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Patricia Herzog
Musician | Philosopher | Writer
Patricia Herzog
Musician | Philosopher | Writer
REimaginings and TRANSformations
I am currently involved with five women and a little girl, Tosca, Butterfly, Turandot, Hester Prynne and her daughter Pearl, and Letty Mason. I am re-imagining and transforming the roles of these women as heroines in new operas and new endings to existing operas. I began working on Tosca while I was a Fellow at the Bunting (now Radcliffe) Institute at Harvard University in the mid-nineties, and in 2015, while a Visiting Artist at the American Academy in Rome, I completed the libretto and re-composed the music for A New Ending for Puccini’s Tosca.

Since then, I have written the libretto and re-composed the music for A New Ending for Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, a full-length libretto for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, and co-written the libretto for Infamy, an orchestral portrait of the Japanese Americans during WWII commissioned for Paul Chihara by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. I have also written an original full-length libretto, Butterfly in America.

Recently, I have turned my attention to Turandot, who seems partly to have been inspired by the very real and truly admirable Khutulun, warrior daughter of Kaidu, the most powerful ruler in Central Asia during the 13th century. I have written a full-length libretto radically different in tone and character from Puccini’s Turandot. My Turandot is a comic opera about a brave and capable woman who would rule and not be ruled. Just now, I have finished The Wind, a libretto about a frontierswoman in the Southwest. In this opera, the forces of nature figure centrally as musical and dramatic elements. Soon, I will be turning my attention to an opera in which the wordless voice figures centrally as a musical and dramatic element.

My interest in retelling dates back to my days as a graduate student at Harvard, where, under the direction of Hilary Putnam and supported by a grant from the Fund for Psychoanalytic Research, I wrote and published a philosophy dissertation on Freud’s theory of mind. And it goes back even further, to my own psychoanalysis, where I first learned to appreciate the empowering role of retelling a life’s story.

My interest in music goes as far back as I can remember. I always played the piano. Later I fell in love with Bach and started playing the harpsichord. I studied music and philosophy as an undergraduate at UCLA. After graduate school, I turned my attention from Freud to the philosophy of music, with particular emphasis on the relation between ethics and aesthetics. I taught and wrote philosophy in the mid-nineties. Some of the papers I published are collected here. In 2000, I left teaching and went into business, co-founding Sage Search Partners, an executive search firm specializing in higher education.

Acknowledgments


Thomas Schultheiss, photography. Keiko Tanabe, artwork. Paul Chihara and Cori Ellison, for helping to shape Butterfly in America. Matthew Ricketts, for collaborating on the music for the Puccini endings and carefully reading my work. Sergio Parussa, for assisting with the Italian for the Puccini endings. Amy Zorn, for guiding me through the world of professional singers and music producers. Laura Scheuer, for her ready embrace of the project of re-imagining and transforming opera heroines. Susan Mizruchi, for her enthusiastic support and careful readings of The Scarlet Letter, Butterfly in America and other works. Above all, I would like to thank Norman Janis, husband, teacher, singer, friend, for his extraordinary knowledge of and insight into the world of Italian opera: without him, none of this would have come about.

The Scarlet Letter

Summary and Synopsis
Libretto