A chamber opera in One Act, based on the famous poem by Robert Browning, along with excerpts from four other Browning poems.

for soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, baritone, and ensemble of eight strings / 40 min.
Libretto by Tom Dulack.

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Program Note

A Synopsis of My Last Duchess

A party is going on in the palace of the Duke of Ferrara in honor of his engagement to the young daughter of the Count of Tyrol. Madrigals are being sung.

The young fiancée wanders into a picture gallery and inadvertently opens a curtain, behind which is a portrait of the Duke’s late Duchess. She leaves in some confusion when the Duke, arriving with an emissary from the Count of Tyrol who is negotiating the marriage contract, scolds her for opening the curtain. The Duke then explains to the emissary, whose name is Francesco, the story of his marriage.

My Last Duchess - Theodore Wiprud

From the world premiere in NYC, April 23 and 30, 2012

Francesco reveals in an internal monologue that he was the Duchess’s lover, and tells part of the history of the fatal love affair. The portrait of the Duchess comes alive and she furnishes more of their story. Together they sing of a love that will not die.

The Duke, who has suspected the truth, and who still experiences contradictory feelings about his late Duchess, reveals that he ordered her murder—but in terms of such ambiguity that Francesco can do nothing but acquiesce in a marriage contract that may well subject the Count’s daughter to the same fate.

—Theodore Wiprud

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An evening of one-act operas that proudly luxuriate in the spirit of the Renaissance.”

—Zachary Woolfe, The New York Times

Composers attempted to express emotions contained in each line, even in individual words of a celebrated poem. Now Wiprud succeeds in this mission illuminated by Browning. A through-composed dramatic monologue is a perfect vehicle for a one-act opera. While familiar airs, often material for the traditional madrigal, are not used in Duchess, lilting melodies and counterpoint are elaborated. Wiprud has given instrumental color an important role throughout. The chamber orchestra was awash in distinctive sounds.”

—Susan Hall, Berkshire Fine Arts

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