcoming season, in which she will present several solo cello premieres in the Washington, D.C., Ohio, and New York City areas, as well as record her solo debut CD.

Michael Thompson (Trumpet, Flugelhorn) is Principal Trumpet of the Symphony Orchestra of Arlington. He attended Grammy-winning South Salem High School in Salem, Oregon where he was a member of the Wind Ensemble, Full Orchestra, and Jazz Band and the recipient of the John Philip Sousa and Louis Armstrong awards. Michael studied trumpet at the University of Oregon and was the trumpet section leader of the Oregon Marching Band and the musical director of the Green Garter Band. A Roadkill Opera is Michael’s first opera, but he has also played in productions of Into the Woods and The Music Man. Michael has recorded multiple CDs with the Oregon Marching Band, Green Garter Band, and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Salem, OR and can be also found on numerous live recordings and in the introduction to EA Sport’s NCAA March Madness 2004.

Martine Micozzi (Flute) originally hails from Los Angeles where she started her foray into music while in elementary school. While not a music major and pursuing music as a hobby, she enjoyed performing with the Solar Winds Woodwind quintet in L.A. and has performed internationally at venues including the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the Hollywood Bowl, Meyerhoff Hall, the Strathmore Center, and La Madeleine in Paris. Martine participated in the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Corwin Master Class and Ransom Wilson’s Master Class in Italy. While in Paris, she founded, managed, and performed as Principal flutist of the orchestra of the Paris Choral Society. Upon her return to the U.S., she has participated in summer academies and performed with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Martine presently performs with and serves on the Board of Directors for the Symphony Orchestra of Arlington, Virginia.

Sarah Robinson (Bassoon) is Principal Bassoon with the Symphony Orchestra of Arlington. She desired to play bassoon even before her hands were big enough to cover the keys. Eventually, she prevailed and has been playing for nearly two decades. Along her musical path, she received honors for NC All-District Band, NC Regional Orchestra, and the John Phillip Sousa Award, in addition to studying contrabassoon in her spare time. Sarah graduated from Avery County High School and Davidson College (BA, Russian Studies). Her thesis was a continuation of her love of music: studying the influence of Tchaikovsky’s operas on Soviet cultural policy and vice versa. Currently, she is working in the arts in Washington, DC, while working towards her MA in Arts Management, with a concentration in International Arts Management. She’s enjoyed having the experience working with such a wonderful creative team!

Jeannine Altavilla (Clarinet) was delighted to play in the debut workshop performance and recording of A Roadkill Opera. Jeannine began her instrumental journey on piano at a young age, and added clarinet in middle school. She was a music junkie at Arlington High School in LaGrangeville, New York, playing in many school and community groups, including a tour with American Music Abroad through Europe. While at Cornell University, Jeannine was a member of CUWinds, performing on campus, as well as traveling and performing on service learning trips to Costa Rica and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Jeannine was excited to join them again as an alumna when the group traveled for a service learning trip in Washington, DC. Jeannine currently lives in Arlington, Virginia and enjoys that she has kept music performance in her life.

A Roadkill Opera
"the underground opera sensation"


Why, of all things, an opera?
The items below are excerpted from the book If you see roadkill, think opera, published Groundhog Day, February 2, 2013.


Eddie and I worked for rival whitewater rafting outfits in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Eddie and I had each worked a little bit as standup comedians—he worked in Denver and points west, I had worked in Chicago and the east. We’d met each other—and frustration—at the improv workshop at Tommy’s on the Square restaurant (now defunct). So we started a long-running (and at the time, the only) open mic night in Jackson at the Spirits of the West Saloon (also now defunct—hmm).

Open mic was fun, but we had a bigger theatrical vision: a sketch comedy revue in the nicest showroom in town. Eddie wrote and I produced and directed Roadkill Live!!!, which ran for eight weeks in 1988 in the Greenback Lounge of the Wort Hotel (that was during the summer of the Yellowstone fires). We re-wrote the show four years later for a one-night-only stand at the Pink Garter Theater, the largest legitimate theatre in town. The director of the Jackson Hole Theater Company at the time observed that the 50th reunion story of the characters in the show would make a funny story.

I hope to get around to that eventually, but first I wanted to write a fictionalized version of the hour before the first Roadkill show opened. The story of how that story ended up being told, not as a one-act play (the form for both Loose Lips and Two Cases) but as, of all things, an opera, is told in the monologue Steal This Music or If You See Roadkill, Think Opera. You can hear the resulting opera at The libretto is included here [in the book If You See Roadkill, Think Opera] as Opening Night: A Roadkill Opera.

1. Stalking the Music in Chicago, New York, and Vienna

My freshman year in college I wanted to build up my music library. Like any kid my age, I wanted to get my music for free, so I recorded stuff off the local FM station. If I didn’t like it, I recorded over it.

