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Nightingale: The Last Days of James Forrestal

A new chamber opera by Evan Hause


"NIGHTINGALE: The Last Days of James Forrestal"

A new chamber opera by EVAN HAUSE
Libretto by GARY HEIDT

OPENS MAY 19, 2002 AT 8PM

DIRECTOR: Philippe Bodin
CAST: Salvatore Basile, David Gordon, Vielka Kelly, Martin Dillon,
Mark Peters, Martin Maurais, Ilya Speranza, George Kasarjian,
Kari Swenson Riely, Danielle Musick


COST: $15 LOCATION: Present Company Theatorium, 198 Stanton Street, Manhattan TIMES: May 19, 20, 21; 26, 27, 28; June 2, 3, 4 at 8 pm.

TICKETS & RESERVATIONS: (212) 420 8877 or via credit card at

Flyer for 'Nightengale: The Last Days of James Forrestal'

"NIGHTINGALE: The Last Days of James Forrestal," the second conspiracy theory opera in composer Evan Hause's "Defenestration Trilogy," will debut May 19, 2002 at 8:00 PM at Present Company Theatorium at 198 Stanton between Attorney and Ridge in Manhattan's Lower East Side. The Defenestration Operas take as their subject matter certain dark corners of 20th century American political or technological history, where human struggles for money and power end in the death of modern heroes.

On May 22, 1949, James Vincent Forrestal, this nation's first Secretary of Defense, plunged to his death from the sixteenth floor of the Bethesda Naval Hospital. Forrestal, originally from Beacon, NY, was one of the most dynamic figures in American politics during the Second World War and the beginning of the Cold War. A self-made millionaire, he brought the methods of big business from Wall Street to FDR's war machine as Under Secretary of the Navy. During and after the war, he was also an outspoken opponent of Communism and is considered by many to be the original Cold Warrior. The death was officially ruled a suicide, the result of Forrestal's mental exhaustion incurred by interservice rivalry during the unification of the American military. Forrestal himself thought that he was a target for assassins, a "delusion" that was offered as proof of his mental illness.

Librettist Gary Heidt researched Forrestal for several years, studying published works and primary sources. The story cleaves to the actual sequence of events during Forrestal's 50-day committment. Characters include, in addition to Forrestal and his wife Josephine, his psychiatrist George Raines, National Security Advisor Sidney Souers, Red Cross leader and confidante Pauline Davis, President Harry Truman and various senators. The libretto explores this mystery with a sense of daring, humor, and theatrical panache. Hause, an up-and-coming classical composer, brings a highly eclectic voice to the musical score.


Gary Heidt is a nationally published poet, novelist, performing artist, and producer of music and theater. He is a graduate of Columbia College in New York.

Evan Hause's music has been performed by the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, Boston, Phoenix, Jacksonville, San Diego, Memphis, Grand Rapids and Utah Symphonies, Salt Lake City Contemporary Music Consortium, and at the Banff Centre for the Arts, CalArts, "Spring in Havana" Electronic Music Festival, and June in Buffalo, where the Buffalo News wrote: "This is music with a clear message and destination." He was commissioned twice last year by the Albany Symphony who premiered his Trumpet Concerto on September 14. He has received awards from ASCAP and residencies at the MacDowell Colony.

After an extended career in France both as an opera singer and director of two chamber opera companies, Philippe Bodin is now active as an opera director, coach and composer in New York. While in France, he studied piano, architecture, theater and dance. In the US, he studied theater with Patrick Stewart and James de Paul, and composition with Martin Bresnick and Jacob Druckman. A frequent theater collaborator, his music has been performed at the New Haven Repertory Theater, the Piccola Scala Milano, and the Sonic Boom Festival NYC. He has been awarded fellowships and residencies at the MacDowell Artist colony, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Atlantic Center for the Arts and the Banff Centre for the Arts. He is the first winner of the Los Angeles Music of Changes Composers' Portrait Series 2001. He holds a Bachelor of Music from Oberlin College and the Doctorate of Musical Arts from Yale University.

Last Modified: Jan 03, 2007 - 15:13

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