Inspired by the life of Mabel Dodge Luhan, Mabel's Call is an opera in one act (90 minutes) scored for six soloists, chorus, and seven-piece chamber ensemble.
In 1917, restless 38-year old Mabel abandons her life in New York City as a salon hostess and international icon of the avant-garde in order to reinvent herself in the remote village of Taos, New Mexico.
Mabel’s journey of self-discovery leads her to Tony Lujan: a Pueblo Indian who becomes her mentor and husband. With Tony, Mabel builds a bridge between cultures and summons the seekers of the world—artists, writers, reformers, composers, dance choreographers—who look to the West for a cultural rebirth built from the soil of indigenous America.
Mabel is fiercely unconventional, yet quintessentially American. A universal tale told on an intimate scale, Mabel's Call probes themes of identity, love, home, spirituality, and the search for a meaningful life, which will resonate with audiences everywhere.
Excerpts from evening-length workshop reading of excerpts from Mabel’s Call in piano reduction score. Performed by soprano Shelley Jackson, tenor Andre Garcia-Nuthmann, and baritone Carlos Archuleta, with music direction by pianist Kristin Ditlow. Presented in conjunction with national touring exhibit Mabel Dodge Luhan and Company: American Moderns and the West.
Composer and librettist Nell Shaw Cohen (b. 1988) evokes landscapes, visual art, and the lives of mavericks in lyrical works for the stage, concert hall, and digital media. Cohen has been commissioned by Houston Grand Opera to write a chamber opera (premiere 2021) with librettist Megan Cohen for HGOco's Song of Houston initiative. Other current commissions include Boston’s Skylark Vocal Ensemble and Santa Fe’s Montage Music Society.
Cohen’s operas and theatrical works have been given workshops by Fort Worth Opera, American Opera Projects, New Dramatists, New York University, and the University of New Mexico. Cohen’s residencies have included Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts, The Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, NYU Symphony, and a Page 73 Yale Summer Residency with playwright Mashuq Mushtaq Deen. She is an alumna of AOP's Composers & the Voice and Nautilus Music-Theater's Composer-Librettist Studio.
As director of LandscapeMusic.org, a publication and composers network, Cohen advocates for music inspired by nature. Cohen studied composition at NYU and New England Conservatory with Herschel Garfein and Michael Gandolfi, among others. Her honors have included the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Graduate Arts Award, NEC’s Chadwick Medal, and the Ellen Taaffe Zwilich Prize from the International Alliance for Women in Music. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.
Learn more at nellshawcohen.com
Mabel Dodge Luhan was a central and controversial figure in the artistic and intellectual avant-garde of early 20th century America. Mabel lived several lives: breaking away from her upbringing in a wealthy, conservative family in Buffalo, and her first marriage—through which she gained a son and lost a husband to a hunting accident—she traveled to Europe and hosted glamorous salons in Florence at a villa she owned with her second husband, Boston architect Edwin Dodge. There, she entertained friends such as as Gertrude and Leo Stein.
Mabel returned to the States and became a noted player in Greenwich Village’s burgeoning radical intellectual scene. She allied herself with John Reed, Margaret Sanger, Emma Goldman, Alfred Stieglitz, and the founders of the Provincetown Players, among others. She hosted popular “evenings” at her apartment and advocated for Modern art, women’s rights, and worker’s rights as an organizer, promoter, and newspaper columnist. With the onset of World War I, Mabel became disillusioned with urban living and the idealism of political movements. She followed her love of “Nature and Art,” moving to Croton-on-Hudson—and finally to New Mexico with her third husband, painter Maurice Sterne.
After meeting her fourth and final husband, Tony Lujan of Taos Pueblo, Mabel built an estate in Taos with extensive housing for guests. She helped to establish Northern New Mexico as a center for Modern art and drew international attention to indigenous Pueblo and Hispano arts and culture. She was responsible for bringing Georgia O’Keeffe, D.H. Lawrence, Marsden Hartley, John Marin, Ansel Adams, Paul Strand, Martha Graham, and many others to the Southwest, which had an indelible impact on these artists. Mabel also published several books of memoirs and nonfiction, including Winter in Taos (1935) and Edge of Taos Desert (1937).
