james (book of ruth)
a dramatic oratorio (2018-2019)
for soprano, mezzo-soprano, and baritone soloists, chorus of mixed voices, and instrumental ensemble
Duration: c. 70 minutes
Libretto: English by Zac Kline
James .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. baritone
His Mother .. .. .. .. .. soprano
Ruth .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. mezzo-soprano
Chorus of Mixed Voices
Saxophone (soprano and alto)
Glockenspiel, Vibraphone, Triangle, Drum Set
Prologue: Imagine what it would feel like
Scene 1. James’ Aria: Noise— I love the city
Scene 2. Sound & Light
Scene 3. I draw a map
Scene 4. Don’t do that
Scene 5. [you put] a cool cloth on my forehead
Scene 6. You will not bury your dead here
Scene 7. There’s a woman named Ruth
Epilogue: Can you forgive?
With a positive diagnosis for HIV, James faces many questions and uncertainties, but he finds comfort in childhood memories and his mother’s promise to be there for him “always.”
Because of his diagnosis, James feels out of sync with the city around him—alone and untethered—then he meets a man who accepts him, illness and all, and love is kindled.
During a night out, James meets Ruth and the man who would become his partner, and they introduce him to an accepting community and new possibilities.
James and his partner share an intimate morning, deepening their love and planning their future. The first sign of illness makes itself known.
The illness begins to take his partner, and James reaches out to his mother for help. Surrounded by her religious community, she refuses because James remains committed to his partner and their “sinful” life. After this rejection, James is resolved that all he needs is the home he and his partner are building together.
As his partner’s health fails, James struggles with hope for his partner's recovery while living with the same disease in relative good health. Guilt and responsibility mingle with the ultimate loss of his partner and the future that will not happen.
Burial for his partner is refused, and James is emotionally hardened and further isolated in his struggle.
James is approached by Ruth. She helps James bury his partner and reminds him he is not alone, that he has a community that loves and supports him.
James looks to a future without his partner while living with the same disease that took him. He faces loss and guilt, but also forgiveness of self and forgiveness of others. Ruth points him toward love, community, and rebuilding.
Inversion Ensemble with Trevor Shaw, conductor
Sam Kreidenweis as James
Mary Kettlewell as his mother
Katrina Saporsantos as Ruth
Recorded at KMFA Draylen Mason Music Studio, Austin, TX
Broadcast, June 25th, 2021