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Tesla's Pigeon (2010)

for soprano, piano | 18:00

by Melissa Dunphy | text by Shakespeare, Goethe, Viereck, Traditional

Other Arrangements

In the 1920's to 40's, Serbian-American scientist and inventor Nikola Tesla lived out his twilight years having metaphorically wrecked himself on Manhattan Island, bankrupted and broken by a public relations war with Thomas Edison. A staunch believer in the connection between his genius and sexual abstinence, Tesla shunned women, choosing instead to feed and care for street pigeons in his hotel room at the New Yorker. His closest friend was a white dove that visited him every day at his hotel room window. In moments of delirium, Tesla believed this pigeon to have mystical knowledge and the ability to communicate with him, and declared to friends that he was in love with her. One night, the bird flew into Tesla's room close to death, and according to Tesla, a light came from her eyes more intense than that of the most powerful lamps in his laboratory before she died in his arms. Tesla said that at that same moment, he knew his life's work was finished. Tesla's Pigeon is sung from the dove's perspective in these final moments, and explores parallels between the relationship between Tesla and his pigeon, and Prospero and Ariel in Shakespeare's The Tempest, with text adapted from Ariel's songs, Goethe's Faust, the poetry of George Sylvester Viereck, Serbian traditional song and poetry, and personal letters to Tesla.

Artwork by Robinson Smith

Visit the official Tesla's Pigeon website.


Performances

  • 20 Apr, 2017: Alexandra Johnson at Pitman Recital Hall, University of Oklahoma
  • 14 Jul, 2013: Colleen Gray at International Congress of Voice Teachers, Brisbane, Australia
  • 19 Apr, 2013: Jessica Lennick and Tim Ribchester at NACUSA East Coast Chapter Annual Spring Concert, Christ and St. Stephen’s Church, NYC
  • 17 Sep, 2011 - 18 Sep, 2011: Jessica Lennick and Tim Ribchester at (First Unitarian Church, Voice of this Generation/Philadelphia Fringe Festival
  • 30 Jun, 2011: Colleen Gray and Nanette Kaplan Solomon at National Association of Teachers of Singing Annual Conference, Orlando
  • 19 Mar, 2011: Katherine Price and Genevieve Mason at National NACUSA concert, Portland State University
  • 03 Dec, 2010: Jessica Lennick and Daniel Paul Lawson at Philadelphia Shakespeare Theater's Cabaret Series

Awards

  • Boston Metro Opera Merit Award 2013
  • The American Prize - Winner, Chamber Music Division (student category) 2013
  • The Chicago Ensemble Discover America VIII Competition 2013
  • National Association of Teachers of Singing Art Song Composition Award 2012
  • Tesla Science Foundation 2012
  • University of Pennsylvania Hilda K. Nitzsche Composition Prize 2011