The libretto of Gertrude Stein Invents a Jump Early On depicts the legendary modernist writer Gertrude Stein facing her critics: her brother Leo, her gawking public, and the Nazis in World War II.
The Word Works
"The year is 1908; the scene is Pablo Picasso’s apartment in Paris, at a party in honor of the elderly primitive painter Henri Rousseau. In one corner of the festive crowd, art critic Leo Stein is having an argument with his poet sister Gertrude about 'her nonsense. . . how she embarrasses me.'
"Is Gertrude Stein crazy? Some people think so and Leo can’t help wondering:. 'My sister is intelligent,' he says, 'but she makes a fool of herself and me.'
"The opera, by librettist Karren L. Alenier and composer William Banfield, is reaching out to an audience early on. Some 200 people gathered at a community center in Friendship Heights, just over the line from Washington, D.C., to sample and comment on the first act of what will eventually be a three-act opera with a premiere by Encompass New Opera Theatre in New York.
"It is the first collaboration between this writer and composer, but both are deeply experienced professionals. Alenier has published four books of poetry; Banfield’s music, available on a half-dozen record labels, includes eight symphonies, five concerti and five operas. Gertrude Stein Invents A Jump Early On began its existence as a verse play—very much an expression of poet Alenier’s reactions to the life, work and unique identity problems of poet Stein. As it moved away from the printed page and toward a three-dimensional reality on a living stage, that had to change. Musical motifs were planted in Act I with implications that would have to be worked out in Act III. The forms of the music imposed requirements on the words. As the verse play becomes an opera, composer Banfield remarked, 'It will speak differently, based on a collective vision.'"
Joseph McLellan, 27 July 2001
Grace Notes, Redludwig.com