Reviews & Press 2002

“ Dora” is an extremely sensual, sexual, dark opera. The story is shocking, and the frank language is unsparing. Modern and at the same time melodious, the score and libretto are beautifully integrated. The characters are drawn sharply and clearly, and each character has a unique, musical and literary flavor. Dora’s music is particularly poignant and beautiful, in sharp contrast to the men’s music, which is appropriately heavy and cruel sounding. This contemporary opera has engaged and haunted me, and each time I listen to it, I hear more.

Susan Loesser, author of A MOST REMARKABLE FELLA: Frank Loesser and the Guys and Dolls in His Life, 9/12/04


…The story and the lyrics held together and kept me involved in the entire action. The score was right on target, very well orchestrated and the lyrics allowed the characters to sing. …The words were singable and were properly set to music. I have produced over 30 new American operas, from page to stage as they say, and …Dora is about as close to perfection as one can get. I just really, really respect your work.

Roger Cunningham, Encompass, New Opera Theatre, NYC, 4/12/02


“Dora,” an opera composed by Melissa Shiflett to a libretto by Nancy Fales Garrett about a patient of Sigmund Freud’s, and given concert and workshop hearings during the 1990’s, is treated to a full-fledged production at the La MaMa annex during the early part of April, thanks to the joint efforts of La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club and the American Chamber Opera Company. A lyrical work focusing on three families, “Dora” boasts such set pieces as florid and dramatic arias, piquant ensembles, waltzes and other dances and brought Stephen Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music,” with its own memorable ensembles and complex liaisons, more than once to mind. With the death of a child near the end, though, “Dora” moves into “The Turn of the Screw” and “The Medium” territory. Conductor Douglas Anderson, guiding the small orchestra, and librettist Garrett, as stage director, presided over a fine cast, made up of no fewer than four leading sopranos, two tenors, a baritone, and two children.

Bruce-Michael Gelbert,, 4/8/02


Praise for DORA
(2)…Recreated on the modernist, angled and nearly bare stage at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club with nine singers in Kate Herman’s authentic-looking late nineteenth-century costumes, Dora, the opera, seemed as compressed as a Greek tragedy, beautifully reflecting the strait-lacing and shortness of breath in private bourgeois life at the beginning of the last century…Dora was not played as a tragedy. If anything it came across as a sardonic slice of life, full of witty and startling juxtapositions of incompatible value systems, a comedy not in the sense that its ending was happy, but only in the sense that its class was not the nobility. Catharsis or resolution it had none, neither god-given nor man-made. At its beginning and end was only an aria in a minor key, “The Mind is a Curious Country,” sung by Freud. Melissa Shiflett’s music made it both modern and lyrical, combining American modernist melodies with fin-de-siecle Viennese forms (gypsy tunes, Schrammelquartets, waltzes and Landler), and Fales Garrett’s words made considerable poetry with colloquial diction; but it was the complex and exciting interaction of music and book that made Dora so extraordinarily beautiful. The action of the opera was not so much Freud’s analysis as it was the multiple relationships, dramatically shown, between Dora and her four seducers, one of whom potentially, of course, was Freud, sung in the romantic tenor register.

Bill Everdell, author of The First Moderns, from The Saint Ann’s Review, 9/02