A Fleeting Animal Returns
An Opera Unfolding
“A Fleeting Animal” was performed six times in the year 2000. The highly regarded work affected large audiences at every showing then lay dormant until last year. A big birthday and some coincidental reminders inspired composer Erik Nielsen to revive the story. What started as an inkling became an itch. That itch has recently become a burning. Erik’s vision for the opening in September, 2015 is as powerful as the production promises to be. He and poet David Budbill have teamed up again, surrounded themselves with a powerful team, and begun anew their labor of love.
The More Things Change…
Themes of rural poverty, racism, and PTSD are, sadly, no less relevant today than they were in 1999. Income disparity continues to expand throughout the U.S. and each day American soldiers return home in need of treatment. Vermont characters created by Vermont artists portray these vivid truths in a way that is sharply real. This is a story that must be told again.
The libretto is written by David Budbill, a renowned poet writing in Vermont since 1969. The characters come from his play “Judevine,” first staged in 1980 and still performed all over the U.S. The score is composed by Erik Nielsen, writing music in Vermont since 1988. Tommy and Grace are the lead characters. Tommy is a Vietnam vet struggling with PTSD. Grace is a single mother living in poverty in a fictional Vermont village (Judevine).
The characters won’t be updated; Nielsen believes they are every bit as compelling as before. He says, “The more detail the characters have, the more universal they are. We see ourselves when another’s struggles are made real. We all have the same struggles—the same longing for fulfillment.”
Nielsen is a full-time composer. He has also been a teacher in public and private schools, a senior level mentor for music-COMP, a teaching artist providing in-school residencies, and a board member. These experiences serve him well as he perseveres with the multitude of tasks in making an opera coalesce: fundraising, awareness building, copying and revising the handwritten score, finding performers, and making arrangements with performance venues. David and Erik will travel to libraries and other community centers to talk about the project in August and September next year. The pieces—including a documentary film—are coming together. Erik’s enthusiasm is characteristically careful as he wonders aloud, “Is it good fortune?” Then he says, “It feels like karma. The time just seems right.”
Six performances are set for 2015; they are a Vermont Arts 2015 event. The locations are carefully chosen: spread far enough to accommodate a variety of audiences, and grouped in twos for those who wish to see the opera more than once. The opening performance will be at the Barre Opera House September 11, 2015. Details about the performances appear in the Vermont Arts Calendar.
September 11: Barre Opera House, Barre
September 12: Elley-Long Music Center, Colchester
September 13: Hardwick Town House, Hardwick
September 18: Town Hall Theater, Woodstock
September 19: Vergennes Opera House, Vergennes
September 20: Chandler Center for the Arts, Randolph