Music by Charles Fussell
Libretto by Jack Larson

"The Astronaut's Tale" by Charles Fussell and Jack Larson; produced by Encompass New Opera Theatre - Brooklyn, New YorkThe Astronaut’s Tale traces a young man’s life from his first experience of loss, his dog killed by a car, the appearance of a mysterious Einstein-like guide, his youthful desire to become an astronaut, marriage, and the fulfillment of his ambition.

The setting is our own time with its confrontation of science and religion. The opera concludes with a meditation on the nature of the cosmos and our experience of life and death within. The Astronaut’s dream was to be in outer space, but our afterlife is in the inner space where we dream.

"Dear Ann" from Charles Fussell's The Astronaut's Tale


March 18, 2012
Sunday, 2:30 PM

New American Opera Previews: From Page to Stage

Manhattan School of Music, Greenfield Hall
122nd Street and Broadway, New York, NY

Highlights from The Astronaut's Tale were performed in a preview platform with orchestra, followed by an audience talk-back with the composer Charles Fussell, director Nancy Rhodes, music director Mara Waldman and the cast. Talk-back moderated by WQXR's Midge Woolsey.


Charles Fussell, Composer
Charles Fussell was an important figure on the musical life of Boston for over twenty years. Beginning in the mid-1980s, he served on the composition faculty of Boston University, was artistic director of the contemporary music festival New Music Harvest, and was co-founder of the New England Composers Orchestra. His music has been and is still performed frequently by Boston ensembles, in particular Collage New Music, The Cantata Singers, and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project.
Fussell attended the Eastman School of Music where he studied with Thomas Canning and Bernard Rogers, later with Boris Blacher at the Berlin Hochschule. While in Germany he attended the Bayreuth Masterclasses of Friedelind Wagner.

In addition to a Fulbright Scholarship he has received a Citation and Award from The American Academy of Arts and Letters plus Ford and Copland Foundation Grants and numerous commissions; two Grammy nominations and twice a finalist for the  Pulitzer Prize.

Major works include six symphonies and three operas. Symphony No. 3, Landscapes, based on four American poets, and Symphony No. 6, High Bridge, is based on five poems from Hart Crane’s  late 1920s epic, The Bridge. Of the three operas, two are chamber operas; Cymbeline (after Shakespeare), and The Astronaut’s Tale, with a libretto by Jack Larson. Julian, based on a short story of Flaubert, is a full evening’s liturgical drama.

Recent recordings include Specimen Days and Being Music, two commissions for the Walt Whitman 1992 Centennial available on Koch records. Symphony No. 5, The Astronaut’s Tale, and Right River (a concertino for cello and String Orchestra) are available on Albany records. High Bridge, Prelude for Orchestra and Wilde, Symphony No. 4 for Baritone Solo and Orchestra, have been released by The Boston Modern Orchestra Project.

Fussell currently resides in Woodside, New York, teaches composition at Rutgers University, and is President of the Virgil Thomson Foundation.

Jack Larson, Librettist
Jack Larson has had a long and distinguished career as an actor, playwright, poet and librettist. He is perhaps best known for his translation of Stravinsky’s L’Historie du Soldat which was narrated by John Houseman, performed by John Rubenstein and Werner Klemperer and directed by Jeff Bridges. His collaborations with Virgil Thomson include the libretto for his opera, Lord Byron, as well as The Cat and the choral work Fanfare for Peace. Mr. Larson has also collaborated on song cycles with Ned Rorem, David Diamond and Paul Chihara. His recent song cycle, The Relativity of Icarus, combining various concerns with space, Einstein and astrophysics, was written in collaboration with Gerhard Samuel and subsequently performed by the Joffrey Ballet.

He has received awards from the Rockefeller, Ford and Koussevitsky Foundations and was honored by The Poet’s Theatre at Harvard University for his contributions to the arts.

Jack Larson is also known to millions as Jimmy Olsen, cub reporter for the Daily Planet in the original Adventures of Superman television series. The bow-tie he wore for this role is in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Nancy Rhodes, Stage Director
Nancy Rhodes has championed American opera since founding Encompass New Opera Theatre with an award-winning production of Virgil Thomson and Gertrude Stein’s opera The Mother of Us All.  She directed Copland’s The Tender Land, Thomson’s Lord Bryon at Alice Tully Hall, Blitzstein’s Regina, an acclaimed production of Grigori Frid’s opera, The Diary of Anne Frank,and numerous opera and musical theater productions in Europe and Asia, including Britten’s Death in Venicein Stockholm, and Eccentrics, Outcasts and Visionaries, A Century of American Opera for the Holland Festival in Amsterdam. She directed the world premiere of Kirke Mechem’s opera Tartuffefor the San Francisco Opera and Pittsburgh Opera Theatre. She collaborated with and directed Only Heaven by composer Ricky Ian Gordon. In recent seasons she produced and directed the 75th Anniversary production of Virgil Thomson and Gertrude Stein’s Four Saints in Three Acts, the first American opera to play on Broadway, and the world premiere of Louis Gioia’s opera I Tre Compagni. She is the librettist for The Theory of Everything, a new opera exploring science and spirituality with music by John David Earnest. In May, 2011, she staged the world premiere of Evan Mack’s opera, Angel of the Amazon at the Baryshnikov Arts Center.

