Growing up, I realized I was part of an organized religion that had not yet recognized itself as such. Daily rituals of Kreutzer, Paganini, and Bach. Trips once a week for organized chamber and orchestral meetings. My grandfather, father, and uncle play(ed) the doublebass, my mother played the cello. All working toward, but not quite achieving God's Chosen Instrument: The Viola.
I am simply codifying a religion that was already there. And writing an opera about it. And then making a CD. Also, we have a really cool logo (see above)
The viola is the closest instrument in quality and register to the human voice. It is also capable of producing many of the effects of the rest of the orchestra. My opera is unusual in that it endeavors to cover all vocal and orchestral lines solely on two (2) violas. 'Opera' is the Latin plural of 'opus', meaning simply a collection of related works and doesn't refer to singing at all. Violacentrism, written between Summer 2014 and Winter 2015, is actually quite traditional in form; there is an overture, several arias, and a finale. Just no singers. But you can hear them in the violas.
Violacentrism, the Opera:
An Opera For Two Violas In One Act by Scott Slapin. (Premiere performances took place April 22 and April 24, 2015 in South Hadley and Amherst, Massachusetts.)
Day 1: The Raging Waves of Babylon
Day 2: Three Arias (Tempo Instabile, Cantabile e Furioso, Cadenza ed Aria)
Day 3: Music History 101; Five Centuries in Five Minutes
Day 4: The Sounds of Hampshire County (Leaving Northampton, Snow-covered Farmland in Hadley, Stamell Strings' 4-measure cameo, The National Yiddish Book Center, Mt. Holyoke College in South Hadley)
Day 5: Violist Under the Roof
Day 6: Dialogues and Duels
Scott Slapin and Tanya Solomon, violas
Cremonus, God of the Viola, is displeased at man's creation of other musical instruments. On the First Day Cremonus punishes mankind with rough seas. His message is ignored; the people are using Dramamine.
By the Second Day, an ill-tempered Cremonus has only contempt for the many viola-free ensembles of the land. During the first of three dramatic arias, Cremonus continues His assault on the seas. The second aria explores His anger, agitation, and sadness; Cremonus' patience is wearing thin. In the third aria Cremonus adds lashing high winds to His ongoing war with the sea.
Following the rousing third aria, it dawns on Cremonus that few potential viola players live on the sea.
The Third Day finds Cremonus in a more restful and pedagogical mood. After a hymn to Himself, He demonstrates to mankind the many abilities of the viola in all major genres of Western art music, from the Baroque to the Romantic. Cremonus feels mankind is beginning to understand the greatness of His Chosen Instrument.
The Fourth Day has Cremonus showing violists around Hampshire County, Massachusetts, in the Happy Valley, an area of which He is particularly fond. Starting out from the main square in Northampton (Cremonus finds the crossing signal to be particularly pleasing when performed on the viola), Cremonus leads a group of viola players out of town to see the snow-covered farmlands of Hadley and then to try out a few violas at Stamell Strings in Amherst.
Cremonus and the group check out a possible concert venue at the National Yiddish Book Center and finally make their way to the stately campus of South Hadley's Mt. Holyoke College, where Scott Slapin, coincidentally the composer of this opera, teaches several viola students. (Scott Slapin and Tanya Solomon also teach viola and violin in several other locations in the Happy Valley as well as worldwide online via Skype. Please visit www.violaduo.com for more information. Cremonus approves this message.)
On the Fifth Day, Cremonus and the violists return to the National Yiddish Book Center to perform Cremonus' favorite Musical Violist Under the Roof. Cremonus, in compliance with OSHA standards, would not let them perform on the roof. The violists finish the concert with a Klezmer version of the theme from Masterpiece Theater, demonstrating that almost any tune can be turned into Klezmer music by simply changing the key signature.
On the Sixth Day all the happiness of the valley is interrupted. The violists of Happy Valley, MA and Happy Valley, PA come into contact, and it's just too much happiness to last. A duel ensues, and a thoroughly frustrated Cremonus leaves the stage. The curtain falls as the two groups of viola players try to outdo one another in a contest of three-octave scales.
On the Seventh Day, Cremonus, the violists, and the audience rested. Amen.