Vera of Las Vegas
Composer: Daron Hagen
Composer Bio: One of America's most respected and prolific full-time composers of concert music and opera, Hagen's music enjoys more than a hundred performances a year. All seven of his operas, Amelia, Shining Brow, Bandanna, Vera of Las Vegas, New York Stories, The Antient Concert and Little Nemo in Slumberland, are currently in production internationally—some under Hagen's stage direction or under his baton. His songs and song cycles are too frequently performed to track.

Hagen's list of commissioners and premiering ensembles is extensive and includes The Philadelphia Orchestra, The New York Philharmonic, The National Symphony, The Milwaukee Symphony, American Composers Orchestra, The Albany Symphony, The Seattle Symphony, and The Buffalo Philharmonic. Most recently, Hagen has written concertos for Joel Fan, Gary Graffman, Jeffrey Khaner, Yumi Kurosawa, Michael Ludwig, Sara Sant'Ambrogio, the Amelia Piano Trio, Jaime Laredo, and Sharon Robinson, among others.

Hagen taught himself to read music at the age of 11, began piano lessons at the age of 12, completed his first symphony at 14, conducted his first orchestral première at 16, and at 19 became the youngest composer since Samuel Barber to have a work premièred by the Philadelphia Orchestra. Commissions during his early twenties from the New York Philharmonic and the Kings Singers launched his career before the first of his seven major operas, Shining Brow (1992), garnered international critical and audience acclaim and established him as one of America's most successful and respected opera composers.

He has received awards from the Rockefeller Foundation (twice), the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, Meet-the-Composer, the Bearns Prize from Columbia University, the Barlow Endowment Prize, Opera America, the ASCAP-Nissim Prize, and the Kennedy Center Friedheim Prize. In 2010, his Suite for Piano was a commissioned work for the Van Cliburn piano competition, resulting in hundreds of performances of the piece worldwide.

Hagen has been a Featured Composer at festivals including Tanglewood, Wintergreen, and Aspen and currently serves as Artistic Director for the Seasons Music Festival. He has served as Composer-in-residence with the Long Beach Symphony and the Denver Chamber Orchestra. As Artistic and Executive Director of the Perpetuum Mobile Concerts in New York and Philadelphia during the eighties, he presented premieres of over one hundred American composers' works.

Hagen's works have been commercially recorded on the Arsis, Albany, Bleecker Street, Bridge, CRI, Josara, Klavier, Naxos, Mark, Sanctus, Sierra Classical, Troppe Note, and New World record labels. In 2009, Naxos released Shining Brow (Buffalo Philharmonic / Falletta) and the complete Hagen Piano Trios (Finisterra Trio). Bandanna was released on Albany under his baton in 2007; Vera of Las Vegas on the CRI label. Nearly all of Hagen's vocal music is recorded and available commercially. Hagen's music is published by E.C. Schirmer, Carl Fischer, and Burning Sled.

Hagen is a trustee of the Douglas Moore Fund for American Opera, former president of the Lotte Lehmann Foundation, and a Lifetime Member of the Corporation of Yaddo. He serves frequently as an admissions and grants panelist for numerous national organizations including Opera America, the Copland House, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, among others.

Hagen is a graduate of Curtis and Juilliard. He served two years on the musical studies faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music; nine years on the composition faculty of Bard College; as a Visiting Professor at the City College of New York; and as a Lecturer in Music at New York University. He has served twice as Composer-in-Residence for the Princeton University Atelier; as Composer-in-Residence at the Chicago Conservatory of Music of the Chicago College of the Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, as Franz Lehar Composer-in-Residence at the University of Pittsburgh; as Artist-in-Residence at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas; Sigma-Chi-William P. Huffman Composer-in-Residence at Miami University; and for a year as Artist-in-Residence at Baylor University.

During 2012-13, Hagen's operas will receive new productions and / or premieres in Austin, Chicago, Como (Italy), Lexington, New York City, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Sarasota, and Sondrio (Italy). LyricFest (Philadelphia) and Virginia Tech will premiere new song cycles. The Hawaii and Seattle Symphony Orchestras will premiere new works. The Voxare String Quartet will premiere String Quartet No. 3 in Washington and release a CD of Hagen's works on Naxos.

Hagen lives in New York City with his wife, composer / singer / visual artist Gilda Lyons, and his sons Atticus and Seamus.
Librettist: Paul Muldoon
Librettist Bio: Paul Muldoon was born in 1951 in County Armagh, Northern Ireland, and educated in Armagh and at the Queen's University of Belfast. From 1973 to 1986 he worked in Belfast as a radio and television producer for the British Broadcasting Corporation. Since 1987 he has lived in the United States, where he is now Howard G. B. Clark '21 Professor at Princeton University and Chair of the Peter B. Lewis Center for the Arts. In 2007 he was appointed Poetry Editor of The New Yorker. Between 1999 and 2004 he was Professor of Poetry at the University of Oxford, where he is an honorary Fellow of Hertford College. Paul Muldoon's main collections of poetry are New Weather (1973), Mules (1977), Why Brownlee Left (1980), Quoof (1983), Meeting The British (1987), Madoc: A Mystery (1990), The Annals of Chile (1994), Hay (1998), Poems 1968-1998 (2001), Moy Sand and Gravel (2002), Horse Latitudes (2006), and Maggot (2010). A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Paul Muldoon was given an American Academy of Arts and Letters award in literature for 1996. Other recent awards are the 1994 T. S. Eliot Prize, the 1997 Irish Times Poetry Prize, the 2003 Pulitzer Prize, the 2003 Griffin International Prize for Excellence in Poetry, the 2004 American Ireland Fund Literary Award, the 2004 Shakespeare Prize, the 2005 Aspen Prize for Poetry, and the 2006 European Prize for Poetry. He has been described by The Times Literary Supplement as "the most significant English-language poet born since the second World War."
Other Artistic Personnel: Charles Maryan (Stage Director)
Richard Marshall (Executive Director)
Robert Frankenberry (Musical Director)
Original Cast: Elem Eley (Dumdum)
Dillon McCartney (Taco)
Shequida (Vera)
Patricia Dell (Doll)

