Post-Madonna Prima Donna (2001)

Post-Madonna Prima Donna is a one-act opera about language. This is reflected in the word play of the title, the content of the libretto, the conversational vernacular with which those ideas are discussed in the recitatives, and the language of tonality as it develops throughout the opera.

One singer performs both the title role and an interlocutor in dialogue with that character. Like Thespis—who is credited with inventing the art of acting in ancient Greece by performing multiple characters that he distinguished by costume and mask changes—the aural mask of a vocoder defines the soprano's alternate character. And like Greek tragedy the chorus is an additional abstract character.

When I composed this work I was more interested in opera as a form than as drama or spectacle. Consequently, I used the classical operatic forms of overture, recitative, aria and finale. However, I organized those units into a structure of nested palindromes embedded within an overarching palindrome in order to critically reexamine tradition through rigorous methodology. For example, the accompaniment of recitative 2 reiterates the accompaniment of recitative 1 backwards, while within each recitative every phrase is a palindromic rhythm.

Post-Madonna Prima Donna premiered at The Stone in New York City, July 28, 2006, and has also been performed at The Willmette Theater in Chicago, Illinois, and The World Music Hall in Middletown, CT.

“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