Robert Xavier Rodríguez: Forbidden Fire



Robert Xavier Rodrìguez










and Orchestra




George Cordes


Rodney Nolan


University of Miami
Symphony Orchestra


Thomas M. Sleeper


University of
Miami Chorale


Jo-Michael Scheibe


Miami Children's Chorus


Timothy A. Sharp






Robert Xavier Rodríguez (1946)


Robert Xavier Rodríguez is one of the most significant and often-performed American composers of his generation. His music has been described as “Romantically Dramatic” (Washington Post), “richly lyrical” (Musical America) and “glowing with a physical animation and delicate balance of moods that combine seductively with his all-encompassing sense of humor.” (Los Angeles Times). “Its originality lies in the telling personality it reveals. His music always speaks, and speaks in the composer's personal language.” (American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters). Rodríguez has written in all genres—opera, orchestral, concerto, ballet, vocal, choral, chamber, solo and music for the theater—but he has been drawn most strongly in recent years to works for the stage, including music for children.


Rodríguez received his early musical education in San Antonio and in Austin (UT), Los Angeles (USC), Lenox (Tanglewood), Fontainebleau (Conservatoire Americain) and Paris. His teachers have included Nadia Boulanger, Jacob Druckman, Bruno Maderna and Elliot Carter. Rodríguez first gained international recognition in 1971 when he was awarded the Prix de Composition Musicale Prince Pierre de Monaco by Prince Rainier and Princess Grace at the Palais Princier in Monte Carlo. Other honors include the Prix Lili Boulanger, a Guggenheim Fellowship, awards from ASCAP and the Rockefeller Foundation, five NEA grants, the Goddard Lieberson Award from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and a 1999 Grammy nomination. Rodríguez has served as Composer-in-Residence with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, The Dallas Symphony, the San Antonio Symphony, Bennington College, Bowdoin College and The American Dance Festival. He is currently a professor at the University of Texas at Dallas and active as a guest lecturer and conductor.


Rodríguez' music has been performed by conductors such as Eduardo Mata, Sir Neville Marriner, Antal Dorati, James DePriest, Sir Raymond Leppard and Leonard Slatkin. His work has received over 2000 professional orchestral and operatic performances in recent seasons by such organizations as The National Opera of Mexico, Dallas Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Pennsylvania Opera Theater, Michigan Opera Theatre, Orlando Opera, The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Mexico City Philharmonic, Toronto Radio Orchestra, The Baltimore, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Knoxville, Milwaukee, Boston and Chicago Symphonies, The Los Angeles Philharmonic, National Symphony, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Louisville Orchestra and Cleveland Orchestra. Rodríguez' chamber works have been performed in London, Paris, Berlin, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Edinburgh, The Hague and other musical centers. His music is published by G. Schirmer and is recorded on the Newport, Crystal, Orion, Urtext and CRI labels.


Forbidden Fire,


Cantata for the Next Millennium


Forbidden Fire, Cantata for the Next Millennium (1998) is scored for bass-baritone, double chorus and orchestra. The work was commissioned by the University of Miami School of Music (Abraham Frost Commission Series) and received its world premiere October 17, 1998. Conceived as a companion piece to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, Forbidden Fire is a 22-minute exploration of dangerous or forbidden knowledge, as represented by the Promethean metaphor of stealing fire from the gods. Fragments of works by Aeschylus, Lucretius, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Blake, Schiller, Beethoven, Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley and Edna St. Vincent Millay are intercut with writings from an Egyptian temple, the Bhagavad Gita and the Bible to trace the exhilaration as well as the serious consequences of man's eternal quest for knowledge.


In Forbidden Fire the bass-baritone soloist personifies the seeker of secret truth. His part, primarily taken from the words of Mary Shelley's Dr. Frankenstein, expresses the fearless optimism of one who is determined to seize the fire. The two choruses, on the other hand, offer more complex reactions to his quest. Sometimes they echo him; sometimes they cheer him on; sometimes they warn of disastrous results, as in Robert Oppenheimer's words at the first testing of the atomic bomb, “I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” More often, the choruses express contrasting aspects of the same scene, as in the simultaneous settings of William Blake's two visions of the Industrial Age: “Tyger, tyger burning bright” and, appropriately for recent cloning technology, “Little lamb, who made thee?.”


While Beethoven's setting of Schiller's Ode to Joy embraces a better world where “all men will be brothers,” Rodríguez' Forbidden Fire celebrates the utopian ideal of man's mastery, not only of the secrets of life and death, but of what Beethoven expressed in his diary as humanity's ultimate challenge, “O God, give me the strength to conquer myself.” Beethoven's words are sung at the work's climax and at its close.