Work Web Site:
Premiere Date: June 26, 2003
Producing Company: Center for Contemporary Opera
Description: The plot follows Dumdum and Taco, two hapless IRA operatives who take the wrong flight and end up in Las Vegas. Illegal immigrants, they are pursued by an Immigration official disguised as a flight attendant and they encounter the eponymous heroine.
Character List (Major): Vera (male soprano, countertenor or tenor)
Doll (soprano)
Taco (tenor)
Dumdum (baritone)
Character List (Minor): 6 or more "Catchalls" - women (SSAA) who portray, at various times, strippers, lap dancers, wedding chapel singers, dealers and flight attendants.
Reviews: European Critics:

European critics responded enthusiastically to Opera Theater Company's premier and Irish tour:  "Hagen's music... blends idioms - neo-Gershwin, jazz, soft rock, Broadway - with soaring melodies that send the characters looping off in arias of self-revelation.  He has a gift for pastiche and musical surrealism as well as a distinctive voice for moments where words and music coincide."  "(Hagen has) taken a polyglot approach to the music, and written it as a kind of mood-identifying background, sometimes in keeping with the words, but often deliriously, hilariously at odds with them, though in a way that manages to highlight them without undermining them.  It's quite a clever ploy," writes Michael Dervan.

American Critics:

American critics also responded positively to the off-Broadway premiere:  The eclecticism of the music is dazzling:  sharply pointed jazz lines are overlaid with slippery atonal harmony; a plaintive nineteen-seventies folk-rock ballad melds into a Broadway power anthem.  Paul Muldoon's libretto is a marvel of virtuosic wordplay, exhuberant, unsettling and heroic by turns.  Designating the New York  premiere as the magazine's "Pick of the Week," Time Out New York described it as "a gutsy, occasionally trashy cabaret opera."  "You cannot deny the theatrical audacity of Vera of Las Vegas, which elicited many cheers from the packed house," admitted the New York TImes.  Mark Ward, in the Houston Chronicle, describes the central arias as "very handsome, large-scale versions of sophisticated songs in the Great American Songbook.  "Mr. Hagen's music suits the style of the libretto perfectly.  The idion is very much "Broadway", with references to many kinds of pop music, handled masterfully.  The music is tuneful and rhythmically sophisticated, the words set clearly.  Much of the music comes in short bursts of a phrase or two which almost interrupt each other in rapid succession, except for two long arias, one for Doll and one for Vera, which are quite successful in projecting a long lyric line.  Altogether the opera is a musical tour de force."  From the Bernstein-like brashness of the opening bits to Doll's slow pop-ballad aria to Vera's eleventh-hour-save torch song, Hagen (rather self-consciously) goes for broke.  And his obvious affinity for Muldoon's wacky, all-over-the-map text, leads to a seamless marriage of words and music, even if the libretto, at times, is too poetically clever for its own good."

Comments: Librettist:  Paul Muldoon, based on a treatment co-written with Daron Hagen

Slideshow of the premiere production:
Length: 01:00
Total Acts: 1
Orchestration: "Full Vegas" version (16 players)
Reed I: Oboe, English Horn in F*
Reed II: Clarinet in Bb, Soprano Sax, Bass Clarinet*
Reed III: Clarinet in Bb, Alto Sax, Bass Clarinet*
Reed IV: Bassoon
Trumpet in C
Keyboard I: Piano, Tambourine
Keyboard II: Synthesizer
Keyboard III: Synthesizer
Guitar (=Electric, Acoustic, Lead)
String Quartet
Contrabass (=Electric Bass)

"Kleine Vera" version (10 players)
2 Clarinets in Bb (II-Bass Clarinet in Bb)
Alto Sax
2 Trumpets in Bb
1 Percussion
2 Violins

"Thalia" version (4 players)
Clarinet in Bb (=flute / alto sax)
Contrabass (=Electric Bass)
Piano (=Synthesizer)
Drum Kit (=Marimba / vibraphone)
Musical Style: Eclectic
Contact: Judith Ilika, Director of Performance Promotion
Address: Carl Fischer Music
65 Bleeker Street
New York, NY 10012
E-mail Address:
Phone: 610-592-1222 x209
Composer Web Site:
Librettist Web Site:
Publisher Web Site:
To have your company’s photos included in the header rotation, send photos that are at least 1200px wide and 550px tall to Please note that submission of photos does not guarantee inclusion.
All OPERA America facilities are handicapped accessible. The National Opera Center features ground-level entry with elevators to the venue. All spaces are wheelchair accessible, and modular seating can be arranged to accommodate wheelchair users for all programs and performances. Handicapped accessible restrooms are available on all floors.
330 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001
Tel: 212.796.8620 • Fax: 212.796.8621

Privacy PolicyReturns Policy
2015 Form 990FY16 Audited Financial Statement
© Copyright 1995-2017 OPERA America Inc.

Technical issue with the website? Let us know.