Letters from Zelda (2011)
for soprano and chamber orchestra
written for soprano Lisa Perry and the Great Noise Ensemble (Washington, DC)
Zelda Fitzgerald was, according to her husband, the "first American flapper". Originally a southern belle, she grew to be the personification of the Roaring Twenties along with her husband, the writer F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Letters from Zelda is a setting of four correspondences from Zelda to Scott that span the time period of their complex, often tumultuous marriage (from 1920 to Scott’s untimely death in 1940). Zelda was diagnosed schizophrenic and confined to hospitals for much of this time, and the letters reflect the unique sentiments of an intense, estranged relationship. They also display Zelda’s often-overlooked talent for words, as the text of each letter captures with beauty and poetry the bicameral personality of this remarkable woman - completely free-spirited and independent, and yet at the same time so vulnerable and dependent upon the attention and sympathy of her husband.
The musical setting seeks to create the environment of both her energetic musings and melancholy recollections. The last line of the work yields particular affinity with regard to the Fitzgerald mythology - it bears a striking resemblance to the last line of The Great Gatsby: "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past". This is also the epitaph on the grave that Scott and Zelda share in a cemetery in Rockville, Maryland.
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