Over the years, as I worked doing lighting and sound with bands and performers in Chicago, Nashville, Branson, Orlando, and Jackson Hole, one cassette survived with, of all things, an opera. An opera! The melodic hooks were so infectious that I assumed it was Mozart. When I got curious, though, and played the cassette for sheet music purveyors in Chicago, New York, and Nashville they could not identify the title or even the composer of the opera. I was told that the most knowledgeable music staff in the world worked at the Wiener Staatsoper, the Vienna State Opera, in Austria.

So, some 25 years after I recorded it off the radio, in 2004 I finally had a chance to go to Vienna. I brought my cassette and played it for the Staatsoper staff.

They did not recognize the music.

Crushed, I started to walk away when one of the staffers said “You know, a couple of our former staff have opened a CD shop across the square. You could try there.”

So I did. The staff at the CD shop also did not recognize the music. But one of them said, “My boyfriend knows everything about opera. Give me the cassette and he will identify it for you.”

It was my only copy. I handed it over. I had to know.

The next day, when we returned to our pension from a day of sightseeing, my wife and I were informed by the front desk that I had a phone message. It was from the CD shop. The mystery was solved. When I went in to retrieve my cassette the boyfriend had identified the opera, the singers of all the roles, and the record company catalog number. And, he told me, the opera was so obscure it had only been commercially recorded once.

Now all I had to do was track down a 25 year old opera record.

2. Record Hunting in Minneapolis

Naturally, the record was out of print. A month after the Vienna trip I was in Minneapolis on business and, over sidewalk beers, told the tale of tracking down this music to Bob, my best friend from high school.

“You know, there is a really good used book store across the street. They also sell records. They might have it,” he said.

“I doubt it,” I said, “it’s been out of print for 20 years.”

“You should check it out anyhow,” said Bob, “It’s a really good used book store.”

So the next day I went to the used book store across the street from the restaurant where we’d had sidewalk beers, and I started to tell the story of my long search for the recording, but the staff person cut me off.

“We have a lot of used classical records downstairs. Go take a look,” he said.

“It’s been out of print for 20 years. I doubt you have it,” I said.

“Just go take a look,” he said.

So I did.

And they had it.

I brought the record up to the clerk. “You have it!” I said. “How much?”

The clerk looked at the boxed set, opening it up and assessing the contents: a hinged box, 3 discs, and a printed libretto in Italian and in English translation. How much would he charge me? There wasn’t a price on the record jacket. I had been looking for this for 20 years (well, I had been trying to find out what it was for 20 years—I had only been looking for the album for about a month).

“Nine dollars,” said the clerk.

“Nine dollars?” Wow. What a relief. I was shocked at how cheap it was, after searching for so long and finding out it was so, well, obscure. “How do you price things like this?”

“It’s used. See the cut-out notched in the top of the box? That means this was a promotional copy. It was probably part of the public radio station library we bought last year when they were getting rid of their albums. There are 3 discs; 3 dollars a disc. Nine dollars.”

I paid cash. I didn’t want to take a chance that he would change his mind on the price while running my credit card.

“Can you find a copy of the score?” I asked.

He looked, but no such luck. I asked him to try to track one down. I had read that conductors live a very long time due to the aerobic exercise they get from conducting, and thought I would like to do that to the score from what I now knew to be an opera by Ferdinando Paer. It had been recorded in the late 1970s, so there was a score from the recording. And, presumably, there were older manuscripts and possibly printed copies dating back to the 1800s when it was first performed (more on that later). The clerk said he would search for it.

I walked out elated. Twenty-plus years trying to identify the recording, and a month later I had a copy in my hot little hands. Fantastic!

3. Now What?

When I got home, I immediately wanted to do two things: listen to the album and make a digital copy that I could listen to on CD. 2004 is modern times, right? So I went online and bought a turntable with a digital output (woo-hoo!) and, when I received it, ripped a digital copy onto my computer.

Of course, the 3 album discs ran much longer than my freshman cassette. It turned out that, twenty-some years before, I had only recorded the first act off the air from the FM station. The boxed set of records also had a second act, which I had never heard. With it digitized, I listened to the second act for the first time.

I hated it. The second act was all in minor keys, and very, very depressing. Later, I found out why. But at the time, I decided, I did not want to listen to the second act again.

So I didn’t. I just listened to the first act, over and over again.

Having spent so many years tracking it down, it felt anti-climactic to just say “oh, so that’s what it is.” I had not been able to locate a printed score that I could use for mock-conducting for exercise. I wanted to do something with the music, but I didn’t know what. With the libretto in hand, I now knew that the opera’s first act had 5 characters, and, effectively, 12 songs plus the overture. To me, that sounded like a musical.

