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Monday, January 4, 2021

 Enjoy three video selections from David Alpher’s Between Twilights: Seven Songs on Poems of Marsden Hartley 

Robert Osborne, bass-baritone

David Alpher, composer and pianist

Recorded live at the Rockport Chamber Music Festival

Shalin Liu Performance Center

Saturday, June 24, 2017


Pipers [1:08]


Wingaersheek Beach [2:41]


Robin Hood Cove – Georgetown, Maine [5:09]




Lapping of waters

Thick, upon razorblade

Selvages of sand,

Pipers running on them,

Wetting their shins

In the wave,

Leaving little, lost signatures

Of outmoded love,

Patched, frayed, uncalled-for


Bauble bursting love,

Dear inviolable thing --


Wingaersheek Beach


Sitting still,

Whitely, ghastly, immovable

Unless wind whip it other way

On white sand whiter in a sandway

Than itself

Holding, folding, moulding

Last curve, ancestral swirl

Bleached whiter

Lying lighter

For the whiter way, jeopardy

Of lying, by wind, sun, mist, rain, bent and torn

Sandpeep’s breast in flawless emulation

Lip in death like it

When death strike it


Or speechlessness of one

Gone white with ashy blight

Fear to lose a tithe of it

Thing held, from fright of it.


Robin Hood Cove – Georgetown, Maine

When evening comes to its gentle arias

Along the dusky cove,

And the blue heron flies like a slow arrow

Along the selvages of the cove,

As if to give its signal for fine music,

And the little birds who have been so warm

All day have gone in among the pine-spills

For their tithe of rest – 

The white bridge joining bank to bank of the tidal river

Takes the hushed tones of evening to it ingratiatingly;

The gulls having nothing more to say

To each other – fold wings as pure hands are

Folded for a silent thought.

I stand with them all in high salute,

Saying to myself: “thanks – well done – beautiful things –

I receive my width of grace from you

And am put to rest with evening singing.”


Wednesday, January 8, 2020

anatomy theater recording

I am pleased to announce the premiere recording of David Lang and Mark Dion's opera anatomy theater on Cantaloupe Music (CA21152).  After performances with L.A. Opera and with the Prototype Festival in New York, the cast and members of the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) recorded the opera.  As David and Mark are fond of saying: "No singers were harmed in the creation of this opera."  Nab a copy and visualize the gruesome story unfolding...

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Singing Galina Ustvolskaya's Symphony #2 on the Bang on a Can Marathon

The Bang on a Can Marathon 2018 – A Marathon Report

 “We have a duty to go up to the people who come in afterward and brag,” grinned Bang on a Can’s David Lang, referring to the afternoon’s first piece, Galina Ustvolskaya’s relatively brief Symphony No. 2. The NYU Contemporary Ensemble – with woodwinds, brass and percussion – negotiated it calmly but forcefully. David Friend’s steady hamfisted piano thumps ushered in and then peppered steadily rhythmic, massed close harmonies from the rest of the group, Vocalist Robert Osborne implored a grand total of three Russian words – God, truth and eternity – over and over in between pulses as the music veered between the macabre and the simply uneasy. The ensemble really nailed the surprise ending – gently.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Karlheinz Stockhausen's KLANG at Fringe Arts in Philadelphia

On May 7 and 8, 2018 Karlheinz Stockhausen's colossal final work KLANG was presented at Fringe Arts in Philadelphia.  I sang HAVONA - for bass voice and 8 channel electronic tape - both days of the festival.

Between Twilights: Seven Songs on Poems of Marsden Hartley WORLD PREMIERE

Reviews of Between Twilights: Seven Songs on Poems of Marsden Hartley

I really loved [these] new songs - such imagination and brilliant text-painting and such an original harmonic and beautiful melodic language. Fantastic! 
                        - David Deveau: Senior Lecturer in Music, MIT