Musically, Forbidden Fire reflects its Beethovian roots. At the intervallic core (or what Rodríguez calls “the musical DNA”) of the work are two three-note motives from Beethoven's last String Quartet, Op. 135. In the cantata, as well as in the quartet, the two motives are set to Beethoven's fateful question and answer, Muss es sein? (Must it be?) Es muss sein. (It must be.). Two additional quotations from the quartet are a fiery ostinato passage from the development of the scherzo and the cantante e tranquillo opening of the slow movement. These sounds are fused into Rodríguez' characteristic “richly lyrical atonality” (Musical America) in a style “romantically dramatic” (The Washington Post).


Unified by Beethoven's two motives, the five movements of Forbidden Fire cast the same musical material into five different textures:


(I) impressionistically wistful at the beginning to depict the mysteries of the universe (All that is, all that was, and all there is to be…);


(II) intense and agitated at man's defiance of the gods by taking the fire into his own hands (Now men are masters of their minds!);


(III) serenely tonal in quiet awareness of his new power (O brave new world…);


(IV) heroically rising to the challenge of controlling his own destiny (Bring me my chariot of fire!); then


(V) ending in a glistening synthesis of styles as baritone and chorus sing Schiller's ecstatic Homage to the Arts (No bonds can hold, no bounds can stay my flight. My endless realm is thought, my throne is light…).


Con Flor y Canto


Con Flor y Canto is a narrative cantata, the central portion of Rodríguez' Adoración Ambulante (1994), a full-evening multi-media Mexican folk celebration. Conceived, commissioned and directed by Brooks Jones, Adoración Ambulante is dedicated to the village of Tepoztlán, Mexico, near Cuernavaca. The premiere production, in October 1994, combined soloists, chorus, children's chorus, orchestra, mariachi band, church bells, conch shells, percussion ensemble, dancers, puppets, slides, candles, flowers, fireworks and audience participation in locations throughout Tepoztlán's cathedral square.


The title, Con Flor y Canto, refers to the ancient Nauhuatl saying, in xochitl, in cuicatl (by flower and song), a metaphor for the search for the eternal through the perishable: “flowers” (which fade as quickly as they bloom) “and songs” (which cease the instant they are sung) “will never die.” Two performing groups illustrate the Indian/European duality of post-Colombian Mexican culture. Bass and children's chorus sing the traditional Aztec and Mayan story of the creation of the world from the ancient Mayan Popol Vuh. At the same time, tenor and mixed chorus sing the Biblical account. Colorful invocations of the Deity are then followed by philosophical expressions of the certainty of death, as expressed in the writings of both cultures. At the end, the two groups join in an exuberant hymn of praise combining an Aztec poem (We praise Thee, O Lord, with the flower-decked drums) and Psalm 100 (Make a joyful noise unto the Lord). The Spanish texts are adapted by the composer and Josefina Barrera de García. The music unites echoes of ancient Mexico with Gregorian chant in a radiant synthesis of the two hemispheres.




Scrooge (1994), Concert Scenes from “A Christmas Carol” for Bass-Baritone, Chorus and Orchestra is based on the Charles Dickens' classic for the Christmas season. The work was commissioned by Bass-Baritone Charles Nelson, who sang the premiere performance in 1994 under the composer's direction. In Scrooge, Rodríguez has telescoped the actions and myriad characters of Dickens' story into an 18-minute tour de force of five short scenes featuring the single character of Scrooge accompanied by a chorus of ghosts and holiday revelers:


Scene One - Scrooge on Christmas Eve


Scene Two - Marley and the Ghost of Christmas Past


Scene Three - The Ghost of Christmas Present


Scene Four - The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come


Scene Five - Scrooge on Christmas Morning


Scrooge is scored for a Mozart-sized orchestra of winds by twos, timpani, harp, piano (doubling harpsichord and celesta) and strings, plus three percussionists playing an extensive battery of atmospheric instruments, including chimes, sleigh bells, crotales, whip, slide whistle, thundersheet, ratchet and, appropriately for Scrooge, the jawbone of an ass, a pitcher of coins (to be poured into a tambourine) and a cash register. Rodríguez's music blends traditional English carols and London street cries with mischievous winks at Handel's Messiah, Verdi's Don Carlo (linking the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come with Verdi's Grand Inquisitor) and The Beggar's Opera.






Forbidden Fire




From Canterbury Tales


(Wife of Bath's tale) Geoffrey Chaucer:


Forbede us thyng, and that desiren we.




Inscription on an


Egyptian Temple:


All that is,


All that was,


And all that is to be —


No mortal has ever known.


From Henry V, Prologue, William Shakespeare:


O for a muse of fire, that would ascend


The brightest heaven of invention.


From Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus, Mary Shelley:


I sought to unfold to the world


The secrets of heaven and earth,


The deepest mystery of creation,


The mystery of life itself.


From De Rerum Natura, Book 1, Lucretius:


And eyeless night will not sway you from your path


'Till you have looked into the heart of nature's darkest mysteries.


(Frankenstein, continued)


The mystery of life itself…


It was a bold question.


…I pondered the mystery …the mystery…




From Genesis 2: 7, 8, 16, 17:


And the Lord God formed man


of the dust of the ground and


breathed into his nostrils the


breath of life.




