Tony Kushner ANGELS IN AMERICA. The opera condenses Tony Kushner’s two-part Pulitzer Prize-winning drama into one work.
New York City Opera Presents New York premiere of the Peter Eötvös’ opera “ANGELS IN AMERICA”
New York City Opera performances will run June 10, 12, 14, and 16 at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater. Sam Helfrich directs; Pacien Mazzagatti conducts.
The Story: Tony Kushner ANGELS IN AMERICA: A GAY FANTASIA ON NATIONAL THEMES A 1993 play in two parts and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the Tony Award for Best Play, and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play. A complex, metaphorical, and symbolic examination of AIDS and homosexuality in America in the 1980s. Certain major and minor characters are supernatural beings (angels) or deceased persons (ghosts). The play contains multiple roles for several of the actors. Initially and primarily focusing on a gay couple in Manhattan, the play also has several other storylines, some of which occasionally intersect.The two parts of the play are separately presentable and entitled Millennium Approaches and Perestroika, respectively. The play has been made into a television miniseries, and an opera by Peter Eötvös.
In response to the frank treatment of homosexuality and AIDS, and brief male nudity, the play quickly became subject to controversial reaction from conservative and religious groups, sometimes labelled as being part of the “culture war” In Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1996, there were protests held outside a production of the play by the theater company Charlotte Repertory Theater which was at the Booth Theater.This led to funding cuts for the Arts and Science Council of Charlotte, the city’s arts funding agency, in the following year.
Opera Angels in America. The Opera made its world premiere at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, France, on November 23, 2004 – 11 years after Kushner’s play opened on Broadway.The opera was based on both parts of the Angels in America fantasia, however the script was re-worked and condensed to fit both parts into a two and half hour show. Composer Peter Eötvös explains: “In the opera version, I put less emphasis on the political line than Kushner…I rather focus on the passionate relationships, on the highly dramatic suspense of the wonderful text, on the permanently uncertain state of the visions.” A German version of the opera followed suit in mid-2005. In late 2005, PBS announced that they would air a live filmed version of the opera as a part of its Great Performances lineup. The opera made its U.S. debut in June 2006 at the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion in Boston, Massachusetts.
The text of Prior Walter’s soliloquy from Scene 5 of Perestroika was set to music by Michael Shaieb for a 2009 festival celebrating Kushner’s work at the Guthrie Theater. The work was commissioned by the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus, which had commissioned Shaieb’s Through A Glass, Darkly in 2008. The work premiered at the Guthrie in April 2009.
Tony Kushner Angels in America is playing to sold-out houses in a star-filled revival in London, and Peter Eotvos’ operatic version gets its New York premiere Saturday at City Opera. A response to the AIDS epidemic and the lack of U.S. government action, the work still resonates in an era of polarized politics.
“The play Tony Kushner ANGELS IN AMERICA in English has lasted now for 25 years, which is not long compared to ‘Oedipus,’ but it’s pretty long for a contemporary play to still be able to generate excitement, and it’s taught everywhere in colleges,” Kushner said. “All of my stuff does best during Republican administrations because I hate them so much, and there is an anger in the plays that I think really speaks in times of political mischief of a high order.”
New York City Opera The cast Tony Kushner ANGELS IN AMERICA consists of Andrew Garland as Prior, Aaron Bake as Louis, Sarah Beckham-Turner as Harper, Wayne Tigges as Roy Cohn, Michael Weyandt as Joe, Sarah Castle as Hannah, Matthew Reese as Belize, and Kirsten Chambers as the Angel.
New York City Opera will return next season with a lineup that includes the U.S. premiere of Charles Wuorinen’s operatic adaptation of Brokeback Mountain, as well as Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West and a double bill of Donizettis’ Il Pigmalione and Jean-Philippe Rameau’s Pygmalion. https://nycopera.com
20 Years: Tony Kushner ANGELS IN AMERICA:
Tony Kushner Angels in America
Angels in America !! Opera, Peter Eotvos (2006 12 02 France 3) Tony Kushner ANGELS IN AMERICA
Tony Kushner ANGELS IN AMERICA B’way ’93 : The original Broadway production of Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America”-Press reels from Part I and Part II
Tony Kushner ANGELS IN AMERICA Film:
In 2003, HBO Films created a miniseries version of the play. Kushner adapted his original text for the screen, and Mike Nichols directed. HBO broadcast the film in various formats: three-hour segments that correspond to Millennium Approaches and Perestroika, as well as one-hour “chapters” that roughly correspond to an act or two of each of these plays. The first three chapters were initially broadcast on December 7, to international acclaim, with the final three chapters following. Angels in America was the most watched made-for-cable movie in 2003 and won both the Golden Globe and Emmy for Best Miniseries.
