The Secret Agent is a newly completed opera based upon the 1907 novel of the same name by Joseph Conrad. It features a libretto by New York forensic psychiatrist Allen Reichman and music by Atlanta composer Curtis Bryant.
Completed in 2007, one hundred years after the publication of Joseph Conrad's novel, The Secret Agent has taken shape as an opera with the help of many talented individuals. Under the working title "The Anarchist," selected scenes from The Secret Agent have been presented by Georgia State University School of Music in the Harrower Summer Opera Workshop (June 2005) and on Opera Scenes Recitals (Nov. 2005 and 2006) directed by W. Dwight Coleman, with music direction by Peter Marshall. A further scene was presented in the Harrower workshop in 2008 directed by David Grabarkewitz with Nina Shuman providing musical direction. These presentations by GSU have helped both the composer and the librettist to shape this classic Joseph Conrad story into a modern music drama that hits home in an era fraught with fears of terrorism and political dissent.
The New York Times Book Review has described Joseph Conrad's 1907 novel as "the classic novel for the post 9/11 age." (Tom Reiss, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2005). But the story goes much deeper than the public threat of terrorism. The real story underlying The Secret Agent is that of the lead female character, the anarchist's wife, Winnie Verloc. Having no clue about the subversive activities of her husband Adolf, she becomes the victim of his bungling. Her developmentally disabled younger brother Stevie is recruited by Verloc to plant a bomb by the Greenwich Observatory, but the autistic teen becomes the terrorist plot's only casualty as he trips on a root while making his way across the park. Stevie's character is written as a pants role for mezzo-soprano. In keeping with some of the common manifestations of autism, Stevie's lines are short sentences, usually without the first person pronoun. The tragic role of Winnie is cast for high lyric soprano. Verloc's part is cast for baritone voice and the mother (of Winnie and Stevie) is cast for mezzo-soprano. Among Verloc's group of compatriots, the role of Michailis has been rewritten to be a woman, Anna Mikhailis, and the betrayer, Alexander Ossipon has the lead tenor role. Mr. Vladimir, the mastermind behind the terrorist plot, is also written as a tenor part. One hundred years after Joseph Conrad published The Secret Agent, the story is still fresh and resonant.
You can read a full synopsis of the opera on the composer's web site at http://www.curtisbryantmusic.com/opera_anarchists.html.
Adapted from the composer's web site.