(Frankenstein, continued)


Suddenly, from the midst of this


darkness a light broke in upon me —


A light so brilliant… wondrous,


yet so simple…


And God commanded the man,


saying, “Of every tree of the


garden thou mayest freely eat;


But the tree of the knowledge


of good and evil, thou shalt not


eat of it:


I knew the secret!


The study and desire of the wisest men


since the creation was now within my grasp!


Like a magic scene, it all opened upon


me at once. From the thunders of


heaven came flashes of lightning,


streams of fire.




Light! Blinding light!




From De Rerum Natura, Book III:


A golden glow of liquid fire leaps


down upon the Earth.






For in the day that thou eatest


thereof thou shalt surely die.”




From Prometheus Bound, Aeschylus:


Now the Earth is staggered


With the secret spring of fire.


I plunder from the Gods!


Now men are masters


Of their minds!




From Bhagavad Gita, quoted by Robert Oppenheimer after the first test of the atomic bomb:


I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.


From Euclid Alone has Looked on Beauty Bare, Edna St. Vincent Millay:


O blinding hour, O holy, terrible day…


(Frankenstein, continued)


I was trembling…


Had I uncovered the mystery?


The creature lay still at my feet.


Had the fire of my engine sparked the cradle of life?


Anxiously I waited…


Then, in the fading light, I saw the


dull yellow eye of the creature open!


From String Quartet, Op. 135, Ludwig van Beethoven


Muss es sein? (Must it be?)




From The Tempest, Act V, Scene 1, William Shakespeare:


How beauteous Mankind is!


O brave new world, that has such people in it.




From Revelations 21:1:


And I saw a new heaven and a new earth:


For the first heaven and the first earth were passed away.




From Songs of Innocence


(The Lamb), William Blake:


Little Lamb, who made thee?


Dost thou know who made thee?


Gave thee life and bid thee feed


By the stream and o'er the mead;


Gave thee clothing of delight


Softest clothing wooly bright;


Gave thee such a tender voice,


Making all the vales rejoice?


Little Lamb, who made thee?


Dost thou know who made thee?




From Songs of Experience


(The Tyger), William Blake:


Tyger! Tyger! Burning bright


In the forests of the night,


What immortal hand or eye


Could frame thy fearful




In what distant deeps or skies


Burnt the fire of thine eyes?


On what wings dare he aspire?


What the hand dare seize the fire?


Did he smile his work to see?


Did he who made the lamb make thee?


Tyger! Tyger! Burning bright


In the forests of the night…




From Milton, William Blake:


Shining on our clouded hills


Among these dark satanic mills?


Bring me my bow of burning gold!


Bring me my arrows of desire!


Bring me my spear! O clouds unfold!


Bring me my chariot of fire!




From I Kings 19:11:


And after the fire, a still small voice…


From The journals of Ludwig van Beethoven, 1812-13:


O Gott, gibt mir die Kraft dass ich mich selber überwinden kann!


(O God, give me the strength to conquer myself!)


From Prometheus Unbound, Percy Bysshe Shelley:


…And with this law alone, “Let man be free.”


(Beethoven, continued)


Es muss sein. (It must be.)






From Homage to the Arts (Poesie), Friedrich von Schiller:


No bonds can hold, no bounds can stay my flight.


My endless realm is thought, my throne is light.


I'll lift the veil upon the secret birth


Of all that moves in heaven and on earth.


Inscription on an Egyptian Temple (Reprise):


All that is,


All that was,


And all that is to be…


De Rerum Natura, Book I (Reprise):


…the heart of nature's darkest mysteries.


Frankenstein (Reprise):


…the deepest mystery…


The journals of Ludwig van Beethoven (Reprise):


…dass ich mich selber überwinden kann!




Con Flor y Canto


(In Xochitl, in Cuicatl / By Flower and Song)




Bass Soloist, Children's Chorus: Tenor Soloist, Mixed Chorus:






This is the story of how it was in the beginning:


All was in suspense.


All was still and in silence.


The surface of the earth had not appeared,


neither man nor any living creature,


neither flowers nor mountains.


There was nothing brought together,


nothing to tremble,


nothing to make a sound.


Nothing was standing in the darkness,


only the calm water,


only the placid sky,


alone and tranquil,


still and silent.


…Only the Heart of Heaven,


which is the Name of God.


And in the stillness the Heart of Heaven gave the word:


Let there be life upon the earth!


And it was so.


Like a mist, like a cloud of dust, there appeared a thin


Line between the sky and the water.






And it was so.


And the line was the land,


And again the Heart of Heaven gave the word:


Let there be light.










And it was so.


Let there be dawn in the sky and upon the earth,


and let there be all manner of living things —


guardians of the woods,


spirits of the mountain


and keepers of the thickets.










And it was so.


Then God said,


Let man appear upon the face of the earth.