Mara Waldman, Music Director/Conductor
Mara Waldman holds a Master’s degree from Manhattan School of Music. A winner in the New York Chopin Foundation Council International Auditions and the International Piano Recording Competition, she has recorded the solo piano music of Vittorio Rieti for Columbia Records and made her debut at Carnegie Recital Hall.  She has conducted five productions with the Bel Canto Opera Company. She has been a cover conductor for the New York City Opera on its national tours, a guest conductor and teacher with the New Opera Festival de Roma since 1999, and has worked regularly with the New York Grand Opera.  She is President of Joy in Singing, Chorus Master for the New Jersey Association of Verismo Opera, and a past President of the Leschetizky Association and the New York Singing Teachers’ Association.

Tony Bellomy, Pianist
Tony Bellomy studied piano with Vengerova prodigy, Judit Jaimes, and holds degrees in both piano performance and vocal accompanying/opera coaching. He has coached and played for the Florentine Opera and the Skylight Opera Theatre. Tony was also a visiting faculty member of the Black Hills Summer Institute of the Arts with soprano Johanna Meier and John Stewart. Since moving to New York in 2005, he has coached and conducted for New York Lyric Opera, Little Opera Theatre of New York, New Jersey Verrismo Opera and dell’Arte Opera Ensemble. An avid recitalist, Tony has appeared with such singers as Kurt Ollmann, Darryl Taylor and Kitt Reuter Foss. Tony has worked under such choral conductors as Sir David Willcocks and helmuth Rilling; and is the Associate Conductor for the Grace Choral Society of New York.

Eric Fuqua, Stage Manager
Eric Fuqua has a musical background having studied violin and cello. He is currently a student at Long Island University, in the Marketing and Journalism Department. In May 2012, he will receive his Bachelor’s degree in Marketing and Management with a minor in Journalism.


Christopher Vettel (Narrator)
Christopher Vettel is a proud graduate of Manhattan School of Music, and is happy to be working again with his friends at Encompass New Opera Theatre, where he was previously seen as Herr Fallersleben in Henze’s Das Ende Einer Welt.  No stranger to the Operatic, Musical Theatre and Concert stages, he has performed in 46 of the 50 United States and 13 different countries. Chris has appeared in the Broadway National Tours of Annie (Bert Healy – Time/Life Cast Recording) and Sunset Boulevard (Cliff – Joe Gillis us) as well as the Radio City Christmas Spectacular as Santa Claus (Chicago/St. Louis). Regional theatre appearances include Flight of the Lawnchair Man (Goodspeed), Jekyll and Hyde (Papermill) and, Off-Broadway, he was seen in Cactus Flower and Wanda’s World. Overseas, he was in the German production of Sunset Boulevard (Joe Gillis) and the European Tour of Cabaret (Cliff Bradshaw). As principle/soloist Chris has sung with the Opera Company of Boston, Opera Cleveland, Opera New England, Utica Symphony, Hannoversche Operetten Tournee, Schenectady Symphony and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, at Tanglewood, in the final concert conducted by Leonard Bernstein.  For more info, please visit Chris Vettel – Fan Page on Facebook.

Eapen Leubner (Abel, known as Ab)
Eapen Leubner, tenor, most recently returned to Opera Fairbanks as Nemorino in L’elisir d’amore after singing in their 2010’s production of Don Giovanni. As Don Ottavio, he was praised for his "insight and tenderness" and "pleasing tenor."
In Chelsea Opera's Glory Denied, Opera News hailed Eapen as "ardent and striking... At times his performance called to mind Hollywood portrayals of military heroes, underscoring the disparity between Jim Thompson's grim homecoming and the glamorous reception he might have had."  The New York Times praised Eapen for "a charming Don Gaston"  and Musical America called him "the opera's most engaging character, or so it would appear from Eapen Leubner's deft portrayal, sung with a trim, attractive tenor voice"  in Bronx Opera's Die Drei Pintos.

Other recent roles include Count Almaviva in Rossini’s Il Barbiere della Siviglia and  Don Ramiro in La Cenerentola and tenor soloist in Orff's Carmina Buranai and Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle.   

Eapen has sung roles with Opera Colorado, Bronx Opera, Opera Fairbanks, and Opera Company of Brooklyn.  He lives with his family in Brooklyn, NY. Follow Eapen's career at

Brittany Palmer (Ann)
Brittany Palmer, soprano, has a performing career that includes roles with Opera North, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, Western New York Chamber Orchestra, Osh Opera, Opera Gaya, Morningside Opera, University of North Florida, New York Sinfonia, and Encompass New Opera Theatre, where she performed in Angel of the Amazon and I Tre Compagni.. Her favorite roles include Susanna (Le Nozze de Figaro), Adina (L’Elisir d’Amore), La Comtesse Adele (Le Comte Ory), Lucy Lockit (The Beggar’s Opera), Ariane (Ariane – Martinu), Drusilla (L’Incoronazione di Poppea), Blondie (The Abduction of Figaro), Amelia in  Handel’s Atra, ossia l’amore ricordato and the soprano solos for Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, Carmina Burana, Fauré’s Requiem, and Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass. Brittany is a member of the SIREN Baroque Ensemble.

Frank Basile (Old Man, Peccavit, the Peddler)
Frank Basile, bass, is comfortable on the grand opera stage and cabaret alike. Mr. Basile began singing at the young age of 8. He studied voice at the age of 17 with Todd Duncan and continued his studies at Indiana University.  Following graduation, Mr. Basile made his European debut in Turandot in Augsburg, Germany.  Frank sang his debut with Washington Opera in 1991 in The Saint of Bleecker Street directed by Gian Carlo Menotti himself. He continued his operatic career singing with houses such as the Metropolitan Opera, Baltimore Opera, Utah Opera, Nevada Opera and Sarasota Opera. In 2010, Mr. Basile was featured as a soloist at The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul where he sang excerpts from the title role of the new opera Leonardo’s Bridge, specifically written for him to sing in its premiere.