Song Cycle #1
For Mezzo Soprano and Four Instruments

Music by Christopher Fulkerson
Text by Roger Mitchell

Hans Werner Henze, a Liederabend for whom
THE TRUTH ABOUT CINDERELLA was written, and Christopher Fulkerson at Serenak, Tanglewood, where the performance took place, in 1989. That's Master Chef Fausto Ubaldo Moroni in the background, in the kitchen doorway, who seems to be perched on Hans's shoulder, and the conductor Markus Stenz, far left.

Scritti Program - Backside
The formal plan of THE TRUTH ABOUT CINDERELLA. The metrical structure of every poem
is present in every song.

To See the Video of the World Premiere Performance, with Choreography by Gary Palmer, CLICK HERE



The engraved score of this piece is 29 pages long. Hard copy of the score is $10. The recording is $5. The DVD of the dance concert presentation is $15.

To go to CF's Principal Works page, CLICK HERE. More links are below.

Leonardo da During the summer of 1988 that I spent as a Composer Fellow at the Tanglewood Festival, Oliver Knussen, who was running the Festival's Contemporary Music program, decided that the class should present a Liederabend as a good-bye event for the composer in residence, Hans Werner Henze. Hans had been well-liked by the class; he was a delightful raconteur, an urbane conversationalist, and he was a terrific host, who brought his own outstanding Italian chef to the festival. The Liederabend was to be given at Serenak, Koussevitsky's mansion up the hill from the Music Center, where most of the composer fellows stayed. Of course we all loved this idea and took it very seriously. Olie asked us to get Hans' approval for any texts we might set. As usual I had come armed with plenty of poetry, and already had in mind the poem Cinderella, in four sections, by the Midwestern poet Roger Mitchell, to set as soon as I could get to it. After reading the poem Hans succinctly declaired the Mitchell poem "perfect." (This project is mentioned at the beginning of Chapter 15 of Henze's Autobiography, Bohemian Fifths. Our meetings were quite enjoyable and useful, but if they were the "seminars on lieder writing" that he mentions, they were the most casual seminars I've ever attended, and there was no attempt to organize the whole class for involvement in them together.) When I am given a fighting chance, which means, when I am given time to compose, I write quickly; I wrote the whole song cycle in a week, using the time for nothing else, and coached a member of Jane Curtain's vocal seminar to sing its first song; I played the accompaniment on the piano. The cycle was written in August of 1988 and is six minutes long.

THE TRUTH ABOUT CINDERELLA is a setting, for mezzo soprano with two clarinets, viola, and guitar, of an "alternative history" of the familiar ashblond stepsister. In an atmosphere of stinging, dark wit, it depicts the stages of the heroine's development from barnyard girl, to sad survivalist, to competitor with her beautiful stepsisters, to tearless widow of a less than Prince Charming. For this gallow-humor text I have chosen an appropriate "Neo-Classical" style which, without departing from my native idiom, depicts the text in a set of four proportional variations: an hysterical Siciliano, serene Arioso, frantic Perpetual Motion, and a stoic dissolving Aria.

Each song is dedicated to a friend or pair of friends who helped me in one way or another to finance my trip that very pleasant summer:

Song One is dedicated to Aaron and Abby Schroeder, my Tanglewood sponsors
Song Two is dedicated to Bob and Bea Howarton, without whom the planning of the June In Buffalo Festival under the offices of David Felder would have been insufficient to the performance of THE CHILDERMASS
Song Three is dedicated to Anita Rudd, in gratitude for her help
Song Four is dedicated to Caroline Paxson, who purposefully overpaid me for conducting lessons in my time of need

This piece was choreographed by Gary Palmer for his Dance Company and given at San Francisco's Theater Artaud on February 21, 23, and 25, 1990. Lynne Morrow sang, and CF led the ensemble. Ariel Parkinson did the set and costume design. A video of this performance is available. A recording is also available.


The Truth About Cinderella
Text by Roger Mitchell

I. When they found her prostrate in the garden,
talking to a beetle, they locked her in the loft.

There it was spiders. For them, she danced
and made strange noises in her throat.

Nothing could shame her. Tied to a hog trough,
she wallowed in mud and warm moonlight .

At dawn, a sow lay sleeping against her.
She hugged a tree, and they took her clothes away.

She tried to nurse a calf, so they killed it.
And then wiped their hands on her naked breasts.

She would leave all this someday. But for now
she kept to the barn, mooing in the stillness.

II. When she left, she put a tear in a sack
and left it by the back door. It was dawn.

The frog in her palm collected itself
and lept over the gate.

She would leap like that if she had to.
She would be the fox if the dogs came near.

She followed the ant and the low shrub,
and carried a knife now to bite with.

III. The sisters, naturally, were beautiful.
And naturally, they were described otherwise.

She knocked on the back door, twice, begging for food.
They stared at her caked thighs, her ropey hair.

One of them threw her a shoe, the other
a cinder, and then watched as she choked them down.

They smiled their smiles in the right places,
but behind the barn they took cats apart.

The boys in the village, though, hung out their toungues
and dreamt. And some of them wept, and some cursed.

She was a broom dressed as a shawl, crouching.
Into her life came, nothing, breathing.

IV. He was not a prince. He was not even rich.
He was a woodcutter, and he drank.

There was no ball, there was no slipper,
and the clock had not yet been invented.

Someone else would think of these things:
the princes and the glass-like elegance,

the indoor bliss and the irreversable
severance from everything living,

the impossible, degrading splendor,
life in an up-thrust, thick-moated tower.

She wept at the woodcutter's death,
but dug the grave herself, the same day.

She never went back. She didn't need to,
Birds flittered over the new grass, the moles hummed.


Updated 10/27/2011