Cuatro Corridos (2016) Bridge 9473
2017 Latin Grammy Nomination
OPERA NEWS - "CRITICS CHOICE"
“WHEN JORGE VOLPI, the librettist of Cuatro Corridos, received a commission from soprano Susan Narucki, an esteemed champion of new music who now teaches at the University of California at San Diego, he knew he wanted to write about human trafficking, a subject that had tormented him for years. Volpi’s libretto consists of one monologue for each of four characters, and he enlisted four different composers to set each. Reflecting the bi-national nature of the project, two of the composers are Mexican, and the other two are from the U.S.
In the first monologue, with music by Hebert Vázquez, we hear from Azucena, a prostitute. The piece starts as a Mexican folk ballad, a simple waltz tune on the guitar, with an overlay of creatively dissonant piano. After two stanzas, however, it turns ominous and distorted. “Off you go, daughter,” Azucena recalls her father saying. The music is still rhythmic, but syncopated, jagged and much more discordant. It’s like warped calypso music, mirroring the horrible life into which the young woman is about to be forced. There’s a return to the more comfortable rhythm and harmony of the beginning, but then it turns slow, shard-like and menacing with rapidly oscillating guitar figures, bowed marimba and insinuating upper register piano figures. After a Bartókian frenzy for piano and percussion, the cheery song accompaniment returns in E major, and it’s devastating.
In the second monologue, with music by Arlene Sierra, we hear from Dalia, a former prostitute who is now a trafficker herself. This movement doesn’t bother, like the first one does, with familiar harmonies and rhythms. Sierra makes calculatedly spare use of the instruments, emphasizing bleakness and pessimism. Dalia reacts with shame and bitterness to what her life has become. The movement dies away with quiet despair.
The third section, by Lei Liang, is the only one in English. Now we hear from a policewoman announcing that the Salazar brothers, ringleaders of the real-life Tenancingo trafficking network, have been arrested (this actually happened in 2001). The first stanza is spoken to the stern rhythmic accompaniment of a drum; the character doesn’t sing until the end of the second stanza, on the phrase “a gang of criminal pimps.” This fragmented and frenzied monologue seems inspired by Chinese opera in its use of percussion and swooping vocals; it gives the policewoman a blazing characterization.
In the final monologue, with music by Hilda Paredes, a woman (Violeta) sings about her friend Iris, who did not survive the ordeal. The musical language is economical, anguished and almost anarchic; then it builds to savage pounding and thrashing, giving the impression that societal norms have disintegrated. The syllabically intoned final line (“I wither from sadness / a flower without dew”) is heartbreaking.
Narucki is a Ninja warrior in her ability to traverse this unrelentingly difficult (both musically and emotionally) hour-long work with such immersive passion and intensity. All four composers make brilliantly imaginative use of the instrumental forces, and the astoundingly virtuosic players—Pablo Gómez on guitar, Aleck Karis on piano and Ayano Kataoka on percussion—are vital to the success of the performance. This piece is bracingly fresh, continuously fascinating and deeply disturbing; somehow, though, you emerge with a sense of optimism that, in the proper hands, ghastly human tragedies can result in great art.”
— Joshua Rosenblum, Opera News. March 26, 2017
Philomela, an opera in one act
(2009) AEON 0986
Anu Komsi, Philomela
Susan Narucki, Procne
Lionel Peintre, Tereseus
Jurjen Hempel, conductor Remix Ensemble
Winner of the l'Orphée d'Or du meilleur enregistrement de musique lyrique du XXIIme siécle de l'Académie du Disque Lyrique 2010 Paris, France.
British composer James Dillon, inspired by the myth written by Ovid and Sophocles, created his first music theater piece with this visionary work. Philomela is one of the major contemporary lyric successes of the last decade, innovative and emotionally piercing.
"Dillon's multi- layered score, full of anguish and struggle, is a harrowing immersion for the listener, but a gripping one, a churning stew that in this fine performance unshirkingly reflects the extreme carnality of the story."
- The Irish Times
"This is James Dillon's first opera, staged in Porto three years ago, and this recording comes from a concert performance at the same time. Dillon casts the tragedy as a tightly woven three-hander, in which different layers of narration and narrative time, as well as what is performed live and what is pre-recorded, combine to create a complex web of connections between past and present. The ensemble writing is tough and sinewy, the vocal lines highly wrought; it's not a comfortable listen, but it is a fascinating one, and the performance, with Anu Komsi as Philomela and Susan Narucki as her sister, is superbly vivid."
- Andrew Clements, The Guardian
(1996) Nonesuch 79367-2
Schoenberg and Asko Ensembles
Netherlands Chamber Choir
Reinbert de Leeuw, conductor
Susan Narucki, soprano
James Doing, tenor
“But the tender side of Andriessen is revealed in the ecstatic Hadewijch, an erotic 13th-century text delivered voluptuously by the soprano Susan Narucki, chomping bass clarinets nipping at her ankles.”