And of the corn of the earth formed He men,


the flesh of our first fathers.






And as they had the appearance of men,


they were men;


and the men moved and talked


and saw and heard.


For great was the wisdom of our first fathers.


Their sight reached beyond the forests,


the rocks, the lakes, the seas,


the mountains and the valleys.


They knew all upon the face of the earth:


what was, what is and all that was to be.


And when He saw the great wisdom of the men,


The Heart of Heaven blew into their eyes,


and the mist clouded their sight


as breath upon a mirror.


And their eyes were covered


and could no longer see what was to be.


Then the Heart of Heaven spake,


Let women appear upon the face of the earth.




And it was so.


From the corn of the earth formed He women,


the flesh of our first mothers.


And as they had the appearance of women,


they were women;


and the women moved and talked


and saw and heard.


And the hearts of the people were filled with joy,








and they called upon the Heart of Heaven and sang:


Heart of Heaven, Heart of Earth,


Father and Mother,


Lord and Lady of Duality,


Master of the Close Vicinity,


Bringer of Night and Wind,


Giver of Life,


Lord of the Sun and the Moon,


Lord of Fire


and of the Flaming Robes,


Lord of Time,


Lord of the Shining Skirt of Stars,


Mirror of Day and Night,


Lord who Conceived Himself,




Lord of the Living and the Dead,


Lord of the Place of the Waters


Lord of the Region Beyond the Heavens,




Look upon us!


Forsake us not.




Bring joy upon the earth Thou hast made.


Grant us children,


Grant us laughter,


Grant us peace.


We know that, like flowers, we must wither and fade.


Like songs our voices will cease.


Yea, though we must follow the House of the Sun,




our flowers and songs


shall remain upon the Earth.


Our flowers and songs shall shine back to the Sun,


the sunlight which never shall fade.


Accept our delights, O Giver of Life.


Accept the pleasures we offer to Thee:


our flowers of pleasure,


our songs of delight,


our dances and songs


to the sound of the drum.


We garland our songs


with the flower-decked drums.


We invoke Thee by flower and song.


We lift up our hearts to the sound of the drums.


We bless Thee by flower and song.


Hear now our songs to the flower-decked drums.


We invoke Thee by flower and song.


We garland our songs


round the flower-decked drums.


We praise Thee by flower and song.


By flowers and songs we shine back to the sun


the sunlight which never shall fade.






Our flowers and songs shall blossom anew.




Only flowers and songs shall remain.




…Only flowers and songs shall remain.


This is the story of how it was


in the beginning…


And it was so.






In the beginning God created the heavens


And the earth (Genesis 1:1)










And the earth was without form and void;






and darkness was upon the face of


the deep (1:2)


















And the spirit of God moved upon the


face of the waters (1:2)




And God said,


Let there be a firmament in the


midst of the waters. (1:6)


And it was so.


And God called the dry land earth. (1:10)


And God said,


Let there be lights


in the firmament of the heaven


to give light upon the earth. (1:14, 15)


And it was so.










Let the earth bring forth grass and


the tree yielding fruit (1:12)


Let the waters bring forth abundantly


the moving creature that hath life,


and fowl that fly above the earth. (1:20)


And it was so.


And God said,


Let us make man in our image:


and let them have


dominion over all the earth. (1:26)




And the Lord God formed man


of the dust of the ground


and man became a living soul (2:7)












In the image of God created He them. (1:27)














Male and female created He them. (1:27)




















And the morning stars sang together,


and all the sons of God


shouted with joy. (Job 38:7)






O Lord our Lord, how excellent is Thy name


in all the earth (Psalms 8:1)


Holy God, (Joshua 24:19)


Most High God, (Genesis 14:18)




God of Heaven, (Chronicles II 36:23)






God of Glory, (Psalms 29:3)




Living God, (Deuteronomy 5:26)




Merciful God, (Deuteronomy 4:30)








Mighty God, (Genesis 49:24)


From everlasting to everlasting,


Thou art God. (Psalms 90:1)


Look upon us! (Deuteronomy 26:15)


Forsake us not. (Psalms 38:21)


Make us full of joy with Thy countenance. (Acts 2:28)


Deal bountifully with Thy children. (Psalms 119:17)


Fill our mouths with laughter. (Job 8:21)


Bless Thy people with peace. (Psalms 29:11)


Teach us, O Lord, to number our days. (Psalms 90:12)


…that will pass away as a tale that is told. (90:9)


Yea, though we walk through


the valley of the shadow of death, (23:4)


…let thy beauty ever be upon us (90:7)




…and receive us, O Lord, in glory. (73:24)


For lo the winter is past.


The rain is over and gone.


The flowers appear on the earth.


The time of the singing of birds is come,


and the song of the dove is


heard in our land. (Song of Songs 3:12)


Make a joyful noise unto the Lord,


all ye lands.


Serve the Lord with gladness:


Come before His presence


with singing.


