Reflections on Lacy Rose’s cycles Ria (2018) and Hope I (2017)
Lacy Rose’s Ria and Hope I were performed as part of Portraits: The Self Illuminated. For more information about the program, including full recordings of both works, check out my projects.
Gustav Klimt (1862-1918)
Gustav Klimt was an Austrian painter and leader of the Vienna Secession, an artist collective who rebelled against what they viewed as nineteenth-century historicism in favor of an Art Nouveau style. With Klimt, the Art Nouveau style manifested itself in colorful, mosaic-like canvases, often populated by human figures, intertwined with one another in fluid and erotic positions. Although the Viennese establishment was scandalized by his “risqué” paintings and public murals, Klimt financed his career as portrait painter of the Viennese elite.
Within lush home interiors, Klimt’s portrait subjects peer out through the canvas, expressing elements of their personalities and desires through the artist’s “exoticizing” lens. He was particularly interested in women as portrait subjects, claiming, “I am less interested in myself as a subject for painting than I am in other people, above all women.”  These “interests” were sometimes romantic or sexual, and he had numerous relationships with the models of his works. It is claimed that, while he remained unmarried, Klimt fathered fourteen children with his partners.
Maria “Ria” Munk (1887-1911)
At 24 years of age, Maria (“Ria”) Munk committed suicide on December 28, 1911, after the poet and writer Hanns Heinz Ewers broke off their engagement. Her mother, Aranka Pulitzer Munk (1862-1941), wished to commission a death-bed portrait of her deceased daughter, a genre that was en vogue in turn-of-the-century Vienna. Since Ria’s sister, Serena Lederer, was a patron of Gustav Klimt, she arranged for the artist to paint her sister’s portrait. Ria Munk am Totenbett (Ria Munk I), or Ria Munk on her Deathbed, was finished in 1912 and subsequently rejected by Aranka Munk. She found the portrait too realistic and upsetting to view. Aranka decided that Ria should be depicted as youthful and joyful, as she was when living. Die Tänzerin (Ria Munk II), or The Dancer, followed, but was also rejected by the family. Their exact reasoning has never been revealed, but after their refusal of the painting, it is most likely that Klimt altered the original to resemble Johanna Jusl, a dancer at the Vienna Hofoper and an artist’s model.
Ria Munk’s final portrait, Frauenbildnis (Ria Munk III), or Woman’s Portrait, was left unfinished due to Klimt’s sudden death in 1917. In Ria Munk III, Ria is presented in profile, smiling, her cheeks slightly flushed, her body enveloped by the colorful patchwork interior behind her. Bouquets of flowers, akin to her death-bed portrait, still frame her face.
The life of Ria Munk III, however, does not end with Klimt’s passing. Aranka Munk hung her daughter’s portrait at her villa, Bad Aussee, until the Nazis seized her family’s property in 1942. The Munk family was Jewish, and Aranka was deported to Lodz, a Nazi concentration camp in Poland, where she was murdered in 1942. That same year, Ria’s sister, Lola, was murdered at Chelmno in Poland.
Frauenbildnis (Ria Munk III) was eventually passed to art collector and dealer William Gurlitt, who sold the painting in 1953 to the Lentos Museum in Linz, Austria. The painting remained at the museum until 2009, when the city council of Linz finally voted to return Ria Munk III to its rightful owners, the descendants of the Munk family. 
NYC-based composer and singerLacy Rose (b. 1990)composed her cycle Ria for voice and string quartet to illuminate the personhood of Ria Munk as it evolves from portrait to portrait. In describing the narrative flow of Ria (with text that she herself wrote), Rose writes:
The first movement begins inside the painting, “Ria Munk I,” with Ria asking her bereaved to “close and coin her eyes.” In the second movement, inspired by “Ria Munk II” (also known as “The Dancer”), the woman “who holds the marigolds with swan-soft hands” asks the spectator to ponder her double identity and origin of inspiration. For the third movement, the unfinished figure in Ria Munk III exclaims that she “begins and ends in death.” 
