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Don’t Quarrel About Species

Zoophilic Follies, by composer Daniel Corral, Libretto by Sibyl O’Malley –

Premiered at Redcat’s NOWFest in fall 2011, this outrageous hour-long chamber opera in seven songs by composer/accordionist Daniel Corral and librettist Sibyl O’Malley is full of delighting surprises, lyrically and musically. This new recording includes the original cast members Timur Bekbosunov (Daedalus), Maesa Rae (Ariadne), Abby Travis (Pasiphaë), and Dorian Wood (King Minos/The Minotaur). The nine-piece Dime Museum band that provides the musical accompaniment includes accordion, electric guitar, strings, winds, brass, drums, and electronics—an ideal, conniving support for the serious humor that ensues.

The opera’s stylistic range is broad: one hears the influences of Frank Zappa, Man of La Mancha (and the entire genre for that matter), Jacques Brel, and Carmen. The vocal writing is delicious, with some thrilling harmony writing, such as in “Daedalus’ Exposition,” when Pasiphaë states her side of the story—above a driving background with wah-wah guitar, cymbal, and ornamental winds and strings, Pasiphaë soberly shares her take on the destiny that brought her to mate with a bull:

When the gods send love to you,
Don’t quarrel about species.
Just make the royal bed,
Bring a shovel for the feces!

These four frat house lines are given exquisite high-level treatment, with Bekbosunov taking the higher part octaves away from Travis. The gender inversion does not go unnoticed in the perverse tale.

The ultimate mood of the work is actually serious and, as with all good mythology, timeless in its essence. The opera ends with Daedelus’ contemplation of his role in the destiny of the gods he served. His thesis begins with these words:

We cannot live
Without some hope
And so we dream
Only to meet heartbreaking woes.

At this point we almost feel guilty for laughing at the opening number’s startling allusion to present-day Greece’s heartbreaking financial woes. But the silly, obvious beginning was just a setup for a darker trip that we all have to take alone—and we need those laughs to sustain ourselves along the way.

Each actor/vocalist in the performance has unique, memorable qualities: Bekbosunov’s virtuosic range and finely controlled long phrases, Wood’s magnificent bombast, Rae’s smoky realism, Travis’s passionate acceptance of fate. And the band offers committed ensemble and solo playing throughout, notably from violinist Yvette Holzwarth, clarinetist Brian Walsh, and Corral on accordion.

Daedalus’ Exposition – Zoophilic Lust

Wax & Feathers

Corral, in addition to being a member of the Timur and the Dime Museum group has had works performed by the California E.A.R. Unit and the New Century Players. His academic background includes studies with Morton Subotnick, Anne Le Baron, Stephen “Lucky” Mosko, and James Tenney; he performs with several ensembles, including an accordion quartet known as The Free Reed Conspiracy and an improvising collective called OK Music. That he is comfortable drawing from the whole world of music is no surprise given his musical pursuits, nor that the results are entertaining, beautiful, and interesting.

Zoophilic Follies is available as an mp3 download from SpinalFrog.com

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