RICHARD PREVITE, NIAGARA FALLS, 1959 is a new music-theater work in development by composer Bobby Previte. Scored for four Hammond Organs, solo voices, boys choir, drums, and actor, RICHARD PREVITE features a libretto by Stephanie Fleischmann and will be directed by Daniel Fish. Support is requested for a two-week residency from March 6 – March 19, 2017 to complete a full musical reading of the score and begin to stage the work with live performers. Through this residency, the work will be documented on video and the residency will culminate in a works-in-process showing to prospective regional and national presenters, individual and institutional funders, and members of the public.
RICHARD PREVITE explores the collision of sexuality, political corruption and natural wonder in Previte’s birthplace, Niagara Falls, NY. This autobiographical work juxtaposes a portrait of the composer’s older brother – an artistic gay man struggling to create a life in art amid the conservative culture and presiding indifference of 1950s Niagara Falls – with the little-known story of the cultural and social evolution of Niagara Falls, and the powerful aquatic rumble the composer recalls as ever-present in his boyhood bedroom.
Before airplanes and amplifiers, the Falls were arguably one of the loudest sounds ever heard on Earth. People came from all over the world, on a pilgrimage of sorts, to experience a spiritual awakening in the presence of the Falls. The local Tuscarora Nation believed Niagara was the sacred door to the continent. While occupying this mythic place in the American psyche, over time, this natural wonder devolved into a cheap attraction – Victorian daredevils walking tightropes over rapids, thrill seekers “conquering” the Falls in barrels, promoters hurling “death arks” of animals into the cataract. This was compounded by the degradations of “modern progress”, e.g. the toxic Love Canal, the bulldozing of Niagara Falls’ downtown for unrealized urban renewal, Robert Moses’ “relocation” of the Tuscarora Nation for the Lewiston Power Plant, and so on. RICHARD PREVITE examines the policies and predicaments that led Niagara Falls to decrepitude.
The organs, stationed at the corners of the space, will utilize their spinning speakers to invoke the very physical presence of the great Falls, creating a sonic surround. The whirling, three-dimensional immersive experience will be a moving tectonic soundscape, functioning as autonomous sonic cells and parts of an orchestral whole. The piece will feature a prismatic series of “tableaus,” seen from a 9‐year‐old boy’s point of view, positioning the artist as witness to his older brother’s disconnection and disenchantment.
This is a piece about greed, graft, and the iconic American indifference to everything but market-driven commerce. It is also a deeply autobiographical work about an Italian immigrant family fighting for a way into the American dream, while simultaneously, their first-born son desperately seeks a way out.