Scene4 Magazine — International Magazine of Arts and Media
Scene4 Magazine-inSight

march 2007

Scene4 Magazine-The Steiny Road  To Operadom
with Karren Alenier

Happy Anniversary! Four Years On The Steiny Road

March 2007 marks the fourth anniversary of this column originally titled Bumper Cars: The Steiny Road to Operadom. This year the Steiny Road Poet has something to show for those years and to celebrate—a forthcoming book based mostly on the column and feature essays published in Scene4 Magazine. This hard copy book is called The Steiny Road to Operadom: The Making of American Operas.

The book—a blend of memoir, American opera history, and how-to—tells the parallel stories of Gertrude Stein creating opera with Virgil Thomson and Karren LaLonde Alenier creating opera with William Banfield. It also explores the story of new opera in America with an appendix list of recordings and a half dozen reviews and features on selected American operas. The book contains Alenier's libretto Gertrude Stein Invents A Jump Early On and a chronology of the events leading to the world premiere of the Alenier-Banfield Stein opera. Nancy Rhodes, the director that helped Alenier and Banfield develop and premier their opera, provides the preface. Her story of meeting Virgil Thomson and how he became her mentor is pertinent to the story of opera in America.

Although the path for moving this book into publication has had many detours and ruts (the Poet asks why does every project she undertakes have to be so interesting?), many people have lent affirming support including Marilyn Gae Bass Weitzner (26 September 1946 - 28 December 2006), one of my editors for work published in Scene4 Magazine. I credit Marilyn, my sister-aunt, for launching me as a poet. I offer this poem in her honor:

    for Marilyn Gae

    The day before you died
    my watch stopped 3:30 end
    of the school day, a game
    we played, you, a few months
    older, teacher; our dolls: So
    Wee—she wet her pants
    with one drink from her bottle,
    Emmett Kelly tramp clown
    with his drunken red nose
    and  curiously big black
    feet and me: your students.
    The assignment to write
    a poem, no idea what
    I wrote—that, the beginning
    of me arresting time—stick 'em
    up, remember my indigo cow-
    girl skirt and vest fringed in white
    strips? You, the pistol, said, write,
    till I found an edge, the endless
    boundary, mobius band hugging
    my pulse, my reason
    to live.

So it is with Marilyn standing beside me in spirit that I let the world know what other people working in the field have said about this book.

    Karren Alenier's peripatetic The Steiny Road To Operadom is a must read for any librettist, composer, or opera aficionado in search of an inside look at the creation and performance of a contemporary opera.

    Gordon Ostrowski
    Director of Opera Studies
    Manhattan School of Music

    The Steiny Road to Operadom is a fascinating look into the mind of American poet and librettist Karren Alenier. A must-read for anyone aspiring to write for contemporary American opera. A truly Stein'ian landscape of reflections, advice, interviews and objets trouvés from her creative journey starting in Tangier with Paul Bowles in 1982 until the complete production of Gertrude Stein Invents A Jump Early On in New York in 2005. Full of surprises and fun to read.

    Dr. Frank Hentschker
    Director of Programs
    The Martin E. Segal Theatre Center
    The Graduate Center, CUNY

    Karren Alenier gives us a fresh view into the world of perhaps the most important writer of our time. She shows the rocky and fruitful collaboration of Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson through a wide range of scholarly sources and through her own process with composer William Banfield. The romantic myth of the artist alone crumbles in the glow of a community of artists, as does the myth of the blissful communion of collaborators, whether in 1930's Paris or New York in the twenty-first century. We see the awkward beauty of two operas conceived, born, and bred, and through the eyes and ears of the Steiny Poet, we can hear the music of language, and the language of music, all the more clearly.

    Juanita Rockwell
    librettist for James Sellars' opera, The World is Round

The Steiny Road Poet tips her cap to Arthur Meiselman, the zingaro editor of Scene4 Magazine, who has provided the kind of latitude and encouragement necessary to keep the Poet producing copy that both nourishes her need to write and provides something worthy of readership.

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About This Article

©2007 Karren LaLonde Alenier
©2007 Publication Scene4 Magazine


Scene4 Magazine — Karren Alenier
Karren LaLonde Alenier, an award-winning Lindy Hopper,
is the author of five collections of poetry,
including Looking for Divine Transportation,
winner of the 2002 Towson University Prize for Literature.
Much more at
For Prior Columns In This Series Click Here
For her other commentary and articles, check the
Read her Blog


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Scene4 Magazine-International Magazine of Arts and Media

march 2007

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