Blind Witness brings together three libretti written in the early 1990s by poet Charles Bernstein for composer Ben Yarmolinsky. Bernstein & Yarmolinsky's trilogy combines vernacular American lyrics with vernacular social forms.

Blind Witness News uncannily mimics the format of the eleven o'clock evening news with segments for international and local news, weather, business news, and sports. Then, as now, the dark undertone is war. The Subject, at times elegiac, at times parodic, sets a psychoanalytic session to music, its central character, Jenny, subject to the sometimes solicitous, sometimes menacing probes of her doctors. The Lenny Paschen Show focuses on Lenny, the Kamikaze King of Comedy, a late night talk show host at the edge of his career, pushing his schtick to the limit. His guests include a cross-over singer, a show biz legend, and a rising star, along with his sidekick announcer Bud Dickie, an inflatable ventriloquist's dummy.

When Blind Witness News was first performed in 1990, Allan Kozinn of The New York Times heralded a new voice in opera: “"Mr. Bernstein's libretto catches with near perfection the stock verbal moves — the forced laughter, empty banter, catch-phrases and cutesy segues — in which television news reports are cushioned.” Working in the tradition of Brecht & Weill and Stein & Thomson, Bernstein & Yarmolinsky have created three operas where biting social critiques dissolve into comic riffs, then lyric arias.

Blind Witness
Three American Operas

Libretti by Charles Bernstein
Music by Ben Yarmolinsky

Poetry/Music/Theater

PS3577
Factory School, 2008
112 pages, 6x8

isbn 978-1-60001-993-7 (paper)
isbn 978-1-60001-984-5 (cloth)

Cover art: Susan Bee, Spirits of '76, 1998, oil and collage on linen, 62 x 50" (detail).

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