LIKE DETECTIVE SAMUEL SPADE, composer Victoria Bond doesn’t mind a reasonable amount of trouble. And she’s expecting it, or better to say preparing for it, as part of the reaction to her new work, “Molly Manybloom,” for soprano and string quartet.
“I’m thinking of dedicating it to Jesse Helms,” says Bond with a laugh that’s a little bit bitter. “One of the episodes contains a discussion of the, oh, anatomy of Molly’s lover. Jesse wouldn’t like it too much.”
The piece will be premiered this weekend in a pair of concerts by L’Ensemble to finish their season in Cambridge. Artistic director Ida Faiella will sing the solo part; performing with her are violinists Barry Finclair and Ruth Waterman, violist Paul Cortesy, and cellist Beverly Lauridsen.
“I began talking with Ida two years ago about this,” says Bond. “She wanted me to write something for her and I thought she’d be the quintessential Molly Bloom.”
An early interest in Joyce kindled the first plans over a decade ago. “I’ve always loved Ulysses, which I first read in high school when I was too naive to realize how difficult the book is supposed to be. As far as I was concerned, it was speaking to me directly.”
She credits the book also with putting her in touch with the creative process that informs the work of any artist. In the case of Ulysses, there’s a crossover sense.
“Joyce was also a tenor,” she explains. “And he was very serious about his singing. That’s why he made Molly a singer. Throughout the monologue there are references to songs that I’ve used as source material in my setting, songs like ‘Shall I Wear a White Rose,’ ‘Love’s Old Sweet Song’ and ‘Won’t You Come Home, Bill Bailey.’”
Bond describes the work as a “monodrama. It’s a sort of mini-opera for one woman and the quartet.” She chose the instrumentation after hearing the artist-members of L’Ensemble described. “I was fascinated by the idea of combining the voice with various combinations of the strings.”
The piece is divided into 16 episodes, with many popular dance forms used throughout. “There’s a march, a blues, waltzes, a galop, a tango, a nocturne, a lullaby. And many others. And I’ve divided the quartet into smaller groups or solos in each episodes, so the first uses voice and quartet, the second is for voice and solo violin, the third, a blues, has viola and cello with the voice.”
Adapting the text was made the more challenging by Joyce’s writing style. The entire novel is written in his stream of consciousness style, but the monologue has the added distinction of lacking all punctuation. “It’s about three hours’ worth of reading without a single comma or period,” says Bond, “reflecting the way Molly’s thoughts all run into one another.”
Bond spent several seasons in the Capital District as music director of the Empire State Youth Orchestra and guest conducted the Albany Symphony Orchestra. She is now music director of the Roanoke Symphony in Virginia and the Bel Canto Opera Company in New York.
She studied composition with Ingolf Dahl, Vincent Persichetti and Roger Sessions, and is also working on commissions from the American Ballet Theatre, the Pennsylvania Ballet and the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.
Also on the L’Ensemble program will be a sonata by Handel arranged for string quartet and a performance of Mozart’s Horn Quintet with guest artist David Jolley.
Concerts are held at the Barn on Content Farm Road, just north of Cambridge on Route 22. Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. performance is followed by a catered supper in the Milking Parlor Cafe (the lower level of the Barn), and the 1 p.m. Sunday concert is followed by an old-fashioned ice cream social.
– Schenectady Daily Gazette, 15 August 1990