This caped contagion of seductive death does not fly or wear fangs.
“The Lord of Cries” soars into the Santa Fe Opera this weekend.
The world premiere of composer John Corigliano and Mark Adamo’s Dracula-based “The Lord of Cries” brings horror and harmony in two acts. Corigliano and Adamo wove Bram Stoker’s familiar tale with Euripides’ “The Bacchae” to create a searing account of the monster inside us all.
Separated by 24 centuries, “The Bacchae” and “Dracula” tell virtually the same timeless story, with the same subversive message: We must honor our animal nature lest it turn monstrous and destroy us. “The Lord of Cries” begins with a strange, androgynous god returning to earth to offer a mortal three chances to “ask for what you want” or risk the consequences. He materializes in Victorian England in the guise of the eponymous “Lord of Cries,” none other than the irresistible antihero Dracula.
Corigliano wrote the work specifically for superstar countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo.
“It’s amazing,” the singer said. “When I was 16 years old – 23 years ago – I premiered a piece by John Corigliano.”
A boy soprano’s voice changed and the composer asked Costanzo if he could replace the child at a Kennedy Center performance.
“We’ve known each other ever since,” Costanzo said.
The pair have been working on the opera for years. The otherworldly nature of the music called for a countertenor, whose range is comparable to a female contralto or mezzo-soprano.
Although the libretto sounds complicated, the story audiences will see on stage is clear, Costanzo said.
“It uses the characters from ‘The Bacchae’ and ‘Dracula’ to tell the story in the form of a Greek myth,” he continued. “He is an outsider, but he really has the truth. It’s a conversation between what’s real and what’s imagined.”
That conversation applies to identity, religion and sexuality, he added.
“Every 100 or 1,000 years, Dionysus comes down from the gods’ realm and says, ‘I must solve this problem and show that we are all the same,’ ” Costanzo said. “There is no outsider or insider.”
The singer grew up in North Carolina, the son of two psychologists. At 8, his piano teacher suggested he try singing. He loved it.
“By the time I was 11, I decided I would try for Broadway and I went on tours.”
Costanzo performed in his first opera, by Benjamin Britten, at age 13. He loved the emotional expression.
“The stories are all so layered,” he said. “The deeper you dig, the more you get.”
Now a New Yorker, Costanzo survived the pandemic in style. He gave concerts throughout the city, first on the back of a pickup truck.
“I was wearing a mask,” he said. “We were tested daily and we were distanced.”
He also recorded his second album.
Costanzo first came to Santa Fe as a child.
“When I was 10 years old, I came to Santa Fe with my parents and they renewed their vows at Chimayó Church. It was a magical experience and I knew it was one of the best opera companies in the world.”
Masks are required within the theater complex to maintain safety protocol. The opera will provide a distance of one empty seat between each group of ticket purchasers.