Ria Munk II, from Ria by Lacy Rose
Maria “Mizzi” Zimmermann (1879-1975)
Maria “Mizzi” Zimmermann was an artist’s model and romantic partner of Gustav Klimt. In 1887, at 18 years old, she first met Klimt, then 35 years old, in passing on the street, and their professional and romantic relationship began soon afterwards. Mizzi posed for many of Klimt’s paintings as a model. Since she often appeared as an unnamed representation, Mizzi occupied a less publicly visible role in Klimt’s creative process than his wealthier portrait subjects.
In Klimt’s Schubert at the Piano, a painting commissioned by Greek industrialist Nikolaus Dumba in 1898, we find Mizzi standing at the far left of the canvas, illuminated by candlelight, intently watching Franz Schubert, Klimt’s favorite composer, perform. Zimmermann and Klimt had two sons, Gustav (1889-1976) and Otto, who was born in 1902 and died within the same year. While Klimt lived a modest lifestyle as a freelance artist, he rented Mizzi and their children a small apartment. When their relationship ended, he provided financially for his son, Gustav, until his death. Klimt left Maria Zimmerman a small sum in his will, but he did not legally identify any of his children as heirs. Although she lived to be 96 years old, Mizzi never owned a single painting by Klimt or benefited from the sale of his works posthumously, even though her body and likeness were frequently represented. 
Mizzi’s relationship to Hope I (1903), however, is not as direct as the painting may suggest. Indeed, she was not the actual model for this painting, although she was heavily pregnant and gave birth to Otto during the period of its creation. Instead, the model Herma, who is known to history only by her first name, represents Hope with the promise of new life within her.
Mizzi’s “essence,” though, pervades the painting through historical speculation. Originally, Klimt sketched a male figure in the painting, comforting Hope. After Otto’s death, he re-configured the painting’s images, removing its male figure. Instead, Hope stands alone with her baby, still surrounded by a halo of light, but now menaced by skeletons and ghouls behind her. She is either unafraid, or unaware of these deathly forces.
Lacy Rose writes of her impetus to compose the cycle Hope I for voice, string quartet, and piano:
Mizzi represents so many of the women in the paintings whose names and lives are lost to time but whose images are immortalized by the painters, often male painters whose names we still remember. For me, I felt it my duty to help Mizzi reclaim her personhood… This is the story of Maria “Mizzi” Zimmermann. 
Hope III, from Hope I by Lacy Rose
As we encountered the three Ria Munks in Ria, in Rose’s Hope I, we now meet several versions of Mizzi, all through the lens of portraiture. In the first movement, an elderly Mizzi reflects on the painting that she once inspired. The second movement derives from the perspective of the woman inside the painting, another version of Mizzi who describes the demons that surround her. The final movement is drawn from Mizzi herself, who pleads with the spectator to truly see her and free her from the painting.
Reflections on Melissa Dunphy’s Farewell Angelina (2019)
Farewell, Angelina was included on the recital-film project, I take the long way there. For more information about this program, check out my projects.
Bob Dylan (b.1941) & Joan Baez (b.1941)
“Farewell, Angelina” was first recorded by poet, musician, and composer Bob Dylan (b. 1941) as an outtake from the recording session for his 1965 fifth studio album, Bringin’ It All Back Home. Originally recorded under the working title of “Alcatraz to the 5th Power,” Dylan rejected it from the album’s final song list, giving “Farewell, Angelina” to musician, singer, and performer Joan Baez (b. 1941), who was also Dylan’s partner at the time. Throughout his career, Dylan has never performed “Farewell, Angelina” in public, and in interviews, he has often demurred from offering a concrete explanation. In October of 1965, Baez recorded “Farewell, Angelina” for the release of her sixth studio album, and the song’s title eventually became the record’s title. Baez’s album “Farewell, Angelina,” which also included three other Dylan songs, signaled a shift from her prior focus on American folk songs and ballads to a more “contemporary” sound with the inclusion of bass and electric guitar.
“Farewell, Angelina” peaked at # 10 on the Billboard Pop Albums chart, and Baez became associated with the song, even more so than Dylan. In the ensuing decades, “Farewell, Angelina” has been famously interpreted by a variety of artists, including Judy Collins, John Mellencamp, the Grateful Dead, and Jeff Buckley.
