“But the afternoon’s highlight was Daughters of the Bloody Duke. Its librettist, David Johnston, described it as “yet another scathing indictment of man’s inhumanity to man,” but he was deadpanning—it’s the rare modern opera comedy, a little campy, winking, silly and smart. Essentially, Johnston said, it places the story of the Danïades on the set of a Vincent Price movie. It’s goofily macabre in both story and music (by Jake Runestad).
Miller, an exceptional straightwoman, starred as one of forty daughters who, like the rest of her sisters, is set to marry one of a neighbor’s forty sons—except the girls’ father harbors a longstanding grudge against the sons’ father, and has ordered them to kill their new husbands on this group-wedding night. Unlike her sisters, Miller’s character is conflicted; as her husband (the charming and straightforward tenor Glenn Steven Allen) sleeps, the castle echoes with the screams of murdered men; Worra, as one gleefully inebriated murderess, stole her scenes. Gigliotti stopped the show as a cackling ghost in three-quarter time, and the climax was a beautiful love duet for husband and wife. It went rather quickly, but it was great fun—and a reminder of how diverse today’s new voices in opera are, and how rarely we get to hear them within the five boroughs.”
Watch the performance here:
Originally commissioned by Washington National Opera, “Daughters of the Bloody Duke” has gained critical acclaim since its premiere performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.