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the CIVIL WarS: The Rome Section—A Tree Is Best Measured When It Is Down

the CIVIL WarS: The Rome Section—A Tree Is Best Measured When It Is Down cover art

Track Listing

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2Scene A15:23
3Scene B21:15
4Scene C22:10

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About this Album

Philip Glass, Robert Wilson, Laurie Anderson, Dennis Russell Davies—innovators all in their respective disciplines of music composition, stage direction, performance art and conducting—combine their prodigious talents in the first recording of the Rome Section, Act V of Robert Wilson's epic the CIVIL warS, inspired by the Matthew Brady photographs of America's fratricidal conflict.
the CIVIL warS began as a commission for an arts festival in conjunction with the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. Originally conceived as a day-long performance in five parts, the work called for writers, composers and performers from many different countries to assemble in Los Angeles to present their comprehensive work of art. Although no performance of the full work took place then and devotees of new music continue to await an integral staging, its component parts have fared better in numerous international performances. Above all, the final act of the CIVIL warS, the "Rome Section," a tree is best measured when it is down, commissioned by the Rome Opera and completed in 1983, elicited excitement in opera circles, coming as it did from the pens of the collaborators of Einstein on the Beach—the piece that radically redefined opera in 1976. Still, as Philip Glass puts it, "I became an opera composer by accident," and the prospect of facing almost 400 years of Italian opera tradition carried a large intimidation factor, despite his successes with The Photographer, Satyagraha, and Akhnaton. Philip Glass responded with his most frankly operatic music to date, translating his idiom of musical lines into colorful yet lucid orchestral language. He adapted the powerful, projected style of opera singing to his own ends, spinning out long, lyrically expressive melodic lines culminating in profoundly moving music. Taken as a cantata in four parts, the Rome Section of the CIVIL warS uses texts in several languages that juxtapose the devastation and finality captured in the Brady photos and contemporary attempts to grapple with ongoing aberrations in the moral and civil order. The Philip Glass score provides the emotional infrastructure binding together the spoken and sung portions of the narrative. Librettist Maita de Niscemi culled the text from poems of Seneca, letters written during the American Civil War and original writing authored by Robert Wilson. Sung portions of the libretto are in Italian and Latin and spoken sections mostly in English, although phrases from other languages occur, reminding the listener that civil war is global. Featured performers in this premiere recording include sopranos Denyce Graves in the dual roles of Earth Mother and Mrs. Lincoln, and Sondra Radvanovsky as Snow Owl and Alcemene. Rising star Giuseppe Sabbatini interprets the tenor role of the great Italian revolutionary, Garibaldi, while baritone Zheng Zhou defines the part of Abraham Lincoln. Bass Stephen Morschenk rounds out the male singers as Hercules. Robert Wilson and Laurie Anderson deliver pivotal narration as Robert E. Lee and Young Mrs. Lincoln. Dennis Russell Davies leads the American Composers Orchestra, his long-time collaborator in new music, and the Morgan State University Choir.


American Composers Orchestra
Dennis Russell Davies, conductor

Snow Owl, Alcmene: Sondra Radvanovsky
Earth Mother, Mrs. Lincoln: Denyce Graves
Garibaldi: Giuseppe Sabbatini
Abraham Lincoln: Zheng Zhou
Hercules: Stephen Morscheck
Robert E. Lee: Robert Wilson
Young Ms. Lincoln: Laurie Anderson
The Morgan State University Choir
Dr. Nathan Carter, music director


Produced by Michael Reisman & Kurt Munkacsi
Recorded 1995-1999 at The Looking Glass Studios, Electric Lady Studios, and Sorcerer Sound, New York
Mixed at Electric Lady Studios, New York
Recording Engineer: Rich Costley
Additional recording engineering: John Billingsley, Tim Conklin, Martin Stumpf
Mix Engineer: Tucker Burnes
Technical Engineer: Jamie Mereness
Assistant engineers: Ryoji Hata, Steef van de Gevel, Tony DiCarlo

Music by Philip Glass, text by Robert Wilson and Maita di Niscemi

Design by 27.12 design, ltd.
Cover photograph by Peter Angelo Simon

Executive Producer: Robert Hurwitz

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