Music by Jerry Hui
Story & Libretto by Jerry Hui & Lisa Kundrat
Music by Jerry Hui
Story & Libretto by Jerry Hui & Lisa Kundrat
Looking for his next victim, Okoro, the Nigerian purveyor of an online scam, went about his daily business of sending out an email message, under the alias of Bako Ndiovu. His message reached a British man (“British guy”) who, spending too much time online and too little time in real life, decided to respond under the guise of a hot female model by the name of Ethel Wormvarnish. His goal was to keep Okoro from getting to a real victim, and to make a fool out of him. Thus began the correspondence between Okoro and the British guy, each trying to outfox the other. While their lies and excuses grew, so did the personalities of their fictional avatars, which gradually developed as they each became aware of both their own and the other’s existence in the cyberspace. Bako, who began as only Okoro’s avatar, started to realize on his own he had a desire to come clean about the deception. Ethel, who according to the British guy, was a sassy wild girl who would never settle for just one person, slowly succumbed to the purity of Bako’s heart and to the beauty of his entirely imaginary physique. While Okoro and the British guy continued their correspondence via the personalities of Bako and Ethel, Bako and Ethel, both increasingly independent, began struggling to express their yearning for one another. Finally, Bako devised a bold plan to escape: pretending to complete the scam transaction through a payment, he and Ethel would finally meet and run away.
Studio recording of Wired For Love is here!
Also available on Amazon MP3 and iTunes (coming soon)!
Musicians of the premiere orchestra:
Pre-concert fraud prevention seminars:
by John W. Barker, originally posted on Well-Tempered Ear, 1/23/2012
I had to miss the official “world premiere” performance of the new comic opera “Wired for Love” by Jerry Hui on Friday night, but I was able to catch the follow-up performance the next evening at Music Hall.
As readers of The Ear have already been informed, it is a one-act chamber opera, running about 70 minutes and is Hui’s dissertation project for his doctoral degree at the University of Wisconsin School of Music. It calls for four singers, and a pit orchestra of nine players (a string quartet with flutes, oboe/English horn, clarinets, trombone, percussion and piano).
To recap previous information, it has a libretto written jointly by Hui with Lisa Kundrat. In rhymed verse, it traces the confrontation made to a Nigerian scammer, who uses a male alias on the Internet, by a British counter-scammer, who uses a female alias. The two electronic “dummies” begin to take on independent characters of their own, fall genuinely in love, betray their creators, and escape to independent existence.
It is, in a sense, a piece of sci-fi satire. But it did remind me just a little of Menotti’s little comic one-act opera, “The Telephone,” which spoofed the intrusion of a modern gadget into real life circumstances. Menotti also captured a lot of American colloquial English, in the way Hui and Kundrat mocked the pseudo-pigeon-English of those Nigerian scam e-mails we all seem to receive.
I was also alert to possible influences on Hui’s musical style. As he promised, he composes in an eclectic mode, reflecting and synthesizing a number of idioms.
There was jazz, and Broadway, but also conventional opera–complete with a witty quotation of the “Tristan chord.” The instrumentation at times reminded me of the “Histoire du Soldat” by Stravinsky while the overture carried for me some of the episodic writing techniques of Virgil Thomson.
But Hui is his own man. His handling of the instruments is thoroughly confident, and I even wonder if he might consider fleshing out the score for a fuller orchestra. Above all, while he certainly does not attempt traditional “bel canto” vocalism, he can write genuinely idiomatic vocal lines.
There are several full-scale arias, amid a lot of “parlando” writing. And the most brilliant touch is an ensemble epilogue, a kind of Baroque operatic “coro,” offering moralizing sentiments in an echoing the final ensemble to Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” but cast in the form of a kind of post-Renaissance madrigal.
Hui has admitted, after all, that he is very much influenced by early musical styles. And all the music in this work is sustained in a very accomplished contrapuntal texture.
Hui was fortunate in his performers, certainly so with the instrumentalists.
Of his four singers (below, all from the UW School of Music), baritone James Held (below, far left) was solid as the British counter-scammer–bringing a fine touch of humor to his acting. The role of the Nigerian scammer was written for a countertenor, of all things, and the very promising (undergraduate) Peter Gruett invested his part with an appropriately bizarre quality.
Particularly outstanding, however, were the two avatars. Daniel O’Dea as the imaginary Zimbabwean frontman offered a lovely tenor voice and some quite emotionally moving expressiveness. Soprano Jennifer Sams, a familiar singer to Madison audiences, not only brought off her role as the Britisher’s phony American avatar (can you forget a name like “Ethel Wormvarnish”?) with versatility and flair but also contributed the clever stage direction.
