The Man with the Good Face

Opera; 2 sop, mez, ten, cl, sax, pf, db

Co-written with Nathan Cornelius, performed by Nebula Ensemble
Emily Gradowski, soprano (Anna)
Blake Nawa’a, tenor (James)

The idea for The Man with the Good Face came from the 1921 short story of the same name by Frank Luther Mott, in which the protagonist sees a mysterious man on the New York subway. We found the story to be a profound metaphor for the nature of love, the basis of human dignity, and the tension between appearance and reality in modern society. In the story, James Neal, an aficionado of the human face, retouches photographs for a living and dreams of finding a face that reflects a purely good character. When he finally sees such a face one day on a passing light rail train, James begins to radically change his behavior – performing acts of kindness and self-sacrifice – in his efforts to meet its owner. In this scene, James attempts to explain to his coworker Anna what his search for the mysterious “man with the good face” means. While Anna doubts that such a man exists, she and James discover their feelings for each other. The climax of this scene, the aria “No time to be in a hurry,” incorporates a quote from a letter written by Karol Wojtyla and translated by George Weigel in his book, “Witness to Hope.”

– Sarah Perske and Nathan Cornelius