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Michael Gordon

Publisher: G. Schirmer

What to Wear (2005)
Red Poppy
Opera and Music Theatre
Sub Category
Chamber Opera
Year Composed
1 Hour 5 Minutes
6-voice female chorus
Solo Instrument(s)
2 Sopranos, Alto, Tenor
Programme Note
Michael Gordon What to Wear (2005)
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Composer note:
I wrote What to Wear with the great American iconoclastic theater personality Richard Foreman, who wrote the libretto and directed the first production at the RedCat Theater in Los Angeles in 2005. What to Wear features a multitude of Madeline X's, who live in a sad, sad world and think about what to wear, and a gigantic Duck that plays golf. Like many of Foreman's scripts, the work is at once incomprehensible and deeply comprehensible.

In the early 2000's, Richard called me on the phone and asked if I would be interested in working on a piece together. I was a long-time fan of his work and I jumped at the chance. We live within walking distance of each other, and over the next six weeks, Richard dropped off three scripts, each script shorter than the one before. He left me with only one instruction, that I was free to include or not include any part of the script as long as the Duck remained.

In order to better understand Richard's words, I asked him to make me a tape of a read-through of the libretto. Listening to Richard read illuminated his text and gave me the direction I needed to set the words to music. Along with four principal singers –– one male and three female –– the score to What to Wear includes a small woman's chorus and seven instrumentalists.

––Michael Gordon

What to Wear was commissioned by the Ontological-Hysteric Theater with funds provided by the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust. What to Wear is also a Meet the Composer Commissioning Music/USA commission and is produced with the additional support of the Shubert Foundation.

  • 20 SEP 2006
    What to Wear World Premiere
    REDCAT Center for New Performance; Los Angeles, CA
    New Century Players
    Richard Foreman, stage director; David Rosenboom, conductor

What to Wear [has] dazzling, hard-hitting music by Michael Gordon and words, staging, design and equally hard-hitting and dazzling zaniness by Richard Foreman…What to Wear is what opera in America might have been like if the Virgil Thomson/Gertrude Stein model in the ’30s had become mainstream and kept evolving…So what is What to Wear? I’m doing my best not to tell you, because this is music theatre for the unprepared, a theater that you discover while you look, listen and wonder.
Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times,22/09/2006
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