A further plaudit goes to to Chelsie Propst for contributing imaginative surtitles, set in different type-faces to fit different characters, notably helpful in duets and ensembles.
In sum, this is a witty and enjoyable stage piece, and the audience of which I was a member just loved it. It is worth experiencing again, I think, so it is good news that Hui plans to record it soon.
Above all, “Wired for Love” is a demonstration of the very impressive dimension of Jerry Hui as a composer, amid all his other enterprises. I have already compared him to the late Steve Jobs for his boundless energy and diversely imaginative productivity.
But dare we wonder if he is perhaps also another Leonard Bernstein in the making? Time will tell. But this production is certainly a tantalizing hint. Watch for future developments...
Premiere cast. Clockwise from left: James Held (as British Guy), Daniel O'Dea (as Bako Ndiovu), Peter Gruett (as Okoro), and Jennifer Sams (as Ethel Wormvarnish). ©2012 Jerry Hui
Premiere cast: the "Western team" of the British Guy (James Held) and his online avatar, Ethel Wormvarnish (Jennifer Sams). ©2012 Jerry Hui
Premiere cast: the "scammer team" of Okoro (Peter Gruett, back) and his online avatar, Bako Ndiovu (Daniel O'Dea). ©2012 Jerry Hui
Premiere cast: the lovers, Ethel Wormvarnish (Jennifer Sams) and Bako Ndiovu (Daniel O'Dea). ©2012 Jerry Hui
What an online scam looks like in reality. British Guy (James Held, left) in a tug-of-war with Okoro the Nigerian scammer (Peter Gruett, right). ©2012 Jerry Hui
Rosemary Brumbelow is a freelance clarinetist and teacher in Madison. She is faculty at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, Luther College, and Edgewood College. Currently a doctoral candidate at UW-Madison, Rosemary is a student of Linda Bartley.
Morgann Davis is currently Adjunct Professor of flute at Maranatha College, a founding member of the flute duo Dual Reveries, and an active private teacher. She has studied with Katherine Borst Jones and Stephanie Jutt,, and has pursued extended study with Jean Ferrandis. www.morgannelycedavis.com.
Susan Gaeddert completed a DMA in Collaborative Piano in 2007 at the UW-Madison School of Music. That same year, she was chosen as a winner in the first annual Shain competition for piano and woodwind duos at the UW School of Music and had the distinct honor of premiering John Harbison's Vocalism I and II with soprano Sarah David at Pepperdine University during SongFest 2007. Susan holds a double masters degree in Piano Performance/Pedagogy and Collaborative Piano Performance from the UW-Madison School of Music. Never content playing just one instrument, Susan studied harpsichord for several years during her graduate studies and frequently plays continuo in local performances. She is active in the musical community as a freelance accompanist, teaching private piano lessons, and adjudicating for local youth piano competitions and festivals, and for two years she toured Wisconsin as an accompanist with Opera for the Young. Currently, Susan resides in Madison and spends most of her time caring for her two young children, who are gradually learning to sing in tune.
Emily Gruselle, a native of Appleton, Wisconsin, has performed in master classes for world renowned cellists Steven Isserlis and Matt Haimovitz. A recipient of the Cecil and Jessie Jennings Burleigh Award, she has served as Faculty Artist at the Maud Powell Music Festival. She holds her Bachelor and Master of Music Degrees in cello performance from UW-Madison, where she studied with Professors Uri Vardi and Parry Karp. She currently serves as a section cellist with the Dubuque Symphony Orchestra.
Baritone and Waukesha native James Held is a versatile performer with roles in musical theatre, opera, and drama, as well as professional choral engagements. James is a senior vocal performance major at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, where he studies under baritone professor Paul Rowe. He has previously studied under soprano Dr. Mitra Sadeghpour at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire, and under soprano Tanya Kruse Ruck, professor of voice at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. James has had coachings with professionals, artists and teachers such as Darren K. Woods, Tony Dillon and Stephen Lusmann. James’ recent performances include appearances in the UW School of Music Opera Workshop Scenes Program as Taddeo in Rossini’s L’italiana in Algeri, the Count in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, Faninal in Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier and as Alidoro in Rossini’s La Cenerentola. James is currently preparing repertoire for a recital which will take place at UW-Madison.
