Playbill of rights: An opera about the Constitution returns to Brooklyn

Playbill of rights: An opera about the Constitution returns to Brooklyn
Red-y to sing: Soloists Blake Burroughs, Michelle Trovato, Anthony P. McGlaun, and Byron Singleton prepare for their parts in “The Constitution.”
Joseph Henry Ritter

Let freedom sing!

A Cobble Hill opera company will hold a constitutional concert next week, singing the text of our country’s founding document. The Vertical Player Repertory presented “The Constitution: A Secular Oratorio,” earlier this summer, and the strong response to the show caused the company to bring it back for four more shows, starting on Constitution Day, Sept. 17. The performance offers a fresh, memorable way for people to experience the words of the Founding Fathers, said the company’s artistic director.

“I feel that people should know what is in the Constitution. Singing is a wonderful way to learn it and to experience it — if you are listening to the words as music it is easier to assimilate somehow,” said Judith Barnes.

The show features the Constitution’s Preamble, Articles One through Seven, and severable singable amendments, though it skips over some of the legalistic language that could be confusing or difficult for people to sing, she said.

“It is important that people really understand the words because the composer has set the words clearly. The experience helps people take ownership of this document and be able to experience it in a new and unexpected way, to learn the words of the Constitution and to reflect on it,” Barnes said.

The show’s composer, Benjamin Yarmolinsky, set the words to an eclectic array of musical styles, including popular, classical, and Baroque tunes, according to soloist Blake Burroughs. The music is performed by a chorus of 23 singers, accompanied by a piano. Using a piano as the sole instrument allows for an intimacy that would not be possible with a full orchestra, said Burroughs. It also allows for a personal moment at the end of the first act, he said.

“At the end of the first act each of us calls out the name of one of the people who signed the Constitution. I think that is a powerful moment — I doubt that most people have heard the names of the delegates of the constitutional convention, and it becomes a jumping off point about history and who these people were,” said Burroughs.

“The Constitution: A Secular Oratorio” at Behind the Door (219 Court St. between Wyckoff and Warren streets in Cobble Hill, www.vpropera.org). Sept. 17 at 8 p.m., Sept. 24, 26, and 28 at 8 p.m. $35–$65.

Reach reporter Chandler Kidd at ckidd@schnepsmedia.com or by calling (718) 260–2525. Follow her at twitter.com/ChanAnnKidd.
American anthem: Soloist Byron Singleton performs at a previous production of “The Constitution.”
Joseph Henry Ritter

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