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A Water Bird Talk
PREMIERE5/20/1977 — Brooklyn Academy of Music
COMPOSERDominick Argento   
LIBRETTISTDominick Argento   
 
Synopsis
A Water Bird Talk is set at a podium at a provincial club meeting in Maryland in the late 19th century. A gentleman lecturer addresses a ladies' club on the subject of water birds. His descriptions of the birds' peculiar habits come to act as metaphors for his own horribly henpecked life. Parallels are drawn between the gentleman's life and the birds he discusses: for example, the cormorant—whose young never leave the nest; the male phalarope—a domestically-inclined bird who remains in the nest while the female flits about; the puffin—who, once mated, remains mated for life; and the grebe—a gentle bird that is preyed upon by many enemies; it sinks out of sight when confronted by a threat. The lecturer illustrates his talk with tinted magic-lantern slides derived from J.J. Audubon's The Birds of America. At the beginning of the lecture his wife reacts in the wings by coughing and clearing her throat. Disgusted with his talk, she soon leaves, and the lecturer digresses, gradually revealing that his miserable existence is due to an overbearing, domineering wife and daughters who constantly make fun of him.
MOST PRODUCED SINCE 2000
RANKTITLEPRODUCTIONS
413A Water Bird Talk2
413A Florentine Tragedy2
413A Month in the Country2
413A Water Bird Talk2
413Acquanetta2
413Alceste2
This work ranks as the #176 most produced North American title since 2000.
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