The Antient Concert

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The Antient Concert is a sixty-minute-long English language opera in one act by Daron Hagen with a libretto by Paul Muldoon. Hagen describes it as a "dramatic recital for four singers."[1]

Background and performance history

Hagen and Muldoon developed the opera as part of the Princeton Atelier at Princeton University.[2] The process culminated in Hagen conducting the Borromeo String Quartet and student performers at the McCarter Theatre in a fully staged workshop production directed by five student directors. After serving as the centerpiece of the 16 June 2007 "26th Annual Bloomsday on Broadway" at Symphony Space in New York City[3] (during which it was broadcast live on WNYC and streamed on the Internet), it had its staged world premiere, directed by the composer, on 6 November 2007 in New York City.[4] Hagen's fourth and final opera with Muldoon,[5] Hagen has described it as "our slender Capriccio",[6] and "a story about the collision of words, music, performance, sex, death, and nationalism."[7]


  • Princeton Atelier staged workshop (7 April 2005), The Princeton Atelier, McCarter Theater, Princeton, New Jersey[8]
  • Concert broadcast premiere (16 June 2007), Bloomsday on Broadway XXVI, Peter Sharp Theater, Symphony Space, New York City
  • Staged world premiere (6 November 2007), The Phoenix Players, Century Center for the Performing Arts, New York City


Role Voice type Staged workshop
McCarter Theater, Princeton
17 April 2005
Concert broadcast premiere
Symphony Space, New York
16 June 2007
Staged premiere
The Century, New York
6 November 2007
Music Director Daron Hagen Daron Hagen Daron Hagen
Director(s) Princeton Atelier Students Daron Hagen Daron Hagen
Performer(s) Borromeo String Quartet Jocelyn Dueck Jocelyn Dueck
James Joyce lyric baritone Matthew Bernier Elem Eley Elem Eley
John McCormack tenor Sean Effinger-Dean James Demler James Demler
Nora Barnacle soprano Molly Ephraim Gilda Lyons Gilda Lyons
May Joyce mezzo-soprano Margaret Meyer Elaine Valby Elaine Valby


The Antient Concert revolves around the reputed showdown in the 1904 Feis Ceoil between John McCormack and James Joyce.[9] "It took place on 27 August 1904 in the Antient Concert Rooms in Dublin, Ireland. Legend has it that they competed that night in the Tenor singing competition. There is no documentary evidence of this; however, Joyce did win the Bronze Medal that year (it is said that he did not agree with the stipulation that competitors demonstrate their musicianship by doing some sight-reading, and left the stage). Many believe it was McCormack's 1903 win of the Gold Medal that launched his career."[7] The musical score consists of variations on five traditional Irish ballads,[7] the libretto of variations on the lyrics of those ballads. The five songs referenced are: "Salley Gardens", "The Harp That Once", "You're as Welcome as the Flowers in May", "Tho' the Last Glimpse of Erin", and "The Croppy Boy". "Consequently," wrote Hagen, "throughout the recital, the characters shift between "performance mode" and the expression of their internal thoughts."[1][7]



  1. 1.0 1.1 Hagen, Daron (2007), The Antient Concert (score), New York, New York: Carl Fischer, p. 6, ISBN 0-8258-6264-7 
  2. Quinoñes, Eric. "Creative Collaboration Produces Original Opera", News at Princeton. retrieved 2 March 2012.
  3. Isaiah Sheffer's Blog, retrieved 2 March 2012.
  4. The Antient Concert page at Daron Hagen's official website, retrieved 2 March 2012.
  5. Kimball, Carol (2006), Song, Milwaukee, WI: Hal Leonard, p. 345, ISBN 1-4234-1280-X, OCLC 225969165 
  6. Clare, John (2010), Interview with Daron Hagen (video recording), San Antonio: Texas Public Radio 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Hagen, Daron,The Antient Concert, Notes: a Composer's Life, 31 January 2011
  8. Princeton Independent, retrieved 2 April 2013.
  9. Obert, Julia C. (2011), "Paul Muldoon: Becoming Opera", Éire-Ireland (46, no. 3): 252–276 

External links