Dillinger: An American Oratorio

Title: Dillinger: An American Oratorio

Instruments: SATB Soloists, SATB Choir, Flute/Picc, Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn, Trumpet, Percussion, Piano, Keyboard, Violin, Cello, Bass

Program Notes:

Dillinger: An American Oratorio began as an exploration of peculiarly American themes, in particular, the evolution and dissolution of the American Dream. Great Depression-era bank robber John Dillinger’s controversial status in American history—seen alternately as both an enemy of the state and a folk hero—seemed to us a fitting backdrop to explore how working class Americans feel about the obstacles to achieving their dreams. Some historical research exists to suggest that in his final months, Dillinger may have been attempting to pull out of his life of crime; however, the economic disaster of the Great Depression and a desire for financial stability made his goal of a life on the “right side” of the law seem difficult to attain. By dramatizing the pressures and decisions Dillinger may have been faced with, we hope to give musical voice to a story that brings to life the struggles of any American who feels caught in a vise between social strictures and larger economic forces.

Bank robber and American folk hero John Dillinger’s final days are presented in a quasi-oratorio setting, much like the opera-oratorio form that Stravinsky used in Oedipus Rex. We see the work as a concert opera, although it could very easily be staged in a full production.

Libretto by Darren Canady