- BBC Music Magazine
Elmer Schönberger (co-author with Andriessen of a book about Stravinsky entitled Apollonian Clockwork) has provided the following succinct synopsis of De Materie: The dramaturgy is that of a tableau vivant, peopled by (mainly Dutch) historical figures; they sing their own historical words thereby continually throwing new light on the subjects. These figures are united by their scientific, religious, artistic, and political idealism, as well as their common willingness to pay the price exacted by their ideals. In part 1, Gorlaeus, the early seventeenth-century philosopher who died at a young age, reinstates the ancient Greek theory of atomism. In part 2, Hadewijch, the thirteenth-century poetess from Brabant, sings the praises of the unio mystica in music rooted in a rational compositional architecture based on the proportions of a cathedral dating from the same century. Both part 2 and part 3 (“Stijl” suggest that despite its title De Materie is mainly concerned with the limits of rationalit. In “Stijl,” whose form and instrumentation were modeled on Mondrian’ Composition with Red, Yellow, and Blue, the emphasis is on the metaphysical inspiration of Neo-Plasticism. Finally part 4 once again takes up the theme of science - time personified by Marie Curie— also the themes of love and death as expressed by the Dutch symbolist poet Willem Kloos.
Writing to Vermeer (2006) Nonesuch 7559 79887-2
ASKO/Schoenberg Ensembles, Reinbert de Leeuw conductor
Susan Narucki, soprano
Susan Bickley, mezzo-soprano
Barbara Hannigan, soprano
New York Times Best Classical Recordings of 2006
“This remarkable, unique opera, premiered in the Netherlands in 1999, is a beautiful, lyrical piece of work. It takes place in 1672, when the artist Johannes Vermeer left his home in Delft for two weeks to advise a collector on the purchase of some Italian paintings. The opera's form--thoroughly anti-dramatic--involves letters sent to Vermeer (who never appears or reacts) by his real mother-in-law, his real wife, and a fictional model. There are 18 letters, and each of the women representing them has a unique voice and attitude. The model, Saskia, has music that sits high in the soprano voice and is always sung sweetly; the mother-in-law, Maria, is a mezzo, and her middle register provides warmth and caring; Vermeer's wife, Catharina, another soprano, sings lovingly and passionately. The letters are relatively mundane. They describe the health and well-being (or not) of the children, domestic life, and so forth, and all of them yearn for Vermeer's return. So where's the drama? Well, 1672 was a catastrophic year for the Netherlands. Catholic-Protestant battling tore the country apart, there was an explosion in Delft, the French invaded, two important statesman were murdered, and finally, the Dutch flooded their own country as a defense against the French, ruining the country's economy and Vermeer's livelihood. These events burst into the narrative and the music, which is simply lovely and gentle most of the time, although it becomes dissonant and aggressive… The string playing is light and Baroque-flavored (and there is prominent use of harpsichord), while harps and cimbalom create a gentler world. And the final all-encompassing flood is as impressive in its cataclysmic grandeur as the simpler, domestic scenes are charming…it is a joy to behold.
- Robert Levine
To Be Sung | a chamber opera
(1997) Radio France MFA 216026
Sarah Leonard, Susan Narucki & Rosemary Hardy, sopranos
Geoffrey Carey, speaker
Ensemble Le Banquet
Olivier Desjours, conductor
To Be Sung, a collaboration between Pascal Dusapin and James Turrell was produced by ATEM (France) in 1993. The original cast (Leonard, Narucki and Hardy) gave over 50 performances of the opera as it toured through Europe during the next four years, with performances in Paris, Nanterre, Orleans, Rouen, Strasbourg, Munich and Berlin.
What Price Confidence? An opera in one act
(2008) Phoenix Edition 130
Susan Narucki, soprano
Ilana Davidson, soprano
Richard Clement, tenor
Christopheren Nomura, baritone
Linda Hall, piano
"Finally Ernst Krenek's delightful comic opera What Price Confidence…is now on a CD complete with Krenek's English libretto.
I never forgot the magical impression this gem-of-an-opera left on all of us fortunate enough to be in attendance. The "question of confidence" (the pivotol element in this opera) is the source for intrigue and drama in regard to the life of two couples in London around 1900..
The four singers are absolutely marvelous. The soprano Ilana Davidson as Gloria, soprano Susan Narucki as Vivian, tenor Richard Clement as Richard and baritone Christopheren Nomura as Edwin, vividly express the emotional responses of the characters which they portray.
This minature opera, which is accompanied by the outstanding Metropolitan Opera pianist, Linda Hall, who illuminates Krenek's delightfully intriguing ideas, is highly engrossing - a lot happens and it's fast-paced from beginning to end.”
- Carolyn Horn
Performed at the Holland Festival, Munich Biennial and Braunschweig Opera Theater, 1993.
ASKO Ensemble, conductor by Stefan Asbury
An opera about the kidnapping of Patty Hearst, featuring Jaco Huipen, Gerrie deVries and Susan Narucki as Patty.