Know ye that the Lord He is God:


It is He that hath made us and


not we ourselves; we are His people


and the sheep of His pasture.




Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,


and into His courts with praise:


be thankful unto Him,


and bless His name.


For the Lord is good;


His mercy is everlasting;


and His truth endureth to all generations




…to all generations






…to all generations. (Psalm 100)












Concert Scenes from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens for Bass-baritone, Orchestra and Chorus


(In front of the orchestra is a small table containing an unlit candle, matches, a stack of gold coins, a long grey muffler and a top hat. Behind the table is a chair with a Victorian swallow-tailed coat draped over it.)


Chorus (Street Cries)


Polecats and weasels!


Ha'ye any ends of gold or silver?


New oysters, new!


Carries that upon his back…


…and a very fine marking stone…


(Gasping as Scrooge suddenly appears)




(Scrooge, brandishing a cane and wearing a long, white, tasselled nightcap and dressing gown, enters, sits down, and begins to count his money.)






(He hears carolers and street noises.)


Chorus (Caroling)


God rest ye, Merry gentlemen,


Let nothing you dismay.


Remember Christ, our Saviour,


Was born on Christmas Day.




What's that?…”Merry gentlemen”…


(He gets up and shakes his fist.)


Bah! “Christmas day?”…Humbug! Out upon your Merry Christmas!


What right have you to be merry?


What's Christmas-time to you but a dozen months of bills?


Bills with no money…a harvest of foreclosures!




O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy


O tidings of comfort and joy.




Why must I live in such a world of fools at Christmas?


…fools like my nephew, married (mocking) “for love,”


to a girl without a penny to her name!


“Oh, won't you come keep Christmas with us, dear uncle?”


Bah! Humbug! Let them keep it, and let me leave it alone!


Fools come collecting (again mocking) “money for the poor”


— a poor excuse to pick a person's pocket every


December twenty-fifth!


I can't afford to make idle people merry.


Let them mind their own business.


Are there no prisons for debtors? …


the Treadmill and the Poorhouse?


If the poor would rather die, they'd better do it,


and decrease the surplus population!


It's not enough I'm obliged to close


my counting house for Christmas.


Bah! I even have to pay my clerk to spend the day at home!


Why must I live in such a world of fools at Christmas?


If I could work my will,


every idiot who goes about with


“Merry Christmas” on his lips


should be boiled with his own pudding


and buried with a stake of holly through his heart!


(He bangs his fist on the table.)


Now…where was I?


(continuing his counting)




(suddenly bells ring out, growing louder and louder)


What's that? Bells…Clocks…Lights…Chains…


Howling winds…Footsteps…Phantoms…


Dreadful Apparitions!


(He stares, transfixed.)


Jacob Marley! My old partner…how can it be?


These seven years you've been dead as a doornail!


Are you a ghost, or just my indigestion?


What do you want with me?


Why those frightful cries?…those awful chains?


Spare me!…Speak…Answer me!




Three spirits will haunt you, Ebenezer Scrooge…




…haunted by three spirits! Have mercy!




Without their visits you cannot escape the path I tread.




No! Marley, don't leave me!




First, the Ghost of Christmas Past.




The Ghost of Christmas Past? Bah! Humbug!


…It's all a dream…


(Suddenly he stops.)


But wait…Good Heaven!


There I am…a boy at school…alone at Christmas


O, Spirit show me no more!


No!…But wait…


There's my sister, Fan, running to embrace me.


(overjoyed) Father says I may come home?


And look…my first employer…old Fezziwig…alive again?


Bless his heart!


There was laughing and dancing and dancing and laughing


at Fezziwig's feast every Christmas.


The happiness he gave was like a fortune!


(He picks up a handful of gold.)


…a fortune of friendship.




(He looks at the gold for a moment, then stops.)


No, Spirit! Do not show me that Christmas!


No!…Those tears in her eyes…(reaching out to her) Belle!


We were to be married…but I waited…and again I waited!


I had to be sure…


I had to have more.


(He lets the coins fall through his fingers.)


She said I worshiped an Idol of Gold.


O, Spirit! Take these visions away!


Why do you delight to torture me?


No more! I cannot bear it! No! Enough!




Now, behold the shadows of Christmas Present…


(The clock strikes one.)




(Annoyed) Here…What's this?


Who lives in this wretched little house?


Why, there's my clerk, Bob Cratchit!


I see his wife and his children…close and warm by the fire.


Is that the youngest boy…Tiny Tim?


(suddenly agitated) The child is so pale…


so weak, he can hardly move.


Without the proper care he'll die! Hear me, spirit!


Chorus (mocking Scrooge)


“If the boy is going to die, he'd better do it,


and decrease the surplus population!”




No! This boy must be spared! Hear me, Spirit!


(Sounds of clapping and laughter are heard.)


What's this? I've never heard such merriment!


Look! There's Fred, my nephew, his wife…and such a


company of cheerful friends.


It's like Fezziwig's all over again: dancing and games and singing and laughter!