Jerry (Chiwei) Hui has written a wide variety of music that ranges from serious concert art music to humorous choral arrangements. His music has been performed in the United States, Germany, France, Indonesia and Hong Kong by community choirs, campus ensembles, and professional groups. His composition has won prizes including the Robert Helps Prize 2008, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Concerto Competition.
As a conductor, Mr. Hui has founded and directed various community choirs, church choirs, chamber ensembles and orchestras. He is active in performing for fellow composers, and has premiered over 30 new works. As a singer, Mr. Hui is at home in early music as well as music of our time. Past dramatic performances include ‘Fileno’ in Handel‘s Clori, Tirsi e Fileno, ‘Ching-Ho’ in Thoroughly Modern Millie, ‘Jephte’ in Clarissimi‘s Historia di Jephte, and the main role in Peter Maxwell Davies’ Eight Songs for a Mad King.
Lately he is directing and performing with Eliza’s Toyes, a vocal sextet specialized in early music; and New Music Everywhere, an ensemble that performs contemporary music with innovative presentations in unconventional locations.
A native of Hong Kong, Jerry Hui received his DMA degree in music composition at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Mr. Hui's principal composition teachers include David Crumb, Stephen Dembski, Robert Kyr, Joel Naumann and Laura Schwendinger. His conducting teachers are Beverly Taylor , Sharon Paul, Bruce Gladstone, Hirvo Surva, and Paul Flight.
Kirstin Ihde is currently a doctoral student in collaborative piano at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studies with Professor Martha Fischer. She holds a BA in piano performance from St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa, where she studied and an MM in piano performance from the University of Northern Iowa. Kirstin is presently a class piano instructor at Edgewood College in Madison.
Lisa Kundrat received her MFA in poetry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. While in Madison, she received a Day Fellowship from the Terry Family Foundation and spent time working on writing projects at the Edenfred Artists’ Residence. She was excited to have her poem, “Sparrow,” set to music by Jerry Hui and to see it performed as part of the Wisconsin Art Song Project in May 2009. She received a BA in English and writing from the University of Montana-Missoula. She has been a writing teacher and wilderness guide, and she currently works as a freelance writer and editor as well as a ghostwriter of legal blogs. She lives in Minneapolis, MN.
Peiyun was from Taiwan. She is pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Violin Performance at UW-Madison, studying with Felicia Moye. Ms. Lee has been invited to summer festivals in Vermont and Colorado and performed in master classes for the members of Emerson String Quartet and Juilliard String Quartet.
Conductor Ching-Chun Lai is currently appointed as Director of Orchestras at SUNY-Potsdam, Crane School of Music. Prior to this position, she was faculty at Mount Holyoke College. Ms. Lai received her DMA from University of Wisconsin-Madison and Master's degree from New England Conservatory.
Daniel O'Dea is a tenor from Chicago, Il. He will be starting his DMA at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he is the recipient of the prestigious Collins Fellowship. He recently performed the 1st Commissioner in The Dialogues of the Carmelites with Des Moines Metro Opera. Other performances include Fenton in Falstaff at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music (CCM), Ferrando in Così fan tutte at the Chautauqua Institute and Ralph Raskstraw in H.M.S. Pinafore at Brevard Music Center. He has been a soloist with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. He has recently performed with the Lyric Opera of Chicago Chorus and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Chorus. He was an Apprentice Artist with Des Moines Metro Opera in 2011 and is an alumnus of the Aspen Opera Theater Center. He was a young artist at the Brevard Music Center and Chautauqua Institute. He has also performed with Philadelphia's premier vocal ensemble The Crossing with Donald Nally. Recent awards include the Corbett Opera Scholarship and Artman/Straub Prize at CCM, 1st place in his division NJNATS and finalist in the regional composition on NATS and First Place Voice Scholarship Award at Westminster Choir College. He has received his Artist Diploma in Opera at CCM, Masters of Music in Voice from CCM and Bachelor's of Music in Vocal Performance from Westminster Choir College.
Lyric Mezzo-Soprano Jennifer Sams is a current graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison with her DMA in Voice Performance with a minor in Opera Production. She received her Bachelor degree in Voice Performance from Baldwin-Wallace College Conservatory of Music and her Master’s degree from the University of Tennessee, where she was also a member of the Knoxville Opera Studio.
