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A Water Bird Talk

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A Water Bird Talk

opera in one act

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.

Performance History
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
Discography Search for recordings of A Water Bird Talk at Amazon.com

Dominick Argento

A Water Bird Talk (includes Argento's Elizabethan Songs)

Vern Sutton, Manhattan Chamber Orchestra/Clark

CD / Newport Classics NCD 85602 (1996)

A Water Bird Talk


Dominick Argento

A Water Bird Talk/Miss Havisham's Wedding Night

Shirley-Quick, Mabbs, Sinfonia of St. Cecilia/Watkins

CD / Koch International Classics 3-7388-2 H1 (1997)

Bibliography Search for book about A Water Bird Talk at Amazon.com

Dominick Argento: The Lecturer from A Water Bird Talk


Boosey & Hawkes American Arias: Bass

Boosey and Hawkes 2004

Last update: January 1, 2009