More, O Spirit, show me more!


Let this vision stay a little longer.




…For it's your wassail, and it's our wassail.


And it's joy be to you, and a jolly wassail!


(Scrooge sways to the music)




Look, spirit! They're proposing a toast…




To Scrooge…


Scrooge (excitedly)


They're toasting me!


Chorus (laughing)


Yes…Yes…To Scrooge…a stingy, hard, unfeeling…
















…squeezing, wrenching…








…grasping, scraping…








…clutching, covetous…








…miserable old miser!






(There is general guffawing and cheering.)




Spirit, I've seen enough! Leave me! Torment me no longer!


(The clock strikes twelve.)


Scrooge (suddenly terror-stricken)


Midnight…Who's there?




Am I in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come?


I fear you more than any specter I have seen.


Show me your visions…


A churchyard…


Whose stone is this? Bob Cratchit's boy…Tiny Tim? No!


O, Spirit!


I see a new stone…for a man…buried


…with not a soul to mourn him!


His case might be my own!


Who is this man?


But, spirit…before I see the stone


…are these shadows that will be,


or shadows that may be, only?


Can they be changed?


Can a life be made right?


Answer me, spirit!


I tremble to look…there behind the weeds…


(horror stricken)


No! Spirit!


(Scrooge moves closer to the muffler on the table,


then seizes it.)






Scrooge (gasping)




No, Spirit! Oh, no, no!


Spirit, hear me!


I am not the man I was.


Why show me this, if I am past all hope?


I will honor Christmas and keep it all the year.


Oh, tell me I can wipe away the writing on this stone!


O spirit, please, speak to me!


Spare me…speak…Answer me!


(Scrooge seizes his cane and shakes it violently


with both hands.)


(Suddenly he stops.)


(incredulous) I'm home…I'm alive.


My life lies before me…it can be changed!


Oh, Marley.


Oh, Heaven and the Christmas time be praised for this day!


I'm as light as a feather,


I'm as happy as an angel,


I'm as merry as a schoolboy on Christmas morning!


(He dances about, whistling, as he changes from his nightcap and dressing gown to his coat and muffler, puts on his top hat and twirls his cane.)


First I'll send Bob Cratchit a turkey twice as big as Tiny Tim.


The lad needs care…


(He scoops up a handful of money…)


…and I'm the one to do it!


(…and pours it on the table)


Then I'll dine with my nephew…


(He taps his hat.)


And I'll propose the toast.




…and a jolly wassail.




(He lights the candle.)


Spirits to the spirits!…




…To the Spirits!




Wonderful party…








…Wonderful games…








…Wonderful happiness!






(More cheers.)


Wassail and wassail all over the town.


The cup it is white and the ale it is brown;


O Master and Missus, our fondest desire


Is to toast our dear old Scrooge as we gather by the fire.


For it's your wassail, and it's our wassail


To keep Christmas well…




May we truly remember this Ghost of a Tale:




…and a jolly wassail!




God bless us, every one.






George Cordes


For the past four seasons, bass-baritone George Cordes has shown his versatility in a number of roles with the New York City Opera, including the Four Villains in Les Contes d'Hoffmann, Timur in Turandot, Harasta in The Cunning Little Vixen, the Speaker in The Magic Flute, Zuniga in Carmen, Pistola in Falstaff, and Monterone in Rigoletto. Most recently he won accolades as Angelotti in Tosca for the New York City Opera's “Live from Lincoln Center” broadcast on PBS. Cordes has sung with many of the country's larger opera houses, including Lyric Opera of Chicago, Dallas Opera, and Santa Fe Opera, as well as the opera companies of New Orleans, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland. He received his training at the Boston Conservatory of Music and the University of Akron School of Music. He was a regional finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and a finalist in the George London, Richard Tucker and MacAllister competitions. He has won awards from the Liederkranz Foundation, Opera/Columbus, the National Association of Teachers of Singing, and the Center for Contemporary Opera.


Rodney Nolan


American tenor Rodney Nolan has received wide acclaim for his exciting operatic and concert performances both at home and abroad. A gifted singer, Mr. Nolan has been heard in an unusually diverse range of repertoire from contemporary to traditional, with special success in the full-voiced literature such as the Verdi Requiem, Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, and Wagner's Lohengrin. Nolan made his European operatic debut in Luciano Berio's La Vera Storia at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. His European concert debut came with the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra singing Penderecki's Polish Requiem, conducted by the composer. Notable among his American symphony engagements was his debut with the National Symphony singing the Shostakovich Folk Songs from Jewish Poetry, conducted by Maxim Shostakovich, a work Mr. Nolan recorded with I Musici de Montréal and issued on compact disc by Chandos Records. A singer who has established an exceptional reputation as a concert performer, Nolan has appeared with numerous symphony and concert organizations including the Buffalo Philharmonic, Seattle Symphony, and Minnesota Orchestra, among others.


