Charles Shere: Ladies Voices


three sopranos, woodwind quintet, and trap set

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score: 24 pages, available from Frog Peak Music

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Ladies Voices  is a chamber opera in five acts, about nine minutes long, exploring the psychological and musical nuances of three ladies of Gertrude Stein’s milieu—the cultured, literary, leisurely set of liberated women in the first decade of the twentieth century.
Stein’s text supplies no plot, setting, or scenario. The composer imagines a rather tense situation in the opera, with the second and third soprano pairing off apart from Genevieve, the first soprano, whose spiritualist trance in Act III contrasts with the amorous play of the other two ladies in Act IV.
In the Four Seas edition of Geography and Plays, in which the text was first published, an apostrophe sometimes occurs in the word “ladies,” sometimes does not. It has been suppressed throughout in this opera in the interest of consistency.
Two other chamber operas complete the trilogy begun in Ladies Voices: I Like It to Be a Play, for tenor, baritone, bass, and string quartet; and What Happened a Play, for the combined forces of the first two operas.
The music of this opera is brittle and hectoring, in contrast to the smooth lines of I Like It to Be a Play.
The opera was commissioned by the Noh Oratorio Society, who gave the second performance, in San Francisco, November 1987.
The close of Act II:

The score and parts were published with a cover illustration by Inez Storer in 1996 by Fallen Leaf Press.
Available from Frog Peak Music . Sound recording available from
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rev. 7/22/12