Vera of Las Vegas
Composer: Daron Hagen
Librettist: Paul Muldoon
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:
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