CARLY SIMON'S ROMULUS HUNT
Victor Robertson (Zoogy)
Susannah Biller (Mica)
Adriana Zabala (Joanna)
LC2306 - 6/23/2023
© ℗ 2023 Lexicon Classics
Executive Producer: John Hoomes
Producers: Dean Williamson & Pat McMakin
Mixing Engineers: Pat McMakin & Dean Williamson
Mastering: Luke Gilfeather
2/3. Looser Arms/Valentine
4. A Boy of Twelve
5/6. The Spell/Man with Wings
6. My Dance is a Tango
7/8. Voulez-Vous Danser/Fond of the Blondes
9. It’s My Downfall
10. Hello, Lovely Lady/Looser Arms/Incantation
11. The Fight
12. Am I Still Young
14/15. It’s Such a Glorious Day/Seduction
16. Romulus Hunt
17. I’m Sorry
18. It Almost Happens On Its Own
19/20. Eddie’s Soliloquy/Voulez-Vous Danser
NOTES ON THE ALBUM - from Nashville Opera
In past seasons, Nashville Opera has worked to offer our audiences more diverse, less mainstream programming (Most recently: STUCK ELEVATOR by Byron Au Yong and THE HYDROGEN JUKEBOX by Philip Glass). So, what better place than Nashville to merge the classical and pop worlds with a hybrid theatrical/operatic production by one of our most influential singer/songwriters, Carly Simon. In the case of this particular show, we have worked to utilize and embrace modern technology, primarily through the extensive incorporation of digital video projection into our scenic design.
We feel that thru the selection of Carly Simon’s ROMULUS HUNT we have been able to continue and expand these objectives. ROMULUS HUNT certainly meets our criteria for selecting and presenting lesser programmed operas to allow our audience a taste of something that lies beyond the mainstream of standard opera. Carly Simon’s opera deals with operatic themes of love and betrayal, but those themes are presented through the trials of a loving family fractured by divorce. The opera then follows the family as they attempt to find some type of closure and healing in their lives. As the primarily plot of the opera deals with the trauma of divorce, and on the healing of children caught in the middle of parent warfare, we felt the opera could be used as a “dialogue starter” in our community on this timely issue.
For our production of Carly Simon’s ROMULUS HUNT, the artistic team consisted of John Hoomes as stage director and Barry Steele as video/lighting designer. In fall 2009, Barry Steele and I worked together on a production of THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER by Philip Glass which successfully incorporated extensive digital video as part of the scenic design, capturing the claustrophobic mood of the Edgar Allen Poe story. In our 2010 production of Giordano’s ANDREA CHENIER, lighting designer Barry Steele and I once again worked together to create a visually striking production of the opera which, while retaining period costume, moved the visual sensibility of the production into a more abstract realm.
ROMULUS HUNT is a semi-autobiographical opera by pop singer Carly Simon, in which the 12-year-old hero Romulus is faced with the choice between two divorced parents (Simon notes her own son was caught in the same bind), but through the “magic realism” intercession of a dreadlocked Rastafarian called Zoogy (invisible to all but Romulus), manages to set things right. Ms. Simon's one-act dramatic opera is a tale of divorce and joint child custody originally commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera Guild and the Kennedy Center in 1993. ROMULUS HUNT is 75 minutes long, sung in English, and utilizes 5 singers (4 adults and 1 male child) and 11 players in the orchestra (conducted by Nashville Opera’s Music Director, Maestro Dean Williamson).
Ms. Simon considers Romulus one of her best compositions and has worked with John Hoomes to revise sections of the opera, including some minor musical revisions, and substantial staging and directorial revisions, for this production. From the opera’s original production, Ms Simon recorded excerpts of the opera in 1993 for commercial release, but the complete opera has never been released on CD, until now.
The synopsis of the opera is as follows:
For a 12-year-old boy in New York, Romulus Hunt lives a frantic life, shuttling back and forth between the homes of his divorced parents and trying to make some sense of it all.
Rom’s mother, Joanna, though once a flower child, has grown to be a somewhat overprotective and highly responsible woman with a “straight” job. She lives off upper Fifth Avenue and works at the Museum.
Downtown, in a loft, his father Eddie, a choreographer, chases the sweet life with an eccentric performance artist named Mica. “Voulez-vous danser?” Eddie always seems to be inviting Mica to dance, anyone to dance, but Rom. This isn’t an easy life for Rom, trying to patch together a sense of family, and he often escapes into his exotic imagination. This is where he can talk about anything with Zoogy, his magical imaginary friend from the hills of Jamaica. Zoogy is his coach, advisor and confidant.
Rom is an athlete, a discus thrower, and he has a chance to win the all-city track meet. Zoogy coaches him, encouraging him to concentrate on his throw, but Rom can’t stop thinking about trying to get his parents back together. Zoogy suggests a magic spell – Rom will forge his parents’ names on a pair of Valentine cards, Zoogy will provide a potion, and love will find the way. It doesn’t take Eddie or Joanna long to figure out who has sent the cards.
Instead of anger, though, they realize it’s about Rom’s loneliness. Joanna reminds Eddie how he was neglected by his own father, and Eddie promises to join her at the all-city track meet, though it means missing the opening of Mica’s new performance piece. Mica is furious, sparking a fight that Rom breaks up by telling them he doesn’t want any of them at the track meet – “don’t see me, don’t watch me, don’t fight anymore – Please stay home!”
Though they vow to respect Rom’s wishes, Eddie and Joanna separately plan to attend the track meet in disguise. They sit next to each other, unrecognized, and are immediately attracted to each other. This comes all too naturally to Eddie, who is, by nature, a Don Juan. With Zoogy’s encouragement, Rom prepares to throw the discus – Zoogy ups the ante, telling Rom he must win in order for the Valentine spell to work. Rom is under a lot of pressure. Eddie and Joanna recognize each other’s true identities just at the moment of Rom’s windup, which throws him off guard. Rom is distracted, stumbles and crashes into the bleachers. He is out cold.
In a hospital room, Rom awakens from a terrible dream in which Eddie, Joanna, and Zoogy are pulling him in different directions. Mica and Joanna surround his bed and make up excuses to explain Eddie’s absence. Rom is indignant that he is being lied to. Mica offers consoling words advising all of them, including herself, to open their hearts in a new and daring way. Joanna, Zoogy, and Mica agree that it’s starting to happen on its own. Just at that moment Eddie arrives. Rom tells him to go away and hides under the covers during Eddie’s final soliloquy. Uncertain for the first time of what to say to his son, Eddie tells Rom how he failed him by being so like his own father. He encourages Rom to find his own path. Sensing that Rom is not listening, Eddie turns away, sorry and ashamed. “Voulez-vous danser?” Rom implores his father. He has heard everything and has been moved. Father and son begin to dance to the song which now carries a whole new meaning.