IMMIGRATION AND MOB JUSTICE IN AMERICA
THE STRANGERS is an opera in a prologue and eight scenes. It tells the intersecting stories of the assassination of New Orleans' Chief of Police David Hennessy, and Emanuelle Polizzi, one of the Sicilian immigrants accused of the Chief's murder.
Fueled by xenophobia and anger at the growing influence of the Sicilian immigrant community in New Orleans, the city turns on the strangers in their midst. After a hasty trial with no real evidence, the Sicilian men are acquitted. Enraged, city leaders rally the populace. A mob advances on the prison where the men are still being held and eleven of them - including Polizzi - are murdered, their bodies strewn across the prison yard and left hanging from tree branches.
This episode laid bare the power of violent anti-immigrant rhetoric and innuendo. The horror of the lynching, however, was generally accepted across the country as an example of honorable justice and community protection. These same sentiments fuel contemporary nationalist and anti-immigrant rhetoric in America, the only difference being that Latinos and Muslims now fill the role held - in this instance - by Sicilians.
VENUE, CASTING, & ORCHESTRATION
While grand in scale, this piece is being designed with flexible casting and orchestration options, so as to accommodate various performance venues, reinforcements, and budgetary considerations.
Principal Roles (9 Singers)
DAVID HENNESSY (Lyric Baritone) – New Orleans Chief of Police.
MARGARET HENNESSY (Dramatic Soprano) – David Hennessy’s widowed mother.
EMMANUELLE POLIZZI (High Lyric or Charachter Tenor) – a Sicilian immigrant in New Orleans, he is one of many Italian men accused for the murder of Hennessy.
IANIA ROMA (Lyric Soprano) – A Sicilian immigrant in New Orleans. Polizzi’s lover.
MAMA ROMA (Mezzo-soprano) – Iania’s mother; the family’s matriarch.
ZIA FRANCESCA (Mezzo-soprano) – Iania’s maternal aunt; Mama’s younger sister.
CATARINA ROMA (Light lyric Soprano) – Iania’s younger sister. Late teens.
BILL O’CONNOR (Tenor) – Representative of “Law,” a superintendent of a private detective force employed by the ruling classes of the city.
WILLIAM PARKERSON (Bass-Baritone) – Representative of “Order.” Wealthy and influential New Orleanian.
SATB Chorus (both off- and on-stage, as well as pre-records) – other Sicilian Immigrants, and police officers, residents of New Orleans, and the “Council of Fifty,” (A citizen’s committee tasked with collecting evidence and information pertaining to the assassination of the Chief. Some chorus members can may double as supernumeraries, as appropriate.
The action takes place in various locations in New Orleans in late 1890 and early 1891: “Piccola Palermo” (the Sicilian ghetto), Charity Hospital, the Orleans Parish Prison, on Girod Street, at the statue of Henry Clay on Canal Street, and at Hennessy’s Funeral at St. Joseph’s Church. The events depicted, however, are not presented in chronological order, but over two different timelines: those of Hennessy and Polizzi. Similar events in these different timelines are juxtaposed to emphasize causality and interconnectedness.
Xenophobia – Its complex emotional foundations, the translation of fear to violence, and the ramifications on its victims and perpetrators.
Flexible orchestrations options:
six-piece chamber ensemble (flute, clarinet, violin, 'cello, piano, and percussion)
13-piece Britten chamber orchestra (string quintet, wind quintet, piano, keyboard, percussion
full pit orchestration (126.96.36.199 - 188.8.131.52, pno, kbd, timp, 2 perc, str.)
Frank Pesci’s compositions have been performed across North America and Europe. He has written nearly 100 works for the concert stage, including forty choral works, eleven song cycles, nearly twenty chamber and concert scores, and five operas. He lives in Cologne, Germany.