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Donnacha Dennehy

Publisher: G. Schirmer

The Hunger (stage version) (2016)
Work Notes
Premiere of the full-stage production: September 2016 at Touhill Performing Arts Center (St. Louis) and Brooklyn Academy of Music (New York) by Alarm Will Sound
Text Writer
Asenath Nicholson, anon, and interviews: N. Chomsky, P. Krugman, M. Murphy, B. Milanovic, M. Vaughan
Publisher
G Schirmer Inc
Category
Opera and Music Theatre
Sub Category
Chamber Opera
Year Composed
2016
Duration
1 Hour 10 Minutes
Language
English, Gaelic
Soloist
Soprano, sean nós singer
Programme Note
Donnacha Dennehy The Hunger (stage version) (2016)
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Related works:
   The Hunger (stage version)
   The Hunger (concert version)

Synopsis:
The Hunger concerns itself with the Great Irish Famine of 1845-52, which transformed Irish society irrevocably. The main narrative in the piece is provided by the accounts of the famine by the American non-conformist Asenath Nicholson who spent two years travelling around Ireland helping those dying from starvation and writing about her experiences. Her account stands outside the norm because of her transgressive sympathy; she directly quotes from those suffering, and stayed in their cabins. Extremely little is available from those who directly suffered. Only the one song, Na Prátaí Dubha (Black Potatoes), of the sean nós tradition deals with the topic. Shards of that song form the basis of an extended section sung by the sean nós singer.


Making The Hunger




Performances
Reviews
Does The Hunger qualify as successful activist art? I've been thinking about this new work by the remarkable Irish composer Donnacha Dennehy, which received its New York premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, for days now, and I remain undecided, which likely means it succeeded more than most…

The mix of competing sensations, which could verge on sensory overload — occasionally to no evident gain, as when Alarm Will Sound players rose and ventured out onto the set — was jarring and no doubt meant to be, given the subject matter. Yet Dennehy's instrumental writing provided a sure adhesive, combining aspects derived from the music of Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Bang on a Can, Gérard Grisey, and more in a manner that supported disparate voices. In emotionally vulnerable moments solo instruments subtly shadowed vocal lines, caressing them tenderly. Yet throughout The Hunger, microtonal frictions sown into otherwise consonant foundations were a master stroke: sour-milk disharmonies disrupting rustic calm, conjuring unease and decay.
Steve Smith, TheLogJournal.com,06/10/2016
Through-composed, it is nevertheless divided up into a readily comprehensible large-scale form by the alternation between live singing and pre-recorded interviews, as well as by its shifts in harmony and texture. The vocal lines composed for operatic soprano are drawn from the natural rhythms of the English text. They are limpid and lyrical enough that, along with the static, tonal harmonies, they should prove easily accessible to the casual, uninitiated listener. Dennehy's mastery of microtonality allows the harmonies to thicken into dense clumps of overtones, creating sounds that seem less "dissonant" in the conventional sense than bright, hot, metallic, and pointed.
Daniel Stephen Johnson, MusicalAmerica.com,05/10/2016
I was blown away by how affecting and compelling this 90 minute piece is... Dennehy takes Irish folk music (in the sean nos style) and places it over a bed of dissonance that acts to ratchet up the tension considerably... The music isn't strictly atonal by any stretch, in fact it's filled with several beautifully flowing sections that recall Philip Glass, or snatches of John Adams, but it's never done in a derivative manner.
Chris Gibson, Broadway World,21/09/2016
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