The first, entitled Send (who are you? I love you) was composed by LaChiusa, who also penned Marie Christine, the Broadway musical that cast McDonald in the title role. His new piece for the award-winning actress, according to press notes, "chronicles the beginning of love in the digital age." Send, which features music and libretto by LaChiusa, was co-conceived by the composer and director Lonny Price.
The second piece is Francis Poulenc's La Voix Humaine, which portrays the end of a relationship. Both pieces will be performed in English.
The Human Voice
Robert Sandla meets Audra McDonald and her fellow creative spirits behind Houston Grand Opera’s double bill of Poulenc's La Voix Humaine and Michael John LaChiusa's Send (who are you? I love you).
Tony Award winner Ted Sperling conducts McDonald's concerts, and Lonny Price directs. The creative team also features James Noone (set design) and Melissa Graff (costume design). McDonald is scheduled to play the Houston venue March 4, 7, 10, 16, 18 and 24 at 8 PM and March 12 and 26 at 2:30 PM. In an a rehearsal journal on the Houston Grand Opera website, actress McDonald writes, "Because I find the music [in Send] to be so beautiful, I tend to get carried away both emotionally (as the character should) and vocally as well. I have to remind myself that I still have another forty-five minute 'opera' to sing. So I have to learn how to pace myself: something I have never been good at…on stage or in life. However I think the most challenging aspect of Send has been sustaining the fantasy that the woman (whom I nick-named 'She-ra') conjures up in her head. Send is quite an emotional journey but it is crafted in such a way that if you trust and commit to each moment as Michael John has crafted, the journey can be effortless. The entire piece is (as Lonny puts it) one big private moment. It’s like watching a child play alone, entirely unaware that they are being watched. However, the challenge for me is to avoid becoming self-aware. Children don’t have that problem; I do. Sometimes I find myself 'performing' the piece and that's wrong."
A four-time Tony Award winner for her work in A Raisin in the Sun, Master Class, Carousel and Ragtime, Audra McDonald was also seen on Broadway in Henry IV. The singer-actress made her solo Carnegie Hall concert debut in an evening of songs scored for big bands, performing several tunes from her Nonesuch CD "Happy Songs." McDonald's other solo recordings, "Way Back to Paradise" and "How Glory Goes," are also on the Nonesuch label. The acclaimed actress also co-starred in the NBC series "Mister Sterling.” For more information visit www.houstongrandopera.org.