Roles to her credit are ‘The 3rd Lady’ in The Magic Flute, ‘Mrs. McLean’ in Susannah, ‘Cherubino’ in Le Nozze di Figaro, ‘Sally’ in A Hand of Bridge, ‘Mrs. Lovett’ in Sweeney Todd, ‘Grace Ansley’ in Roman Fever, ‘Cleo’ in The Most Happy Fella, ‘Pitti-Sing’ in The Mikado, ‘Suzuki’ cover in Madama Butterfly and as ‘Jo March’ in the Tennessee state premier of Mark Adamo’s Little Women. Most recently, she was seen performing the role of ‘Elisabetta’ in Maria Stuarda and ‘The Mother’ in The Consul with UW Opera.
Recent concert experiences include the Monteverdi Vespro della Beata Vergine 1610 with the Madison Early Music Festival and UW Madrigal Choir, Handel’s Israel in Egypt, Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis and Mass in C with the UW Choral Union, Mozart’s Requiem, Vivaldi’s Magnificat, and Handel’s Messiah with Christ Presbyterian Church and Rossini’s Messa di Gloria in Pesaro, Italy.
Internationally, she has performed with such programs as Oberlin in Italy, and American Institute of Musical Studies (AIMS) in Graz, Austria.
Kostas Tiliakos has been principal oboist in the Greek National Opera Orchestra in Athens since 1997. He held the solo English Horn position at the same orchestra from 1989. He studied at the Athens Conservatory with Claude Chieulet, and continued in Paris with Didier Pateau. He also attended oboe lessons under Paul Dombrecht and Hansjörg Schellenberger.
Parallel to his orchestral commitments Kostas, an avid lover of contemporary music, has been a member of the Greek Ensemble for Contemporary Music, the ensemble of the Hellenic Composer’s Union, directed by prof. Theodore Antoniou, with which he premiered works of contemporary Greek composers, many of them dedicated to him. He has appeared as soloist or with different chamber ensembles in most concert venues and festivals in Greece, as well as in Berlin, Germany (UDK Concert Hall), London, UK (Queen Elizabeth Hall) and the 2002 IDRS congress in Banff, Canada.
Currently, Kostas is on an education leave and studies with prof. Marc Fink, at the UW- Madison, where he is the recipient of the prestigious Paul Collins fellowship.
Chris Van Hof leads a multi-faceted career in the arts as a trombonist, educator, arranger, and composer. An emerging artist in the music world, Chris has explored many avenues of life in the arts: for three years, he was the full-time Afternoon Host and Producer for Rochester, NY's WXXI Classical 91.5, and was the Lecturer in Low Brass and conductor of the Low Brass Choir at Nazareth College in Rochester. He arranged music for the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra Christmas Pops Concert, he freelanced with GEVA Theater, substituted with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and Cayuga Chamber Orchestra, co-founded the Po'Boys Brass Band (New Orleans funk/jazz) and the Emerald Brass Quintet, played at a centuries-old brewery in Lichtenberg, Germany, and helped close out the 2009, 2010, and 2011 Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival on one of the main outdoor stages in front of 3,000 people.
He is currently earning his doctorate in trombone performance with a minor in jazz studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he performs with all scholastic ensembles including the Symphony Orchestra, the Wind Ensemble, the Jazz Orchestra, the Trombone Choir, the World Percussion Ensemble, and more. Besides school, Chris is also a substitute trombonist with the Madison Symphony, Madison Opera, the Madison Brass Band, and the All That Jazz Big Band, has coached members of the Winds of Wisconsin trombone section and the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra, and will be teaching at the 2012 UW-Madison Summer Music Clinic. He recently performed for the first time as a substitute with the Southwest Florida Symphony.
As an arranger and composer, Chris has been commissioned by Nazareth College, the string quintet Gibbs and Main, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra principal trombonist Mark Kellogg, the Western Michigan University Trombone Choir, and numerous high school band programs in MI. His arrangements and compositions constitute a sizable portion of the Po'Boys Brass Band's book, and have been performed by the jazz ensembles and trombone choirs of the Eastman School of Music, Western Michigan University, UW-Madison, University of Texas-Austin, Ithaca College, Nazareth College, and DePaul University. He has composed for middle school orchestra, college concert band, and brass quintet among many other combinations.
Chris graduated summa cum laude from Western Michigan University in 2006, studying trombone with Steve Wolfinbarger and jazz and arranging with Scott Cowan and Steve Zegree. In 2008, Chris earned his Master's Degree cum laude from the Eastman School of Music in Mark Kellogg's (Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra) studio, and he is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison with Mark Hetzler (Empire Brass, Wisconsin Brass Quintet).
He lives in Madison, WI with his wife Andrea and their dog Elsa. Chris enjoys vegan cooking, craft-brewed beer, running, bicycle commuting, snowboarding, the Food Network, and college basketball.