Kushner made certain changes to his play (especially Part II, Perestroika) for it to work on screen, but the HBO version is generally a faithful representation of Kushner’s original work. Kushner has been quoted as saying that he knew Nichols was the right person to direct the movie when, at their first meeting, Nichols immediately said that he wanted actors to play multiple roles, as had been done in onstage productions.
Tony Kushner ANGELS IN AMERICA The lead cast includes Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson, Jeffrey Wright (repeating his Tony-winning Broadway role), Justin Kirk, Ben Shenkman, Patrick Wilson, and Mary-Louise Parker.
Meryl Streep – Tony Kushner ANGELS IN AMERICA Promotion:
Tony Kushner ANGELS IN AMERICA Awards and nominations:
1990 Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays (non-competitive grant)
1991 Bay Area Drama Critics Award for Best Play
1991 National Arts Club Joseph Kesselring Award
1992 Evening Standard Award for Best Play
1992 London Drama Critics Circle Award for Best New Play
1993 Drama Desk award for Best Play
1993 New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play
1993 Pulitzer Prize for Drama
1993 Tony Award for Best Play
Tony Kushner ANGELS IN AMERICA. interview (2003) – 2017
Tony Kushner ANGELS IN AMERICA on the play’s resonance:
The Plot: Tony Kushner ANGELS IN AMERICA:
Angels in America focuses on the stories of two troubled couples, one gay, one straight: “word processor” Louis Ironson and his lover Prior Walter, and Mormon lawyer Joe Pitt and his wife Harper. After the funeral of Louis’s grandmother, Prior tells him that he has contracted AIDS, and Louis panics. He tries to care for Prior but soon realizes he cannot stand the strain and fear. Meanwhile, Joe is offered a job in the Justice Department by Roy Cohn, his right-wing, bigoted mentor and friend. But Harper, who is addicted to Valium and suffers anxiety and hallucinations, does not want to move to Washington.
The two couples’ fates quickly become intertwined: Joe stumbles upon Louis crying in the bathroom of the courthouse where he works, and they strike up an unlikely friendship based in part on Louis’s suspicion that Joe is gay. Harper and Prior also meet, in a fantastical mutual dream sequence in which Prior, operating on the “threshold of revelation,” reveals to Harper that her husband is a closeted homosexual. Harper confronts Joe, who denies it but says he has struggled inwardly with the issue. Roy receives a different kind of surprise: At an appointment with his doctor Henry, he learns that he too has been diagnosed with AIDS. But Roy, who considers gay men weak and ineffectual, thunders that he has nothing in common with them—AIDS is a disease of homosexuals, whereas he has “liver cancer.” Henry, disgusted, urges him to use his clout to obtain an experimental AIDS drug.
Prior’s illness and Harper’s terrors both grow worse. Louis strays from Prior’s bedside to seek anonymous sex in Central Park at night. Fortunately, Prior has a more reliable caretaker in Belize, an ex-drag queen and dear friend. Prior confesses to Belize that he has been hearing a wonderful and mysterious voice; Belize is skeptical, but once he leaves we hear the voice speak to Prior, telling him she is a messenger who will soon arrive for him. As the days pass, Louis and Joe grow closer and the sexual tinge in their banter grows more and more obvious. Finally, Joe drunkenly telephones his mother Hannah in Salt Lake City to tell her that he is a homosexual, but Hannah tells him he is being ridiculous. Nonetheless, she makes plans to sell her house and come to New York to put things right. In a tense and climactic scene, Joe tells Harper about his feelings, and she screams at him to leave, while simultaneously Louis tells Prior he is moving out.