In Dylan’s “Farewell, Angelina,” its melody was potentially inspired by several sources, including “Farewell to Tarwathie,” a mid-nineteenth-century Scottish ballad by George Scroggie, which in turn inspired the “Wagoner’s Lad,” an American folk song that Baez performed on her second studio album. American cowboy songs from the Lomax Collection, such as “I Ride An Old Paint,” “The Railroad Corral,” and “Rye Whiskey,” may also have played a role in shaping the strophic contour and melodic material of “Farewell, Angelina.” Dylan’s poetry details the mindset of a protagonist’s “everyday love… set against the backdrop of a derailing, unhinged world.”  Throughout the six verses of “Farewell, Angelina,” each with nine lines, the protagonist warns Angelina that they must part from one another. With ominous descriptions of the sky’s transformation from on fire, to trembling, to folding, to changing color, to being embarrassed, and then finally, to erupting, a foreboding sense of an imminent apocalyptic event provides the song’s cohesive narrative arc.
Beyond the protagonist’s unsettling farewell to Angelina, Michael Gray in The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia observes that the remaining imagery in “Farewell, Angelina” is surreal, juxtaposing unrelated images and events to evoke feelings of ambiguity and uncertainty in the listener. Without explanation, a table stands empty by the edge of the sea. A host of card-like characters, jacks, queens, the deuce, and the ace, “forsake the courtyard,” but for what reason is unclear.
Menacing “cross-eyed pirates” shoot tin cans with a sawed-off shotgun as their neighbors gleefully applaud. On nearby rooftops, unique figures materialize; King Kong tangos with “little elves.” The final stanza of “Farewell, Angelina” climaxes with a terrifying hellscape from which the protagonist must flee. Dylan writes,
The machine guns are roaring
The puppets heave rocks
The fiends nail time bombs
To the hands of the clocks
Call me any name you like
I will never deny it
The sky is erupting
I must go where it’s quiet
It is impossible, however, not to observe the political and cultural critique of the violence, inequality, and corruption within 1965 American society inherent in Dylan’s text. In the year Dylan composed “Farewell, Angelina,” the United States was confronting the effects of the draft, the Vietnam War, as well as the increasing momentum of the civil rights movement. As President Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed his vision of America as the “Great Society,” Malcolm X was assassinated in Manhattan. In Selma, Alabama, hundreds of peaceful civil rights protestors, demanding equal voting and Constitutional rights for Black Americans, were brutally beaten by state troopers on Bloody Sunday. Draft cards were burned publicly at anti-war rallies, while the US government increased troop numbers in Vietnam to 125,000, as draft numbers doubled.
As civil and voting rights protests spread across the nation, white supremacist and state-sanctioned violence against civil rights activists escalated. Again, it is difficult not to imagine that the puppets, fiends, pirates, cheering neighbors, and the makeup man who “shut[s] the eyes of the dead not to embarrass anyone” in Dylan’s poetry embody these pro-war, white supremacist factions within American society, who were committed to upholding their twisted vision of the “status quo” at all costs.
In 2019, composer Melissa Dunphy arranged Farewell, Angelina for solo voice and viola, commissioned by soprano Elise Brancheau for a concert benefiting coLAB Arts in Philadelphia, PA. Brancheau describes her impetus for the commission as follows,
The words, while strange and surreal, seemed to perfectly depict the sense of unrest and violence that fills our world today. The intimacy of the repeated ‘farewells’ to a loved one while the world literally falls apart feels especially poignant; the almost absurd contrast between lines like ‘I’ll see you in awhile’ and ‘the sky is falling’ reminds me of the feeling of wanting to draw inward and deny the frightening things happening around us while also being unable to ignore them. I began imagining what the music would sound like if it reflected the sense of chaos and destruction of Dylan’s poetry, and commissioned Melissa Dunphy to compose such an arrangement for voice and viola.
Like Brancheau, I was drawn to Dunphy’s arrangement of Farewell, Angelina for both musical and textual reasons. Musically, Dunphy’s setting for voice and viola created a taut dialogue, in which the voice engaged with repetitive text and a strophic melody. In turn, the viola imbued each stanza with its own distinct musical motif, as the repetition of the melody and text coasted above the evolving viola line. Textually, I agreed with Brancheau that Farewell, Angelina “perfectly depict[ed] the sense of unrest and violence that fills our world today.”