REVIEW: David Alpher brings world premiere to Rockport Chamber Music Festival
By Keith Powers
Composer David Alpher, co-founder of the festival in 1981, returned to the Shalin Liu Performance Center Saturday evening, June 24, to present “Between Twilights,” his settings of seven poems by Marsden Hartley.
The premiere featured baritone Robert Osborne, who brought the songs to life with a straightforward, facile style and musical insight. Alpher accompanied at the piano.
The songs are not a cycle, in the sense of a narrative. Chosen from Hartley’s large, lifelong output, Alpher set texts that ranged from intimate views of nature — a nesting mouse, pipers and eagles — to broader sweeps, like the introductory and concluding poems, which focus on evening light (thus the title).
As a unit, “Between Twilights” is a modest group, quiet and tuneful. Appropriate in every manner, the music explores drama when the words explore drama, humor when the words do also, horror and mystery when the text does as well.
There are no frills in Hartley’s poems. That doesn’t mean they don’t have sensibility, and character, or generosity. Rising to a crescendo in the opening “Summer Evening,” the score picks the exact moment when the sun peaks, then disappears, to proclaim its musical drama. In “The Eagle Wants No Friends,” a stuck rest at “isolation” silently emphasizes the raptor’s elegance and solitary dominion.
Humor creeps in — a lighthearted, trilled accompaniment, Osborne singing sprechstimmewith an antic air — in “Salutations to a Mouse,” in which Hartley finds, to his delight, that a mouse has wintered over in a sheaf of Hartley’s own poems.
“Wingaersheek Beach” finds anguish in simplicity — the seeming comparison of a single white seashell on the beach to terror and abandonment. The words and music do the same, with Osborne at his dramatic best in this setting.
The concluding “Robin Hood Cove” sums up the set with Hartley’s words: “I receive my width of grace from you.” Following the poet’s lead, Alpher has set these texts with integrity and clarity. No verses were repeated — avoiding excessive interpretive emphasis. The accompaniment supported the singer’s artistry, and shunned ostentation.
Osborne was an appropriate choice as interpreter — in range, and in manner. His instrument is clear, straight, lyrical in a bold way. He sang with little vibrato, certainly no coloratura flourishes, but with an instinct that made the settings sound organic.

World premiere of composer's piece set to Marsden Hartley's poems
By Gail McCarthy Staff Writer         Gloucester Times        Jun 28, 2017
Alpher has set seven of Hartley’s poems to music. He learned about such poetry from fellow Vassar College colleague Robert Osborne, a bass-baritone vocalist.
“The inspiration came from Robert, who will be singing the songs. He is very conversant with the visual arts. He had asked if I knew that Hartley was also a poet, and I did not,” recalled Alpher. “He showed me the collection.”
Alpher wrote his composition with Osborne’s voice in mind. Osborne, who holds a doctorate of musical arts from Yale University, has an acclaimed career in both standard and contemporary repertoire.
“We’re thrilled that this work is being premiered there. It’s an appropriate place for it to happen,” said Osborne who, with Alpher, performs with violinist Stephanie Chase and cellist Sophie Shao Saturday night.
Osborne had learned Hartley was a poet after he visited a major retrospective of his work in Hartford in 2003, after which he received his book of poems as a gift.
“I’ve always admired his paintings, and as I delved into the book, I thought this could potentially make interesting song text,” he said. “This was another example of a way to honor this aspect of (Hartley’s) creativity.”
Osborne was moved by Hartley’s sense of place and landscape in his poetry.
“Like his art, it has definite regional flavors for the places he lived,” he said, adding that Alpher’s composition reflects coastal New England in many ways.

Monday, August 15, 2016

anatomy theater premieres with Los Angeles Opera

David Lang and Mark Dion's new opera, anatomy theater, received its premiere this past June with LA Opera in a collaboration with Beth Morrison Projects.  It was my pleasure to create the role of the anatomist and moral lecturer, Baron Peel, in the production.  The staging was by Bob McGrath and Ridge Theater, graced by projections and video by Bill Morrison and Laurie Olinder.  The amazingly talented cast included Peabody Southwell as Sarah Osborne (no relation!!), Marc Kudisch as Joshua Crouch, and Timur as Ambrose Strang.  The opera will be reprised at BRIC in Brooklyn in January 2017.

Opera News reviewed the production in the September 2016 issue.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Acclaim for DON QUIXOTE Recital at Bard College and Vassar College


“Thank you so much for taking us along on a wonderful musical adventure with Don Quixote.  You sang for us a splendid Don Quixote through the music of great composers.  You sang all the songs beautifully – do not the tones of his lower register come at you like a river of maple syrup?”
                                    R. Sonnenschein

“The Don Quixote concert last evening was definitely, as Michelin says, trois étoiles, worth a special trip.”
C. Haber

“It’s such a pleasure to hear and see really creative programming; a lot of really scholarly work went into that, and I genuinely appreciated it.  The costumes added just the right note to the drama of it all; the Massenet was a lovely discovery, and I was fascinated by the Ibert and the Korngold pieces.  Your pianist is terrific, and you, sir, have a gorgeous instrument!”
J. Marsten

“…loving and heartfelt thanks for all the work that you did in putting your Don Quixote concert was wonderful, creative and beautifully are amazing.”
R. Shattuck