Thomas Sleeper


Thomas M. Sleeper, hailed by the Miami Herald as “a conductor of persuasive fluency and fiery conviction” enjoys an active dual career as composer and conductor. A native Oklahoman, he began his professional career as a member of Fermata, a group of composer-performers who presented an annual series of interdisciplinary concerts throughout Texas. At age 22, he was appointed Associate Conductor of the Dallas Civic Symphony and the Southern Methodist University Chamber Orchestra and Opera Theater. An advocate of new music, Sleeper has conducted the premieres of more than 40 works by American composers, among them Henry Brant, Carlos Surinach, Robert Xavier Rodríguez and Thomas Ludwig. He has recorded on the Albany, Centaur, Cane, Irida and Vienna Modern Masters labels. An active guest conductor, Sleeper appears regularly with orchestra in the United States and abroad. His own compositions have been performed throughout the United States and in Europe, Asia and South America. Sleeper currently resides in Miami, Florida, where he is on the faculty at the University of Miami School of Music, conducts the University of Miami Symphony Orchestra and Opera Theater and is Music Director of the Youth Orchestra of Florida.


Jo-Michael Scheibe


Jo-Michael Scheibe is Professor and Program Director of Choral Studies at the University of Miami where he conducts the University Chorale, coordinates the choral program, and teaches undergraduate and graduate conducting. Dr. Scheibe is active in the development of contemporary choral literature, music and the commissioning of young composers. His Choral Series is internationally distributed by Walton and Colla Voce Music and his ensembles are recorded on the Albany, Cane, and ANS labels. He is also in frequent demand internationally as a clinician, conductor, and adjudicator. Music Director and Artistic Director of the Florida Philharmonic Chorus, he was founder of the Long Beach Master Chorale and has also served as Music and Artistic Advisor of the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay.


Dr. Scheibe received his B.A. and M.A. degrees from California State University at Long Beach, and his D.M.A. from the University of Southern California. Before coming to the University of Miami, he was Director of Choral Studies at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.


Timothy A. Sharp


Timothy A. Sharp has served as Music Director of the Miami Children's Chorus since the 1990-1991 season. He earned his B.A. in Music Education from Bethune-Cookman College and his M.S. in Music Education from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. He received the Artist-Teacher Diploma from the Choral Music Experience Institute for Choral Teacher Education (CME) led by Dr. Doreen Rao. He is the Music Teacher at Vineland Elementary School in Miami-Dade County, Florida. Mr. Sharp has prepared children to sing with the Florida Grand Opera, Florida Philharmonic Orchestra and for the Concert Association of Florida. He previously performed in the Florida Grand Opera chorus for five seasons. He has presented workshops and conducted festivals for children's choirs in Florida, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Virginia, and he serves on the staff of the CME Institute for Choral Teacher Education. He is a past President of the Dade County Music Educators Association as well as a past Committee Chairperson for Children's Choirs and Ethnic and Multi-Cultural Perspectives for the Florida Chapter of ACDA. In 1998 he was named Educator of Note by the Young Patronesses of the Opera and Arts Teacher of the Year by the Children's Cultural Coalition.