I could not help but relate Dylan’s poetry to 2020, the year of the pandemic. It was a year of helplessly watching the number of COVID-19 fatalities in the United States rise to over 565,000 of a global death toll of 2.9 million human beings, the fear and trauma sustained by health care and front-line workers, the loss of jobs, opportunity, and stability for so many, and the powerlessness of having an administration that not only had no plan to save our lives, but filled the airwaves with lies and took no responsibility for their ineptitude, bigotry, and the cruelty of their actions. It was the year of witnessing the brutal killing of George Floyd and other Black Americans at the hands of law enforcement, which culminated in a summer of sweeping and powerful civil rights protests. It was the year of the presidential election as proponents of active voter suppression, conspiracy theorists, peddlers of misinformation, as well as foreign entities joined forces to undermine our democracy. I find that the hellscape of Dylan’s imagination in “Farewell, Angelina,” although composed over 55 years ago, does not feel so completely surreal considering the past year’s events.
In the week after Thanksgiving, our original plan was to film Dunphy’s Farewell, Angelina on the National Mall amongst the monuments. By connecting this musical work to the Mall’s highly charged historical and political landscape, we wished to be, at least obliquely, in conversation with the cultural critique embedded in Dylan’s poem. We also, though, desired to connect Farewell, Angelina to our experiences creating art and confronting our roles as artists during the pandemic. We wanted this short film to explore our protagonist’s compulsion to create something from their lived experiences during these uncertain times.
For our concept, Flavia, the violist, busks to earn extra money from the scant tourists that still manage to visit the National Mall. As she and I pass through the monuments, we each have a different aim: she, to find her busking spot, and me, to simply take a walk on a sunny day. In doing so, we share the same path, our lives intertwining without our knowledge. I linger, listening to her music-making, and that, in and of itself, bonds us for a moment. As the Capstone plans solidified, however, we encountered COVID-19-related obstacles, and the shoot was cancelled two weeks prior. Still committed to our original concept, we rescheduled the film shoot in Washington DC for the week of January 11th.
Five days prior, on January 6th, 2021, the insurrection at the Capitol occurred. I watched, only a few miles away, as the violence unfolded on television. I felt a mixture of utter sadness and numbness. With little time to reflect on the insanity of our national situation, I turned to the film shoot, scheduled for five days later. Over the next week, National Guard troops amassed in the city by the tens of thousands to ensure a safe and peaceful inauguration of President Joseph Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
I remember feeling ridiculous: were we really going to push ahead with our creative plans a week after an attempted coup against our government, not to mention the pandemic raging throughout the country? Were we intrepid, or terribly out of touch? I suppose, a combination of both. I am not yet quite sure how to define what we were in that moment, but regardless, we chose to set off for the Mall on January 13th. For safety concerns, however, we did not venture past the Washington Monument. Flavia and I traced a particular path: beginning at the Lincoln Memorial, walking along the Reflecting Pool, past the World War II Memorial, and finishing at the Washington Monument.
Six days later, on January 19th, President-elect Biden would stand on the path we had tread. In front of the Lincoln Memorial, he would mark the first instance of televised national mourning for the loss of 400,000 Americans to COVID-19. Along the Reflecting Pool, lanterns were lit against the backdrop of night falling, representing the lives of those who had died. Vice President-elect Harris, who days later would become the first woman and person of color to hold her national office, spoke, “For many months, we have grieved by ourselves. Tonight, we grieve and begin healing together.” 
Suffragist Series highlights the fascinating suffrage activists that I researched as dramaturg for A Women’s Suffrage Splendiferous Extravaganza! (AWSSE!), a new vaudeville-inspired revue about the history of the women’s suffrage movement in the United States. It has been an eye-opening experience to confront how little I knew about the history of the women’s suffrage movement, and I look forward to sharing more about the lives and contributions of these remarkable activists. For more information about AWSSE! and to follow its newest developments, check out my projects.
Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954)
Mary Church Terrell was an eminent Black writer, educator, and civil rights activist, who co-founded the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) and was an original signatory of the charter to establish the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Born in Memphis to an affluent family, her parents, who were both formerly enslaved, were successful entrepreneurs. Her mother, Louisa Ayres Church, owned a hair salon, and Terrell’s father, Robert Reed Church, was the first African American millionaire in the South. Terrell’s parents stressed the importance of education, and Terrell attended Oberlin Academy and Oberlin College, where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Classical Languages, as well as a Master’s degree. Upon graduation, Terrell taught at Wilberforce College in Ohio, and in 1887, she moved to Washington DC to teach at the M Street Colored High School (which later became Dunbar High School).
In 1892, Terrell grieved the loss of a close friend from Memphis, Thomas Moss, who was violently lynched by a white mob over the success of his business. Between 1877 and 1950, Moss was one of approximately 4,000 victims of lynching in the southern United States.  This tragedy spurred Terrell’s activism: she collaborated with her friend and famed journalist Ida B. Wells-Barnett (1862-1931) to organize national anti-lynching campaigns, as well as lobbied President Benjamin Harrison with civil rights activist and author Frederick Douglass (1817-1895) to condemn lynching.
In 1896, Terrell co-founded the National Association of Colored Women (NACW), serving as its first president. The NACW adopted her motto, “Lifting As We Climb,” which exemplified Terrell’s philosophy of community uplift to improve the daily lives of Black Americans and combat the virulent racial discrimination that they faced through education, activism, and employment opportunities.
“Lifting as we climb, onward and upward we go, struggling and striving and hoping that the buds and blossoms of our desires will burst into glorious fruition ere long … Seeking no favors because of our color nor patronage because of our needs, we knock at the bar of justice and ask for an equal chance.”
Mary Church Terrell, “What Role Is the Educated Negro Woman to Play in the Uplifting of Her Race?” (1902)
In service of education for all African Americans, Terrell served on the Washington Board of Education from 1895 to 1901 and from 1906 to 1911. She was also a passionate advocate for women’s suffrage. Undeterred by the racism that coursed through the women’s suffrage movement, Terrell advocated for the voting rights of Black women, stating that suffrage was not only an essential tool for self-enfranchisement, but would also uplift all African Americans. At the biennial meetings of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), Terrell spoke in 1898 and 1900, stressing that Black women were forced to confront the double barriers of racial and gender discrimination. Terrell’s intersectional outlook deeply informed her activism as a suffragist; she picketed Woodrow Wilson’s White House with members of the National Woman’s Party and spoke at the International Council of Women in Germany in 1904, presenting her speech in German.
Terrell became a sought-after speaker and writer in the United States and abroad, and in 1940, she published her autobiography, A Colored Woman in a White World, which described the successes, challenges, and discrimination she faced throughout her career as a Black woman activist and educator. After World War II, Terrell’s fight for social justice continued, and she worked to end legal segregation in Washington DC. While DC had passed anti-discrimination laws in the 1870’s, twenty years later, these laws had been eroded. African Americans were banned and excluded from public places, such as restaurants. In 1950, Terrell and her activist colleagues entered segregated Thompson Restaurant, asking to be served. The group was refused, and they sued. Terrell continued to target segregationist polices through boycotts, picketing, and sit-ins. In 1953, segregated eating places were declared unconstitutional in Washington DC, and in 1954, the Supreme Court ruled that segregation in public schools was unconstitutional.
That same year, at the age of ninety-one, Terrell died in Highland Beach, Maryland. In the face of violence, ignorance, and prejudice, Mary Church Terrell tirelessly devoted her life to the advance of equal rights for Black Americans through supporting anti-lynching legislation and women’s suffrage, dismantling segregation laws, and advocating for equal access to education and economic opportunities for all.
Go behind the scenes with co-creators November Christine, Caroline Miller, and myself as we discuss our upcoming staged readings of A Women’s Suffrage Splendiferous Extravaganza! on November 5th and 6th, 2021 at Alchemical Studios in New York City!
For more information and updates on AWSSE!, check out my projects.
Photo: Harris & Ewing; Library of Congress’ Prints and Photographs Division