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Review of my opera Ulysses:
Review quoted in its entirety from the Portsmouth Herald, September 9, 1999

'Ulysses' is a daring piece of intellectual theater
by Ross Bachelder

  Roger Rudensein's opera "Ulysses," which had its world premiere at
the Players' Ring on Sept. 2 and runs through Sept. 19, is ambitious,
inventive and daring, surely among the most daring productions to be
staged in recent memory in the Seacoast area of New Hampshire. I strongly
urge all lovers of good drama and beautiful music to attend this
production.

  Ambitious? Yes, though at first it appears to be just the
opposite. Producer Gary Newton, who directs this performance of "Ulysses,"
employe the simplest geometric set pieces, a few essential props, and plain
black or white costumes with red feather boas and other accessories,
skillfully introduced for pointillistic effect. But a few moments into
the performance it is evident that on two critical accounts, (1) the
highly sophisiticated music and (2) the very decision to alchemize a
constantly studied, monumental 783-page novel into a two and a half hour
opera, Rudenstein's work is an exceptionally ambitious undertaking.

  Inventive?  Emphatically! The Seacoast cultural community, which
is known among many theater professionals as a place where risky theater
invites death at the box office, has seldom been host to so inventive
a production. We should be profoundly thankful that the vibrant theater
scene in Portsmouth is resilient enough to provide a home for
adventurous drama of this sort.

  Daring? Certainly! This production of "Ulysses" is the very
antithesis of "safe" theater, with its familiar plot twists, politely
uncontroversial themes, forgettable tunes and formulaic characters. The
characters who populate the intimate stage for "Ulysses" at the Players' Ring
are unconventional and, in some cases, delightfully controversial.

  The libretto for "Ulysses," which Rudenstein has taken directly
from the pages of Joyce's novel, is difficult to sort out but powerfully
effective. It's helpful that this performance is sung in English.
However, because the music and the text are so demanding, this writer urges
you not to step into the theater five minutes before curtain, then
expect to understand it without preparation. Come early and read the play
program first! You'll be richly rewarded if you do.

  A few of the scenes, especially the nightmarish film noire
sequence that takes place in the Nighttown area of Dublin and contains
sinister but often hilarious sexual material, are not for the priggish and
definitely not for children. Underlying the entire production, however, is
the wonderfully refreshing assumption that the audience has come
prepared to confront and conquer an immense intellectual challenge. Network
T.V. this is not!

  Rudenstein, who lives in Portsmouth and has had two other operas
done at the Symphony Space in New York City, adapted James Joyce's novel
"Ulysses" into a libretto, then wrote the score. His music, with its
studied, poignant dissonances and lively, asymmetrical rhythms, is more
attuned melodically and harmonically to Schoenberg or early Stravinski
than to Lerner and Loewe or even Sondheim. For that reason alone it is
the riskiest and the most rewarding of all of the elements of this
production. It is also laced with delicious chord progressions and soaring,
inquisitive melodies, all exuding the same grand poeticism that makes
compositions like "Verklarte Nacht" or "L'Histoire du Soldat" worth
repeated listenings. Rudenstein has penned a score that manages to
parallel the produndity that's imbedded, sentence by sentence, in the writing
of Joyce.

  Director Newton has generally gotten fine performances from his
actors, especially from Aurelio Dominguez, Roger Jones, Murray Kidd, and
Diana Jacklin, who as Molly Bloom delivers a magnificent, tour-de-force
soliloquy at the end of the performance. The good news is that none of
the actors are weak. They perform together with great unity of
purpose and the sort of professional generosity that actors cannot always
deliver on stage. That no one actor really towers above his fellow
performers in this production is a major accomplishment for both the director
and his dedicated troupe of actors.

  The darkness and light, the whims and yearnings of struggling
humanity, and the unabashed sensual longing that Joyce explored in his
fiction are well represented in the music with the composer's choice of
instruments. Rudenstein has divided his musical tapestries among cello,
saxophone, flute, clarinet and piano, all of which provide a depth and
delicacy of tone color that are essential to the story line. This is a
strong ensemble of musiciians, led by Paul Merrill, who play well
together, stay in tune from start to finish and fuel this production with a
sensitive, provocative interpretation of the score. The quality of the
music -- and the competence of its performers -- come together to
eluctidate and enrich the libretto at every turn.
Fanfare review of "State of the Union"

JWR review of "State of the Union"