University of Miami Symphony Orchestra


Thomas Sleeper, Conductor


David Stockton, Associate Conductor


Violin I


Merissa Amkrat


Breana Dee Burkett


Patrick Clifford


Sania Derevianko**


Krysztof Dutkiewicz


Heather Grier


Belen Guitart


Renata Guitart


Lau Kaichow


Lisa Sohn


Violin II


Karen Caballero


Kathy Do


Charles Hardt*


Anthony Harper


Misha Kerr


Janice G. Mueller


John Paul Pacino


Nicolas Repetto


Anthony Seepersad


Alyssa Sinkowitz-Rosen


Jamie S. Zunno




Kelly A. Adee


Ana Gutierrez


Bernard J. Kane*


Mia Lee


Joong-Oh Lee


Harlie I. Mirowitz


April Price


Stacie Thrushman


Christopher Wolfe




Lee Ernst


Vincent Fiorillo


Jannifer Guarascio


Andrea Kemper


Sun-ah Lee


Jason B Majewski


Catherine Newcome*


Wu Pin I


Jonathan Preddice


Jessica Siegel


Double Bass


Araidna Barbe-Villa


Eduardo Bennett


Joshua William Laurence Hallock


Stacy McMichael


Adam B. Michalak


Jamie Ousley


James E. Sproat


Aurora Wells*


Magdalena Zagorska


Joseph Wittmann




Francesca Arnone*


Mary Ellen Guzzio*


Rachel Kaplan


Wenling Yeh




Mary Ellen Guzzio


Wenling Yeh








Cheryl Bobiy


Patricia Masterson*


Doug Mead*


English Horn


Doug Mead




Christopher Graham


Dawn McConkie*


Michael Walsh*




Kevin Babuder


Louis Nanson


Alexi Shopsha*




Peter Francis


Jose Sibaja*


Vance Woolf*


French Horn


Erin Anspaugh*


Jeffrey C. Cook


Ashley Goulet


Michelle Ann Langrock




Thomas Abbate


Nathan Gad Cohen*


Jeremy Lindquist


Kevin Rigotti




Calvin E. Jenkins




Jason Nicholson*


Michael Soeldner




Laura Dunaway


Robert Gonzalez-Trigo


Kazuhiro Itoh


Jason Nicholson


Susan Nicholson


David Rowe


Michael Soeldner




Laimi Fernandez




Jack Kurutz




Jennifer Osborne


**Concert Master


*Principal or Co-Principal


University of Miami Chorale


Jo-Michael Scheibe, Conductor


Robert Gower, Assistant Director




Emily Brennan


Sophie Olivia Brion


Sharmila Daniel


Daniela Donno


Bernadette Geib


Melissa Gilmer


Anna Goulet


Katherine Grodrian


Sara Gross


Denise M. Krakowski


L'Tarsha Long


Mandy Spivak


Julie M. Stirman


Janie L. Vance


Christina Villaverde


Katherine Wilson




Suzanne E. Agha


Emilu Alvarez


Terri Lee Braswell


Amy Carroll


Nazia Ahmad Chaudhry


Bonnie K. Davidson


Pei-Shih Juan


Carol J. Krueger


Erin Marie Lareal


Carrie Leahy


Karen Mason


Suzanne Oestermeyer


Yudith Ramirez


Bridget Sanchez


Kathryn Smithyman


Megan E. Strawn


Christina Tucker




Javier R. Abreu


Anthony Cabrera


Alan Kwong-Yeung Chan


Colin Denis Eaton II


Mario Ferrell


Christopher Glenday


Kristopher Jean


Bruce Kiesling


Michael Masinick


Russell McCrackin


Steve Nguyen


Andrew Turner


David van Zyll de Jong


John Warren




Alexander Apostolov


Wayne Bailey


Seth Bergin


Kevin Chartier


Greg Davies


Joshua J. Desrochers


David Gotwald


Christopher Hawkins


Jason R. Hernandez


Eliott Jones


Greg Knauf


Ryan Looper


Michael Maizner


Masahisa Okada


Jacob Perry


Olaf Schulz


Jason Tyre


Christopher Warner


Kenneth D. Williams


Miami Choral Society: A Children's Choir


Timothy A. Sharp, Conductor


Alan Ngim, Accompanist




Lisa Abreau


Dante Alvarez


Erin Austin-Holliday


Adele Bagley


Elyse Barrett


Sarah Batts


Sarah Bein


Kira Bielfield


Kyle Bielfield


Ali Boritz


Alika Brookes


Josin Chin-Sang


Dana Chrystal


Joan Cornel


Katherine Crimmins


Conchita Cruz


Kristina Cumplido


Raquel del Castillo


Michelle Diaz


Daniel Eguizabal


Natalie Eguizabal


Lauren Elbaum


Merry Fuerst


Vanessa Gentzchein


Kary Gonzalez


Virginia Gonzalez


Katie Hersh


Lacey Irl


Angela Laino


Carolyn Lazo


Ashley Lerner


Mariana Loumiel


Christy Ann Matelis


Katrina Mena


Alyssa Milanes


Clara Montenegro


Lexi Moore


Ashlee Nichols


Ana Cecilia Peña


Krystal Pollman


Christie Prieto


Sam Quintero


Natalie Ramirez


Nery D. Rodriguez


Larissa P. Rolim


Dayelin Roman


Guedye B. Saint-Jean


Gala Santos


Crystal Simmons


Rosy Sosa


Madeline Spado


Katie Stickney


Tatiana Suarez


Fitzgerald Thomas


Monica Valdez


Vivian Valdes


Gabriela Vega


Christine Vera


Elisha Weiner


Rachel Weisman


Veronica Williams


Executive Producer: Dr. William Hipp


Cover Art: Diego Rivera “The Vaccination” from the mural Industry courtesy of the Detroit Museum of Art.


Cover Design:Bates Miyamoto Design


Recording Engineer: Paul Griffith


Recording Assistant: Joanna Griffith


Forbidden Fire was commissioned by the University of Miami School of Music through its Abraham Frost Commission series.


All works published by G. Schirmer, Inc.






Robert Xavier Rodríguez


Forbidden Fire, Cantata for the Next Millennium


1 I [4:35]


2 II [6:30]


3 III [2:52]


4 IV [5:46]


5 V [3:05]


6 Con Flor y Canto,


Cantata from Adoración Ambulante [17:04]


7 Scrooge, Concert Scenes from A Christmas Carol [19:03]




Total Time = 58:57


George Cordes, baritone


Rodney Nolan, tenor


University of Miami Symphony Orchestra


Thomas M. Sleeper, conductor


University of Miami Chorale


Jo-Michael Scheibe, conductor


Miami Children's Chorus


Timothy A. Sharp, conductor