Chunky in Heat (2019)

Chunky in Heat tells the story of a girl who comes of age poolside at her family’s home in the canyons of Los Angeles. The magical thinking of youth comes undone after her brother dies and she realizes what the word “dream” in American Dream really means.

Chunky in Heat is a one-act opera in 14 scenes. Six composers (Jason Cady, Paula Matthusen, Erin Rogers, Aaron Siegel, Shelley Washington and Matthew Welch) composed two or three scenes each. A.M. Homes wrote the libretto. It premiered May 31, 2019 at The Flea Theater in New York City.

Sarah Daniels, Chunky
Timothy Stoddard, Walter / Fiancee / Beekeeper
Emily Geller, Mother
Joshua Jeremiah, Father
Rachel Doehring, Abigail / Shapeshifter
Jason Cady, Talking Tree

Daniel Kochersberger, saxophone
Evan Honse, trumpet
Amy Garapic, percussion
Matt Evans, percussion
Paul Kerekes, piano
Colin Davin, guitar
Sabrina Tabby, violin
Anna Heflin, viola
Helen Newby, cello
Dara Bloom, bass

Creative Team:
Alison Moritz, Director
David Bloom, Music Director
Kate Noll, Stage Designer
Solomon Weisbard, Lighting Designer
Taylor Jensen, Associate Lighting Desiner
Elivia Bovenzi, Costume Designer
Nathaniel Butler, Sound Designer
Savannah Kurtz, Stage Manager
Allison Gish, Supertitles
Eric Paton, Video

“Chunky’s trigger-laden saga is revealed in a jumble of brief scenes like a biography told in selfies. Enhancing the splintered effect, the score is composed by a gaggle of musicians working in relay: Jason Cady, Paula Matthusen, Erin Rogers, Aaron Siegel, Shelley Washington and Matthew Welch.

And yet the 70-minute opera feels remarkably unified. I don’t know if the composition committee was clairvoyant or if they simply had an excellent editor, but the result is perhaps the strongest modern opera I’ve heard since David T. Little’s Dog Days.”

—James Jorden, The Observer, June 3, 2019

“Raw, funny, surreal, and disarmingly human, Chunky in Heat is an experiment gone delightfully right… For Chunky in Heat, Experiments in Opera had six different composers write the fourteen scenes. Amazingly, Chunky in Heat is not a disjointed pastiche, but a cohesive work whose strength is in the range of musical energies that five life to Chunky’s story. The individual styles of each composer are easily discernible from scene to scene, but the shared orchestration (especially the use of pitched percussion, including a vibraphone) threads them together to create a distinct soundscape for Chunky that is equal parts bright, pulsing, languorous, and melancholic. Each composer seems to have been assigned scenes that fit their musical style… Jason Cady and Matthew Welch both created appropriately whacky fun, and surreal rhythms and harmonies for the opera’s dreamier moments…”

—Steven Jude Tietjen, Opera News

See additional reviews of Chunky in Heat in San Francisco Classical Voice, Concerto Net, Seen and Heard International, Arts Journal, and Berkshire Fine Arts; plus a preview in The New Yorker, a mention in Vanity Fair, and these tweets from Joyce Carol Oates:

Joyce Carol Oates Tweet Screen Shot 2019-06-03 at 4.22.47 PM.png