"Red Emma". An Opera by Gary Kulesha

feminismGOLDMAN, Emma (1869-1940)Music. OperaMusic. Musical creationsart: musicMusic. Classical music

Composer: Gary Kulesha
Libretto: Carol Bolt
Description: Two acts
Premiered: November 28, 1995, Canadian Opera Company, du Maurier Theatre, Toronto

Publisher: Libretto and complete vocal and orchestral score available through Cathryn Gregor, Director of Music Administration, Canadian Opera Company. Phone: 416-363-6671.
Length: Two hours
Musical forces: Eight principals (soprano, mezzo-soprano, 3 baritones, 2 tenors, bass); orchestra: flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, 1 percussion, piano (dbl synthesizer), 2 violins, viola, cello, bass.
Musical style: The opera is crafted in arias, duets, and ensembles, accessibly tonal, and tuneful. The music exhibits a wide range of coloration and an imaginative use of a small chamber ensemble. The composer has a flair for writing both brief motivic interchanges and longer cantabile soliloquies for the singers which carve distinctive, memorable musical profiles. The musical language is tonal and inventively chromatic, veering towards atonality and dissonance when crises in the story require it.


Twenty-year-old Emma Goldman arrives in New York City at the end of the 19th century. Full of idealism, she is passionately committed to the abstract beliefs of anarchism, a left-wing turn-of-the-century dogma. In New York, she encounters Alexander Berkman and Johann Most, two of the leading figures in anarchy, and sequentially has relationships with both men. As the opera progresses, she discovers that her idealism seems to be more deeply rooted than the idealism of those around her. The story of the opera concerns Emma’s coming to consciousness, and her growing awareness that if change happens, she herself will have to make it happen-a particularly unusual situation for a woman in the late 1890s.
Selected reviews: The Wall Street Journal, Heidi Waleson, 12-11-95; NOW Magazine, Jon Kaplan, 12-7-95; Maclean’s, John Bemrose, 12-11-95; Music Works Magazine, Sibylle Preuschat, 3-96; The Toronto Star, Vit Wagner, 11-25-95; The Ottawa Citizen, 11-25-95; The Hamilton Spectator, 11-25-95; The Toronto Star, William Littler, 11-29-95; The Toronto Sun, Wilder Penfield III, 11-29-95; The Buffalo News, Herman Trotter, 11-29-95; The Globe and Mail, Elissa Poole, 11-30-95; Opera Canada, Paula Citron, 12-1-95; Radio: CFRB-FM, Jeremy Brown, 11-29-95; 680 News, Dick Smyth, 11-29-95; Classical 96-FM, Catherine Belyea, 11-29-95; CJRT-FM, Jon Kaplan, 12-1-95.