The Last Act of Revolution: a chamber opera in one act
The Last Act of Revolution is a one-act chamber opera scored for two sopranos, tenor, baritone, and piano. The libretto, written by Lucas Richmond, is based on historical events surrounding the suicide of Ulrike Meinhof, a key member of the militant Red Army Faction, also known as the Baader-Meinhof Gang. The opera takes place during the final hours of Meinhof's life and explores the psychological dimensions of political violence.
The Last Act of Revolution was premiered for University of Maryland Opera Studio New Work Reading in February 2012. The opera was written with this performance in mind; Lucas Richmond and I worked closely with Leon Major – the director of the Maryland Opera Studio – when crafting the scenario and libretto. I have also scored an aria from the opera’s second scene, “To think that all this work began in columns,” for small chamber ensemble, which was premiered at the Music11 festival in Switzerland and featured soprano Lindsay Kesselman and cellist Nicholas Photinos from eighth blackbird. It was later selected for performance by the Great Noise Ensemble with soprano Hillary LaBonte at Catholic University’s New Voices Festival in January 2012. LaBonte will performed the aria a second time for at An Die Musik in Baltimore.
I first thought of the idea to write an opera about the Red Army Faction after seeing the film, The Baader-Meinhof Complex. Stefan Aust’s book of the same title was also a resource. I was largely drawn to Ulrike and I saw her life as a potential character study. A prominent left-wing journalist covering the student movement in West Germany, she abandons her life and family to go underground with the RAF. This is a decision with disastrous consequences, one that ultimately leads to her imprisonment and suicide. Her suicide would serve as the basis of my operatic scenario – the catastrophe for her character arc.
I was interested in writing a chamber opera that used minimal forces and staging, so that the character’s psychological states could be brought to the forefront of the dramaturgical experience. The prison setting, and lack of much ‘action,’ in the traditional sense, would facilitate the exploration of Ulrike’s consciousness. After bringing this scenario to Lucas Richmond, he suggested the invention of a character, the lawyer, who exists entire in Ulrike’s mind. Thus Ulrike’s internal monologue was transformed into a dialog between two characters on the stage.
Additionally, when looking for musical inspiration for The Last Act of Revolution I turned to the Bertolt Brecht’s play Die Maßnahme, which the members of the RAF quoted with some frequency. Hanns Eisler wrote several songs and incidental music for the play; a number of these songs are quoted throughout the opera and partially form the basis of its leitmotivic structure.
A portion of the work was orchestrated and presented at New York City Opera's VOX Festival.
Andreas Baader: Baritone
Gudrun Ensslin: Light Lyric Soprano
Ulrike Meinhof: Full Lyric Soprano
A Lawyer: Tenor
Instrumentation: flute/piccolo/alto flute, clarinet/bass clarinet, horn, 2 percussion, piano, violin, viola , cello, contrabass
Duration: 55 minutes
To inquire about performances, purchase of the score, and rental of parts, please email me at email@example.com