The disconsolate Prior is awakened one night by the ghosts of two ancestors who tell him they have come to prepare the way for the unseen messenger. Tormented by such supernatural appearances and by his anguish over Louis, Prior becomes increasingly desperate. Joe, equally distraught in his own way, tells Roy he cannot accept his offer; Roy explodes at him and calls him a “sissy.” He then tells Joe about his greatest achievement, illegally intervening in the espionage trial of Ethel Rosenberg in the 1950s and guaranteeing her execution. Joe is shocked by Roy’s lack of ethics. When Joe leaves, the ghost of Ethel herself appears, having come to witness Roy’s last days on earth. In the climax of Part One, Joe follows Louis to the park, then accompanies him home for sex, while Prior’s prophetic visions culminate in the appearance of an imposing and beautiful Angel who crashes through the roof of his apartment and proclaims, “The Great Work begins.”
In Part Two, Harper indulges in the fantasy that she is in Antarctica with her imaginary companion Mr. Lies. But Antarctica turns out to be Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, and she is picked up by the police. With Joe nowhere to be found, Hannah comes to her rescue, tending to her in the depths of depression. She finally insists that Harper join her at the Mormon Visitor’s Center, where she has begun to volunteer. Meanwhile, the increasingly sick Roy checks in to the hospital where Belize works as a nurse. Roy insults him with cutting, racist remarks, but Belize, angry but filled with involuntary respect, gives him valuable advice on his treatment. Their relationship is always bitter but heated and icy by turns. Belize, however, demonstrates his considerable compassion for Prior, who tells him the full story of the Angel’s visit. After her dramatic arrival, she gives Prior a prophetic book and explains that she seeks his help to halt the migratory tendency of human beings, which the Angels in Heaven believe tempted God to abandon them. God, she explains, left Heaven forever on the day of the San Francisco earthquake in 1906, and since then his Angels—whose vast powers are fueled by constant sexual activity—have been rudderless and alone. To reverse the trend, the Angel says humans must end their constant motion, their addiction to change. Not surprisingly, Prior is aghast at her words and vows to flee from her at all costs.
Roy learns that his political opponents plan to disbar him for an ethical lapse, but he vows to remain a lawyer until he dies. In a friendly rapprochement, he gives Joe his blessing, until Joe reveals that he has left Harper for a man—he has been living for a blissful month with Louis. Stunned and angry, he demands that Joe end his gay relationship at once. Ethel comes to observe him in his misery. Joe’s wife, on the other hand, spends her days at the Mormon Visitor’s Center watching a diorama of the Mormon migration featuring a father dummy who looks suspiciously like Joe. When Prior drops in to conduct research on angels, a fantasy sequence ensues in which Louis and Joe appear in the diorama. The formerly silent Mormon mother comes to life and leaves with Harper, giving her painful but valuable advice on loss and change.
Louis and Joe’s idyll draws to an end when Louis says he wants to see Prior again. At their meeting, Prior coldly insists that he must present visible proof of his internal bruises. Belize later tells Louis about Joe’s relationship with Roy, whose politics and personal history Louis despises. When Louis angrily confronts Joe, their fight turns physical and Joe punches him. He apologizes, horrified, but they never speak again. Roy nears his end as well, reeling from Joe’s disclosure and from Ethel’s news that he has been disbarred. He dies, but not before tricking Ethel into tenderly singing for him. After his death, Belize summons Louis to recite the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, to demonstrate thanks (for his stash of AIDS drugs) and forgiveness. Ethel leads Louis in the prayer, the play’s emotional and moral climax.
After Prior suffers an episode at the visitor’s center, Hannah takes him to the hospital. There, the Angel descends, and Prior wrestles her. He succeeds, and is granted entry into Heaven to refuse his prophecy. In Heaven, which resembles San Francisco after the great earthquake, Prior tells the Angels that despite all his suffering he wants them to bless him and give him more life. The Angels sympathize but say they cannot halt the plague. He tells them should God return, they should sue Him for abandonment. Back on earth, his fever broken, Prior tells Louis he loves him but that he cannot ever come back. Harper leaves Joe for the last time and sets off on an optimistic voyage to San Francisco to begin her own life.
In 1990, four years later, Louis, Prior, Belize and Hannah appear in a moving epilogue. Prior says that the disease has killed many but that he intends to live on, and that the “Great Work” will continue.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angels_in_America:_A_Gay_Fantasia_on_National_Themes https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/apr/14/angels-in-america-tony-kushner-national-theatre https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/09/theater/dont-talk-too-much-tony-kushner-on-an-operatic-angels-in-america.html http://www.npr.org/2011/09/13/140438370/angels-in-america-twenty-years-later https://nycopera.com
Published by Nadia Kovarskaya