Monica Bush is a Certified Information System Security Professional (CISSP), for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Office of Campus Information Security (OCIS), with over 15 years experience in the Information Technology industry. In an effort to create a safer online computing experience in the UW community, she assists in protecting and defending the Univerisity's web applications. In addition to her passion for Information Security, she enjoys volunteering for the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center and the Wisconsin Institute of Discovery; reading books with the best book club in Madison; exploring the outdoors on a bike or snowboard.
OCIS works with the campus to evaluate security risks, identify common security tools and best practices, and appropriately safeguard campus and UW System information.
Originally from South Korea, Hyewon designed costumes for the television drama, ILWOL in Seoul before she moved to the U.S. to pursue a MFA in costume design from UW-Madison. She is currently a resident designer at the UW-Opera and in production of Don Giovanni. She just opened Forward Theater’s A THOUSAND WORDS at the Overture in collaboration with Milwaukee Chamber Theater. Some of her recent design credits include: LA BOHÈME, MARIA STUARDA and THAÏS with UW Opera; MAN OF LA MANCHA with Stroller Theater; a feature film BAREFOOT TO JERUSALEM for Keene Production that went to Mumbai Film Festival.
Online scamming is a real and ongoing threat to many internet users worldwide. One particular category of online scams gain special notoriety—those originated from Nigeria. These emails, often written with the CAPS LOCK on, mostly describe their senders as bank managers, lucky hiers or other people who have a fortune landing right in their laps, and need the recipients' assistance to transfer the money overseas. These scams will then proceed as a type of advance-fee fraud. Since these frauds are often traced back to Nigeria, and that fraud falls under the Nigerial criminal code 419, they are dubbed “419 scams”. A 1997 newspaper article, quoted by Snopes.com, stated that over $100 million US dollars were lost in the United States within 15 months. In 2009, 419 scams hit a record high, with $9.3 billion dollars worldwide lost to such digital deceits. Sadly, money is not the only matter at stake: some scams take the form of a fake date turn costly, and has stolen many hearts along with the dollars.
As our inboxes are flooded with thousands of these scam emails, a curious population over the internet began to rise in the mid-1990’s to take justice into their own hands. Often known as "419 baiters" or "anti-scammers", these people fought lies from the scammers with their own: they create false personae, respond to the scammers, in hope that the scammers will waste their energy on these hoaxes and thus won't be able to steal away real money. At certain point, 419 baiting has become a kind of “game”. Baiters begin creating websites, boasting their victories, laughing at scammers, sharing tips, while reminding each other that they are in fact dealing with real criminals somewhere in the world.
It was among one such baiter sites that I've found a story for this opera. In 2003, whatsthebloodypoint.com posted a story that involves a young farmer in Zimbabwe (avatar of scammer) and a hot female underwear super-model (avatar of baiter). The original correspondence had lots to offer--wild character background, war, murder, romance, exotic dance, and so much more. I was so fascinated about the story that upon reading it in 2004 I set Ethel's second email into an aria, in which she begins to show interest in being more than business partners with Bako the farmer. This song is left in mostly its original form, as number 1.5 You really do sound like a wonderful caring man.
Fast forward to 2009, when I was a doctoral composition student at UW-Madison, trying to decide on a dissertation project. With the encouragement of my advisor Stephen Dembski, I embarked on the journey to making this story a full opera with the wonderful poet Lisa Kundrat. We tried sticking closely to the original emails, but soon gave up and began creating a new way to continue the plot. One mild afternoon in May, we brainstormed on the sci-fi love story idea over coffee, and we ran with it. And as we wrote more of the libretto, the characters—especially and ironically the fictitious ones—quickly took shape.
While the story is comical, it brings out certain dilemmas that we face, as we live our double lives in reality and on the internet. Which of the two is more substantial? What constitute love? Can two identities form romantic bonds over the internet alone? How should we treat our online identities, and when should we separate them from our real lives?
I hope you'll enjoy Wired For Love as much as we have had creating it. Let us know what you think!
Come watch the opera at its premiere on January 20 (Fri) and 21 (Sat) of 2012, 8pm at the Carol Rennebohm Auditorium in the UW Music Hall, located at the foot of Bascom Hill! Tickets are $15, sold at the door.
Thank you so much for your support! Through Kickstarter (visit our Kickstarter project for continuous updates), we have raised over $7,000—much more than we have hoped for. Here are the people to thank!
In-kind support by:
Jennifer Sams ("Ethel") and I discussed the opera, and why you should support us: