I. To Be a Painter
- Performer(s) Lynn Maxwell Keller, mezzo-soprano; Ava Ordman, trombone; orchestra
- Score Available From
- Oxford University Press Get this score global.oup.com
- Mary Cassatt adpt. Libby Larsen
Mezzo-soprano, trombone, full orchestra: 3d1,2,2,2/4,2,0,0/timp/2 perc*/hp/str, 15 projections of Mary Cassatt's paintings
Mary Stevenson Cassatt was a central figure in establishing the work of the impressionists firmly in fine American art collections. Born in Allegheny, Pennsylvania (now part of Pittsburgh), Cassatt pursued her painting career chiefly in Europe. She was part of upper-crust Victorian Pennsylvania society and was expected to maintain certain social properties. While decorously adhering to the expectations of her class, she nevertheless lived the life of an independent working artist, fiercely following her vision with a leader's voice. Her deep friendships with patron Louisine Havermeyer and artist Edgar Degas frame the chronology of her life and work. What I am drawn to in Mary Cassatt is her extraordinary paintings and her strong voice. Here is a Victorian woman who painted, wrote and spoke with a clear, single-minded purpose - to paint. She had powerful friendships centered in her art. While she was devoted to her parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, there is no evidence that she cared to pursue a marriage partnership. In Victorian times, she would have had to sacrifice her work to do so. Cassatt was also keenly aware of and involved in her world beyond her art, figuring strongly in the suffragette movement, caring deeply for the plight of the less fortunate, concerned fully with the political climate of Europe and America during World War I. Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) is a portrait of the artist. I have combined the mezzo- soprano as the embodied character of Cassatt with the trombone as Cassatt's spirit to create a fuller understanding of the artist. The libretto is fashioned from Cassatt's letters, articles written by her contemporaries, and some material I wrote based on my research. Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) was commissioned by the Keller Foundation. I am deeply indebted to the Keller Foundation for its faith in art and art's role in human history.
— Libby Larsen