"As these phases come and go... music tells me what I need to know."
Once I Was combines theater with song recital to create an intimate musical journey through growing up, falling in love, heartbreak, loss, and what it means to be alive.
Soprano Stacey Tappan and composer Ricky Ian Gordon began their friendship while rehearsing a workshop production of his opera Morning Star at Lyric Opera of Chicago. While they were playing and singing through some of his other songs between rehearsals, the idea for Once I Was emerged.
Inspired by Ricky's profoundly emotional music, Stacey collaborated with him on a theatrical evening of staged songs, arranged to tell the story of a girl who rediscovers meaning in her life through music.
"What I love most in Ricky's songs is his gift for grabbing you by the heart. He never shies away from the most intense emotions, from heartwrenching pain to ecstatic joy. Every song is deeply personal and paints a vivid emotional picture. These songs are not simply voice with piano accompaniment. They are duets for piano and voice, in which the emotion of the piano speaks as clearly as the words of the singer, and both join in a dialogue to tell the story."
Once I Was features songs set to texts by Ricky Ian Gordon, as well as the moving and incisive poetry of Dorothy Parker, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Langston Hughes, and E. E. Cummings, among others. It includes selections from several of Gordon’s most celebrated works, including the the suite Autumn Valentine, the song cycles Orpheus and Euridice and ...and flowers pick themselves, and the musical Dream True.
"The collaboration of Stacey Tappan and Ricky Ian Gordon in Once I Was produced one of the most outstanding musical events of the Chicago season. Technically masterful and exquisitely expressive, the duo's artistry memorably illuminated some of the finest American art songs of recent years. This program eminently deserves to be heard in major venues nationwide and to be preserved on disc."
Roger Pines, Dramaturg, Lyric Opera of Chicago
Stacey Tappan has been drawn to modern works since her professional debut with Houston Grand Opera as Beth in Adamo's Little Women, later released on CD and DVD. Her other successes in contemporary music include Esa-Pekka Salonen's Wing on Wing (Los Angeles Philharmonic); the Thai opera Madana (world premiere, Bangkok); Leone's The Leader (Chicago’s Goodman Theatre); Britten's Albert Herring, Krenek's Secret Kingdom, and Braunfels' The Birds (Los Angeles Opera); and La Chiusa's Lovers and Friends and Tippett's The Midsummer Marriage (Lyric Opera of Chicago). She has also won acclaim onstage in musicals and operettas, such as The Pirates of Penzance (Michigan Opera Theater), Kiss Me Kate and The Merry Widow (Light Opera Works in Evanston), and Die Fledermaus (Glyndebourne Festival Opera). Her other operatic credits include Ring cycles in Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco; Rigoletto in Lille and Dijon; and Falstaff in Chicago.
Ricky Ian Gordon's music was described in The New York Times as "bursting effervescence infusing songs that blithely blur the lines between art song and the high-end Broadway music of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim... It's caviar for a world gorging on pizza." His compositions include the operas Rappahannock County, The Grapes of Wrath, and Tibetan Book of the Dead; dramatic song cycles Only Heaven, Orpheus and Eurydice, Green Sneakers and Autumn Valentine; musicals My Life with Albertine, Dream True, and Sycamore Trees; and song recordings "Bright Eyed Joy," "and flowers pick themselves," "A Horse with Wings," and "Bric-A-Brac." Among Gordon’s upcoming projects are an opera commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera; the opera The Garden of the Finzi-Continis; and an operatic monologue based on Night Flight To San Francisco for soprano Renée Fleming.