Learn more about Mabel on the website of the Mabel Dodge Luhan House.
November 2, 3, and 4, 2018• University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico
UNM Opera Theatre presented a full-length Workshop Production of Mabel’s Call, with Stage Direction and Production by Leslie Umphrey and Sam Shepperson, Music Direction by Dr. Kristin Ditlow, and pre-performance symposium moderated by Luhan biographer Lois Rudnick. Nell was a Guest Artist in residence with UNM Opera Theatre during Fall 2018.
May 3, 2018 • Fort Worth Opera in Forth Worth, Texas
Fort Worth Opera’s renowned Frontiers showcase offers audiences a first look at the developmental processes for operas. A 20-minute excerpt of Mabel’s Call was featured in a concert reading with piano accompaniment.
Summer 2017 • The Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico in Taos, New Mexico
Nell Shaw Cohen was Artist-in-Residence, continuing work on Mabel’s Call.
June 18, 2017 • The Harwood Museum of Art in Taos, New Mexico
Conversation and opera video screening exploring Mabel’s Call with Nell Shaw Cohen, moderated by author Lois Rudnick, in celebration of Taos’s annual Mabel Dodge Luhan Day.
September 29 & October 2, 2016 • American Opera Projects in New York City
Workshop reading of scenes from Mabel’s Call in piano score. Performed by soprano Tookah Sapper, tenor Blake Friedman, and baritone Kyle Guglielmo, with music direction by pianist Mila Henry. Featured on Composers & the Voice: Six Scenes concert program.
August 12, 2016 • The Harwood Museum of Art in Taos, New Mexico
Evening-length workshop reading of excerpts from Mabel’s Call in piano score. Performed by soprano Shelley Jackson, tenor Andre Garcia-Nuthmann, and baritone Carlos Archuleta, with music direction by pianist Kristin Ditlow. Presented in conjunction with national touring exhibit Mabel Dodge Luhan and Company: American Moderns and the West.
Summer 2016 • The Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico in Taos, New Mexico
Nell Shaw Cohen was Artist-in-Residence, working on Mabel’s Call.
May 13 & 14, 2016 • American Opera Projects in New York City
Performance of aria “Tony Teaches Me” from Mabel’s Call in piano score. Performed by soprano Tookah Sapper with music direction by pianist Charity Wicks. Featured on Composers & the Voice: First Glimpse concert program.
The Taos News, "'Mabel's Call' to debut" on University of New Mexico's workshop production. (11/01/18)
KUNM Radio, "UNM Opera Looks At A New Mexico Maverick" on University of New Mexico's workshop production. (10/31/18)
Albuquerque Journal, "Mabel Dodge Luhan focus of UNM opera" on University of New Mexico's workshop production. (10/29/18)
THE COLUMN, Review of Mabel's Call in "Frontiers" showcase at Fort Worth Opera. (5/07/18)
Fort Worth Star-Telegram, "Two women and 207,000 baguettes. Here's what else is new on the 'Frontiers' opera scene" on Mabel's Call in Forth Worth opera's Frontiers showcase. (4/26/18)
Broadway World, “Six Composer-Librettist Teams Selected for Fort Worth Opera’s Diverse 2018 Showcase” on selection of Mabel's Call for Fort Worth Opera’s Frontiers showcase. (3/16/18)
The Taos News, "Mabel's life in song: New chamber opera explores the early Taos life of Mabel Dodge Luhan" on Mabel's Call presentation at the Harwood Music of Art. (6/15/17)
The Taos News, "Mabel Dodge Luhan, as operatic vision" on Mabel's Call workshop concert at the Harwood Music of Art. (8/11/16)
The Mabel Dodge Luhan House Blog, "Mabel Dodge Luhan Inspires Nell Shaw Cohen Opera" on Mabel's Call at the Harwood Music of Art. (8/10/16)
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