When I tried to burn the first act onto a CD, it was too long. To make it fit, I cut out all the recitatives. That made it just under an hour. Now it sounded even more like a musical, a Broadway musical. I thought I might try to turn it into one.

4. Writing a Libretto by Ear In Yellowstone

With a printed copy of the Italian libretto I had scanned into my computer, and a CD of the overture and 12 songs, I took a portable CD-player with me on vacation at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge in Yellowstone National Park in February. My wife Deb and I had made a tradition of going cross-country skiing in Yellowstone every February ever since we had moved away from Jackson Hole. We had met in Jackson, when the friend I shared an apartment with said I should stop by the restaurant where he waited tables to meet a girl he thought I would hit it off with. He was right—we hit it off, got married within a couple of years, then moved east after another 3 years. At the time we moved, Deb had lived in Jackson for 16 years and I had lived there for 8 years. We had been coming back to see friends and ski pretty much every year since moving away.

In Yellowstone, I listened to the recording over and over, trying to figure out what the songs should be about. Each day we would go cross-country skiing; each night, Deb would write letters, or read, while I would listen to the CD. It started simply, just jotting down what the Italian-sung phrases sounded like to me in English.

One passage sounded like “no Jello.”

Another passage sounded like “I’m gonna buy my old grand-dad a Geo.” The first new car Deb and I ever bought was a Geo Metro. Maybe the Geo song could be about the different models sold by Geo. That would make it a period piece, late 1980s.

There were five characters; late 1980s. They say write what you know. What could I write about that took place in the late 1980s that had 3 men and 2 women? The closest thing I could think of was the sketch comedy revue I had put together with my partner Eddie; it had 3 men (me, Eddie, and our musician/accompanist, Dave) and 1 woman (Holly). However, there was a second woman—Deb handled the box office on occasion. Maybe the songs could work with us as the five characters.

I mapped out the songs for the five characters. If this was about the show, and it ran an hour, it could be about the hour before the show opened. The first night: that would be the most dramatic. It made sense; it could work, dramatically speaking. And so, the shape of the show would be the hour before the lights came up on opening night of Roadkill Live!!!, the 1988 comedy revue.

With that decision, the writing came fairly easily. Within a year I had fit lyrics (by ear) to the recording. It helped that I had the Italian libretto, which told me who was singing (particularly since, to my ears, the one soprano sounded an awful lot like the other) and roughly how many syllables.

Yet I still didn’t feel like I was done with this music. I wanted to stage it. To figure out if it would really work as a show, I decided to create a mock-up. First, I fit the lyrics like super-titles over the recording. I showed a version of this as a work in progress to people attending Artomatic 2004, a non-juried art show. It seemed to work.

Next, I figured I would need the rights to use the recording. Fortunately, I knew a guy: Brad.

5. Pursuing the Rights to Use the Recording in Nashville & New York

Brad, too, was one of my high school buddies; he had become a music rights attorney in Nashville. He wrote to the record company in New York to request rights to use of the recording for a community theater production, also requesting access to the master tapes.

The record company never wrote back. It was understandable, really. They were being acquired by another label and had better things to do with their time than to spend it granting permission for free use of their out-of-print recording in a community theater production. But without the rights, I felt I couldn’t use the recording, so I had no show.

6. Doldrums

For the next few years I didn’t do anything with the show. Without the rights to the recording, I was stuck. The only way to get unstuck would be to get ahold of a score, and, despite repeated attempts to locate one, I was not able to do so.

With my project on indefinite hold, I focused on Deb’s photography. She had a Nikon 35 mm reflex camera when I met her, and in recent years she had switched to digital photography. She has a fine eye, and I felt guilty that no one else got to see her work. As a holiday gift, I gave her an Apple photo book and, with her permission, signed her up to exhibit her photographs at Artomatic 2007; as part of the gift, I worked the volunteer shifts required of artists.

While online one night checking up on things for Artomatic 2007, I searched for Paer’s opera again, as I had from time to time, trying to find a score. Boy, was I surprised at what I found.

7. A New Production of the 200 Year Old Opera in London

The Bampton Opera is a small outfit outside London that revives infrequently-performed works. They were staging Paer’s Leonora twice; once at Bampton, once in London. The London production would be in September 2008. I asked Deb if she wanted to go.

We spent a week touring London, and saw Leonora our last night there.

Through the first act, while watching the action on stage, I was ignoring the lyrics the performers were singing, and instead I was reading my lyrics while following along with the score.

Yes, the score! I had been corresponding with the arranger, letting him know that I had been listening to this music for more than 20 years. He had sent me PDFs of the score. While I had tried to read the score while listening to my recording, I am just not that proficient at reading music. It seemed to follow pretty closely, but there also appeared to be some differences. By going to the performance in London, I was able to decide with certainty that the score was substantially the same as the recording.

