Odi et Amo (2006)

Odi Et Amo is a cantata inspired by the love poems of the ancient Roman poet Catullus. These texts were the first autobiographic cycle of poems written about a love affair in the Western world. They begin with the blossoming of a romance with a woman who Catullus referred to only as "Lesbia" (a courtesan from Lesbos, possibly an allusion to Sappho). But soon their relationship sours and the poems delve into the many conflicting emotions surrounding their breakup.

In the arias, I set his poems in their original Latin and for the recitatives I translated the same poems into English. My translations are gender neutral because I wanted the poems to be universal. Plus, with so many other fine translations of Catullus already available (most notably Louis Zukofsky's phonetic translations), I wanted to do something unique.

I created a new type of recitative texture for this work: each recitative is harmonically static, with improvised ornamentation of pointillist notes over an unchanging ostinato. From the first to the last recitative there is a linear development from the primal sound of a drone toward greater harmonic sophistication. This is in contrast to the arias that are through-notated with teleological harmonic progressions. Also, to further accentuate the binary form of the work, the arias and recitatives alternate in tempos that are proportioned in a ratio of 2:3 to create a polyrhythmic relationship between the sections.

Odi Et Amo is dedicated to Matthew Welch. It premiered at The Stone in New York City with Erin Flannery, soprano; Emily Manzo, piano; Aaron Siegel, vibraphone; and Jason Cady, synthesizer.

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“Issued on Jessica Pavone’s Peacock Imprint, Jason Cady’s one-act opera Post-Madonna Prima Donna is Mauricio Kagel meets Jeff Springer The Opera. To what extent Cady’s piece is intended as a commentary on the former Mrs Ritchie is kept, perhaps, deliberately vague. But a glitzy surface turns in on itself as the lone singer (Deanna Neil) starts to sing about the technicalities of the music she’s singing — musical material becoming more important than the Material Girl — tells its own story. And a pattern emerges: Plastic Flowers is a song cycle obsessed with artificiality, while Odi Et Amo is a reinvention of the Baroque cantata. Thoughtful satire, sharp composition.”

— Philip Clark, The Wire