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Michael Gordon

Publisher: G. Schirmer

Acquanetta (original version) (2005)
Text Writer
Deborah Artman
Red Poppy
Opera and Music Theatre
Year Composed
1 Hour 10 Minutes
SATB chorus
Solo Instrument(s)
Coloratura Soprano, Mezzo soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass/Baritone
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Programme Note
Michael Gordon Acquanetta (original version) (2005)
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downloadable brochure
Acrobat format
Related works:
   Acquanetta (original version)
   Acquanetta (chamber version)

Deborah Artman

Cast List:
   ACQUANETTA: Mezzo-soprano/alto
   BRAINY WOMAN: Soprano
   APE: Coloratura
   DOCTOR: Tenor
   DIRECTOR: Bass/baritone

Librettist note:
In 1943, a former cheesecake model, known only as "Acquanetta," lit up the screen in the B-movie horror film and now cult classic, Captive Wild Woman. Stunning and exotic, Acquanetta played the untameable and gorgeous creation resulting from a mad scientist's experiments on an ape, a role the young actress sizzled in and played so well a sequel was soon in the can. So began a brief career in bread-and-butter films that ended only a few years later when Acquanetta inexplicably walked away from the Hollywood studio system and swanned off to Mexico.

Her past is a mystery. Because of her come-hither stare and sensuous pout, Walter Winchell nicknamed her "The Venezuelan Volcano." In interviews, she claimed Native American roots, and her obituary in 2004 stated that she was born on an Indian reservation near Cheyenne, Wyoming. Who was Acquanetta, and why did she walk out on her contract with Universal Pictures at the height of her career?

In Acquanetta, the mock serious, campy spirit of horror movies is turned inside out in a bravura, one-act deconstruction of the five minutes that changed Acquanetta's life forever. The mad scientist Doctor, the insistent Ape, the reluctant Brainy Woman, the visionary Director and the beautiful monster herself, Acquanetta, gather in this re-imagining of that fateful experiment. In soaring, sometimes comic and always indelible songs that perfectly capture the heightened drama of horror films, these vivid characters reveal their inner longings and emotional shadows in what is ultimately a haunting meditation on the meaning of identity, transformation, stereotypes and typecasting, set in the heyday of Hollywood gloss.

— Deborah Artman

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