Now I had a big decision to make: should I purchase the score?

8. A Score from Scotland: Wow, Software Has Changed A Lot

When we arrived in London I called the arranger and asked if he wanted to get together while I was in town. It turned out he lived in Scotland, a long way away, and would not be in London the week I was there. Oh well.

After we got home, I resumed corresponding with the arranger. Finally, I called him to ask.

“How much do you want for the score?”

“How much is it worth to you?”

“I only want the Overture and the first act, and only parts of that.”

We agreed on a price.

“What software is it written in?” I asked.

“Sibelius,” he said, “that’s what professionals use.”

He wasn’t kidding. Sibelius had been acquired by Avid, the professional video editing software company whose products are used throughout the industry. I only had the “lite” version of a competing software product.

9. Score!

April 2009, score in hand, I went for it, software-wise. The gentleman had included a piano reduction with the conductor’s score, so I actually had two scores to work with.

One of the beauties of the long search for the score is that computers and software had become fast, powerful, and affordable. That is not to say cheap. Sibelius allowed me to listen to the score, and to listen to individual instruments or voices, but the instruments sounded like an arcade video game—unless you ponied up for some additional synthesized or sampled instruments. So, when I bought Sibelius, I also bought Garritan Personal Orchestra, which made the score sound like, well, I guess that is obvious enough.

With my rudimentary music-reading skills, I decided it would be easier to fit the lyrics to the orchestral score than to fit them to the piano-vocal score. Easier doesn’t mean easy—or fast. It took the better part of 3 years.

While I had fit the lyrics by ear to the recording in 2004/2005, the notation turned out to be quite a bit different when I started to adjust the lyrics note for note to the orchestral score. Some of the lyrics changed—mostly to fewer syllables. After years away from the project, only one of the songs received a substantial change lyrically—that would be Geo. In the final version, Dave is singing “thrill me,” which is much more interesting than “pay me” in the earlier draft. “Pay me” was largely an artifact from trying too hard to match what the Italian in the underlying libretto sounded like.

14. Production Notes

In the summer of 2011 I finished up fitting the lyrics to both scores, printed them up, and started talking up the show to anyone who would listen (and to a lot of people who didn’t want to hear about it—sorry about that). A co-worker at my day job, Martine Micozzi, is a former studio session player who now plays flute for symphony orchestras in the Washington DC area, and asked if she could show it to one of her conductors. Jeffrey Dokken liked the show and agreed to workshop it. As music director and conductor, he recruited opera singers and a chamber orchestra. He workshopped the music for a week, culminating in a workshop performance on Saturday, June 9, 2012, in Crystal City, Virginia, as part of Artomatic, a free, non-juried community art show. It was a concert performance—that is, the parts were sung, but there were no costumes, props, scenery, or blocking. In addition to the performance, there were open rehearsals.

The concert went very well. The act scheduled before us was stuck in traffic and did not show up, so we were able to have enough time to set up lights and microphones (for the video), chairs, and music stands. It was standing room only, even with the Artomatic staff bringing in extra chairs. The performers played and sang very well, and we cleared the stage in time for the following act. The program included a news release from Artomatic.

15. Swag

In an attempt to try to recoup some of the production costs and to raise money for a studio recording, I wanted to sell some merchandise. I ordered posters designed and printed by the legendary Hatch Show Print shop in Nashville, and ginned up some bottle openers (for Opening Night, get it?), shirts, aprons, and baseball caps featuring the original logo designed by Eric Scholl for the 1988 Roadkill On A Stick Frozen Foods Theatre Company sketch comedy revue in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Eric and his family happened to be staying at a hotel across the street from Artomatic on June 9, 2012, the night of the workshop concert performance—they surprised me as we were setting up for the show, and asked if there was anything they could do to help. I asked them to hang black backgrounds on both sides of the stage to clean up the background for the video of the workshop performance being shot by my nephew. They received credits in the video as “Scrim Crew.”

When people came to the performance, we had a swag table displaying hats, bottle openers, and posters, as well as a few aprons and shirts with the embroidered logo.

24. Studio Recording and Tour

Jeffrey Dokken plans to record and tour Opening Night: A Roadkill Opera. As of October 2012, there is still not a commercial recording of Ferdinando Paer’s Leonora available. I know, because I checked with the staff at Da Caruso, the opera CD shop in Vienna. I left off 2 copies of the DVD recording from the workshop performance of Opening Night: A Roadkill Opera, one for the current staff and one for the former staffer who had brought the cassette home and had his boyfriend identify the music for me in 2004. That former staffer no longer works at the CD store, but is now performing opera—in small roles, I was told.

A Roadkill Opera
"the underground opera sensation"



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