One Ounce Opera is honored to welcome back Composer Liam Wade, whose winning piece “The Stranger the Better” will be performed during 2nd Annual Fresh Squeezed Ounce of Opera. His work with Librettist John Grimmett was chosen for FSOO 2016. Watch OOO perform it live here.
Librettist Vynnie Meli joins Wade for a New Orleanian romp through a modernized Stella, Blanche, and Stanley…with several unique twists. The cast had a couple of questions for the writing pair:
Q1 (from Jake Jacobsen, playing Stanley) Vynnie: A Streetcar Named Desire is a fairly classic play so I’m sure the characters will be attractive to the audience. How do you think people will relate to Stranger’s Stella and Stanley?
Vynnie: THE STRANGER THE BETTER is not an adaptation, but it’s the closest I’ve come to one. It was liberating in the sense that it gives the audience a shorthand into the characters. Everyone has a preconceived notion of the Stanley Stella dynamic, so we could go further faster. We could take… liberties. Everyone also can relate to family interfering in relationships, and relationships interfering in family. As long as we stay true to that impulse, I think the audience will go along with us having as much fun as we did with these iconic characters. By the way, The Stanley Stella Dynamic – good name for a band.
Q2 (from the cast) Liam: the a cappella chorale towards the end is super nice. What was your inspiration for writing it?
Liam: The first version of The Stranger the Better that was performed at the 24 Hour Opera project was about 10 minutes long. The following week, Vynnie and I discussed how we could expand it. One of her comments was that she felt the line “I’ve always relied on the kindness of strangers.” could use a little more of something. She did not say what, but she did specify about 15% more. So I set out to give her my usual 110%.
I had recently seen Così fan tutte in Amsterdam, and a show called Der Wildschütz in Dresden. In the case of Così, I found myself tripping out to the long, gorgeous lines in Mozart’s ensemble writing. With Wildschütz, my favorite part was a beautiful moment that featured an a cappella quartet. I think every show needs a vocal payout/ reward. I thought it’d be effective to have a beautiful, vulnerable moment at the end to bring these four characters, and their voices, together.
Liam Wade is an American composer of opera, art song, symphonic works and chamber music. His comic opera, Part of the Act, was commissioned by Washington National Opera and premiered at the Kennedy Center on their 2012-13 season. His one act opera, The Stranger The Better, won the Audience Award at The Atlanta Opera’s 24-Hour Opera Project in 2016. His music has been heard on concerts at La Jolla Music Society, ProQuartet France, Toronto Music Garden, One Ounce Opera (Austin, TX), The Atlanta Opera, Hartford Opera Theater, West Edge Opera, Academy of Vocal Arts, The Kennedy Center and Semperoper Dresden.
Vynnie Meli is a playwright, lyricist and librettist from Rochester, NY who’s lived in Atlanta long enough to miss snow. She went from sculpture to a career in advertising, but when she started writing in other people’s voices, she found her own. A Eugene O’Neill semi-finalist with numerous grants and awards, several of Meli’s works have been in theaters around the country and, most recently, an opera festival in Australia. Twice selected for the New York Musical Festival, her latest won numerous NYMF Awards and the Steele Spring Stage Rights Publishing Award. A CAPPELLA, a musical about finding your own voice, is in development at Alliance Theatre through the Reiser’s Atlanta Artists Lab. THE STRANGER THE BETTER is making the rounds in Atlanta, Hartford, Oakland, San Fransisco and St. Lewis. Now Meli and Wade are super happy to get fresh squeezed in Austin!
A member of Dramatists Guild, Inc.; Working Title Playwrights; TRU