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- @mischa Or failing that, a cat the size of an elephant.
- When Winston Churchill was asked to cut arts funding in favor of the war effort, he said, "then what are we fighting for?"
Douglas J. Cuomo has gathered an exciting array of artists from points East and West for his chamber opera Arjuna's Dilemma, which tells the story of the Bhagavad Gita in music that seamlessly melds classical, jazz, and Indian traditions. Indian singer Amit Chatterjee (Zawinul Syndicate), tenor Tony Boutte, and members of Anonymous 4 are accompanied by a ten-piece ensemble that includes the Ethel string quartet, pianist Kathleen Supove, and bassist Robert Black of the Bang on a Can All Stars. Tabla player Badal Roy (Miles Davis, John McLaughlin) and tenor saxophonist Bob Franceschini, a giant of Latin jazz, are the featured instrumental soloists.
A work of both sweeping grandeur and piercing intimacy, Arjuna's Dilemma addresses ancient themes that remain startlingly topical: the conflicting claims of conscience and duty; the search for self-knowledge in a changing world. Arjuna's Dilemma showcases breathtaking vocal turns and virtuosic ensemble and solo playing. The piece utilizes North Indian performance styles, melodic structures, tuning systems, time signatures and rhythmic patterns alongside Western instrumentation, harmonies and forms. North Indian vocals co-mingle with a Western tenor and four-part choral writing, with references to both modern vocal styles and Byzantine and Gregorian chant. Improvisation is common to both musical worlds, with Chatterjee, Roy and Franceschini each using their respective improvisatory traditions to call into being the ecstatic, sublime, and sometimes terrifying world of Arjuna's Dilemma.
Douglas J. Cuomo has composed highly acclaimed and original music for concert and theatrical stages, television, and film. His compositions range from well-known television themes - for Sex and the City and NOW with Bill Moyers, among others - to evening-length theater works. Arjuna's Dilemma is preceded on disc by Cuomo's Kyrie for And on Earth, Peace (2007) commissioned by the vocal ensemble Chanticleer and recorded by the group on Warner Music.
“What Cuomo does is what the best of today’s composers, from the late Lou Harrison to Osvaldo Golijov, have done: he’s developed
a lingua franca that is international enough to allow the speakers of those different languages to communicate... The music seems to occupy a space that is not bound by geography or chronology.”
– John Schaefer, New Sounds
“No sex in the city, but a haunting opera” Cuomo’s background in jazz and ethnomusicology appear to have given him the ideal grounding to create such an opera. The score is a mesmerizing blend of vocal and instrumental possibilities. Arujuna is assigned to a tenor who must negotiate high-lying lines, tender gestures and dramatic points, all the while singing in Sanskrit. The role of Krishna is divided between an Indian vocalist and a chorus - on this recording the remarkable female ensemble Anonymous 4 - that sings in English.
However “Ajuna’s Dilemma” unfolds in the theater, it is a gripping experience on compact disc. The excellent performers include tenor Tony Boutte as Arujuna, Amit Chatterjee as Krishna and an instrumental ensemble that features the adventurous string quartet known as Ethel. Cuomo doesn’t need sex or a city to reveal his compositional imagination.
– Donald Rosenberg / Plain Dealer