Robert Ashley: Atalanta (Acts of God)

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  • Atalanta (Acts of God) (1981–1987) opera for one or more voices (in different languages) for keyboard synthesizer, tape and electronics


Ashley makes use of the story of Atalanta—a royal princess, discarded by her family, who was r aised by the animals to become the fastest-running human, and who was later reclaimed by her father to marry her off for dynastic purposes—to present the character aspects of the “successful suitor.“ These three aspects of character are presented in the opera as anecdotes about three extraordinary men of our times: Max Ernst (surrealist painter), Willard Reynolds (shaman storyteller) and Bud Powell (composer pianist). The genius of these three men can be taken to represent three aspects of the opera itself: image, narrative and music. In the imaginary setting of Atalanta (Acts of God), one companion (singer) reminds her of her excellence (the Odalisque arias); another recommends to her the characteristics of excellence in men (the Character Reference arias); and a third amuses her with anecdotes, as if told to her by each of the three men (the Anecdotes).

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