Interview: Christopher Cerrone

by Rachel Wilson

On Friday, August 24, Brooklyn Music School will present the performance of “All Wounds Bleed” as part of its Summer Vocal Arts program. This performance is a one-act chamber opera composed by Pulitzer Prize finalist and BMS Advisory Board member Christopher Cerrone. The libretto was written by Tony Asaro, a multi-talented artist who has worked as a librettist, lyricist, conductor, vocalist and producer throughout New York City and the Bay Area. I had the chance to interview Christopher about the show and why you should go see it!

Q: How did you come up with the idea for “All Wounds Bleed?”

A: "All Wounds Bleed" was written as part of a mentorship program with American Lyric Theatre Composer-Librettist Development Program. The final project was to collaborate with a librettist in the program on a new project and the whole thing is written rather quickly (a month for 30 minutes plus a libretto), so it was an exercise in trusting one's first instinct. Tony and I had written a little aria, Gesualdo’s Lament, that we both liked a lot, so it seemed natural for us to work on this project together.

Q: What was the inspiration for it? What drew you to write an opera around the myth of Echo and Narcissus?

A: Tony and I toyed around with different ideas — being from different backgrounds (him mostly in music theatre and me mostly more experimental opera), we found mythology to be neutral ground. Surely these ancient tales have enough resonance. As for Echo and Narcissus, what timeless subjects that could have a modern edge. And this was written before Instagram! Of course, the musical resonates. 

Q: What is the overall process for writing a production such as this?

A:  The process was very quick! But I was very thankful for Tony’s extremely structured libretto — it gave me a lot to rely on as I composed—the choices of recapitulating material were most certainly his!

Q: Are there any messages you want the audience to receive from this work?

A: I think we were both a bit heartbroken at the time of writing — surely the scorned Hera is the character who we both resonate with the best. 

Q: Why did you decide to write this as a one-act chamber opera?

A: The project originated in ALT. However. I’m pleased to say that I’ll be orchestrating the work for a large chamber ensemble for a performance this coming May 2019!

Q: What are some of your favorite types of productions to compose or work with?

A: I love the collaborative nature of opera — visuals, movement, sound, and words come together to make something greater than its parts. However, like it or not, drama seems to be a part of the process so I’m occasionally happy to just write a piano piece or a string quartet too.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to say about this production?

A: I am thrilled the Brooklyn Music School is taking the work on! I’m so glad it can have a new life with these young singers!