Music by Dominick Argento Libretto by the composer freely adapted from On the Harmfulness of Tobacco by Anton Chekov and The Birds of America by J. J. Audobon
About A Water Bird Talk
A monodrama for male voice, with offstage coughing and throat-clearing, A Water Bird Talk is a good companion piece to Argento's later monodrama for soprano, Miss Havisham's Wedding Night. It provides an effective showpiece for a high baritone who can act as well as sing.
Cast of Characters
The Lecturer,medium male voice (baritone or low tenor)
The setting is the rostrum of a provincial club on the East Coast of the United States, sometime in the second half of the 19th century. The Lecturer, a somewhat absent-minded man in his fifties, begins a lecture on water birds. At the beginning of the lecture his wife prompts him from offstage with coughing and throat-clearing. She soon leaves in disgust, and the Lecturer's talk digresses even further into his home life: his wife is a dominating, ill-tempered woman; he regrets the unfulfilled promises of his youth; and even his daughters make fun of him. At last, the explosion of his slide projector and the return of his wife ends his lecture, and he leaves the stage.
World premiere Orpheus Chamber Ensemble, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn, New York May 19, 1977 The Lecturer: Vern Sutton Philip Brunelle, conductor Ian Strasfogel, stage director