Mr. Gene Scheer is a widely respected librettist and songwriter in today’s operatic and theatre world. For those who are not opera-savvy, the librettist is responsible for writing the text, or libretto, of an opera. This includes all words and stage directions, somewhat like the script of a play. Scheer’s work is noted for its scope and versatility, often appealing to a wide audience. His large portfolio has been increasingly recognized as “remarkable,” “bold,” and “poignant.”
Scheer has worked as librettist for the opera “Therese Raquin,” as well as “An American Tragedy,” which premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in 2005. His songs have gained much acclaim as well, and have been performed by artists including Renee Fleming, Denyce Graves, and Nathan Gunn. Scheer’s song “American Anthem” was featured in Ken Burns’ World War II documentary entitled “The War,” and was first performed by Denyce Graves for President and Mrs. Clinton. The song was also quoted during the memorial service for Senator Edward Kennedy in 2009. His songs have also been performed alongside many of the nation’s most prestigious orchestras, including the National Symphony, Chicago Symphony, and Colorado Symphony.
His more recent work, “To Hell and Back,” was based on the Greco-Roman myth of Persephone, and starred Patti LuPone and Isabel Bayrakdarian. Scheer has also written two song cycles (a group of songs intended to be played in sequence) in collaboration with Jake Heggie. Currently the two are working on a new song cycle based on the film “Paragraph 175.” Scheer’s work has been described as a “tapestry of overlapping streams of consciousness” (New York Times, 2008), and “deeply moving music and lyrics that pull no punches” (Seattle Times, 2007). Gene Scheer has already enjoyed a fulfilling career and will undoubtedly continue to create wonderful libretti, songs and lyrics that are thought provoking and compelling.
In an article from Dallas Magazine, Gene Scheer said:
“I’ve heard Stephen Sondheim say that the thing all good songs share is a sense of surprise. It’s a way of awakening listeners to remember what they’ve forgotten, or, to learn something new. I think that’s what we’ll be looking for in each one of these songs, the opportunity to take the audience on a personal journey. If the moment works and you feel like you’ve been able to say something—and say it beautifully—it’s incredibly rewarding,”
Just like he said in his quote Mr. Scheer is a renowned librettist, lyricist and songwriter in the world of music who allows us to remember things that we’ve forgotten.
For me, the opera that Mr. Scheer talked about in class and the opera that he played for us in class were very different from the opera which we had the privilege of attending at the Met. His “Petals on a Rose” were nothing like any of the songs in Das Rheingold. Perhaps it was the language or the atmosphere but the two pieces took me on two completely different journeys. It made me realize that much like genres in music or theater, opera also has a wide range and a versatility that I did not know existed. Personally, I think I would have enjoyed one of Mr. Scheer’s operas more than Das Rheingold because I believe that I would have been able to relate to his pieces more than a mythical tale about a magical ring (although I did relate to Lord of the Rings very well).
I hope to be able to catch “Moby Dick” or his new song cycle in the near future, just so I can compare the two different experiences.