This video shows the entire premiere performance of Masque of the Red Death at the Majestic Theater, including the prelude performance of A Dream Within a Dream, and Kuspa's introduction and reading of "The Conqueror Worm." The following timings represent the start of each section of the performance:

Prelude
A Dream Within A Dream – 0:00
Kuspa's spoken introduction – 4:50
Reading of "The Conqueror Worm" – 9:47

Masque of the Red Death
Part I: Without and Within
1. Overture: In the Ravaged Country – 12:31
2. Inside Prince Prospero's Abbey – 15:55
3. Waltz – 20:40

Part II: The Ghastly Apartments
4. Blue Room – 26:22
5. Purple Room – 29:23
6. Green Room – 34:48
7. Orange Room – 36:41
8. White Room – 40:30
9. Violet Room – 43:25
10. The Final Chamber (Black and Scarlet Room) – 45:02

Part III: The Masquerade in Frenzy
11. Bacchanal – 47:38
12. Appearance of the Shrouded Figure – 53:36
13. Dominion of the Red Death – 55:38


The Masque of the Red Death

Produced in association with the Dallas Neo-Classical Ballet, Jordan Kuspa's ballet The Masque of the Red Death is a 45-minute journey through decadence, decay, and ultimately death. The premiere on April 7, 2016, at the Majestic Theater in Downtown Dallas, brought together Kuspa's score,
choreography by Emilie Skinner, film projections by Jeff Gibbons and Gregory Ruppe, and musicians from Southern Methodist University's SYZYGY New Music Ensemble, under the musical direction of Matt Albert. For a prelude to the ballet, Kuspa arranged his choral work A Dream Within A Dream for soprano and string quartet, and also read Poe's poem, "The Conqueror Worm." The following is taken from Kuspa's program notes for the premiere:

"The Masque of the Red Death" is one of Edgar Allan Poe’s most evocative gothic tales. When Emilie Skinner approached me about doing a larger project after the success of our first collaboration, “Whirlwind,” I immediately thought of “The Masque” as a perfect story to be realized through dance. I felt that Poe’s suspense-filled and enigmatic story seemed particularly appropriate for today’s societal climate. In the story, Prince Prospero seeks to shut out the problems of the world and distract himself and his guests from the real and pervasive suffering of his own people. In the end, distraction and apathy inevitably lead to tragedy for those who are so nearsighted. And no matter how isolated we may think we are, no matter how sheltered from suffering, ultimately we are all connected. We share the same fate.

 

I have had a fascination with the work of Edgar Allan Poe for many years. When I was much younger, I began composing a series of orchestral tone poems based on six of his tales. When I wrote my first choral work I chose to set his poem, “A Dream Within A Dream.” This beautiful meditation on the transience of physical life questions the nature of reality, and asks, “Is all that we see or seem/But a dream within a dream?” I felt that this sentiment could bring us into the phantasmagoric world of Masque of the Red Death, so I have made a new arrangement of that choral work specifically to open our program tonight. I also found a striking parallel to the themes of Masque in Poe’s poem, “The Conqueror Worm,” which metaphorically casts life as a tragic play, one in which we all are doomed to the ignominy of death. These two poems together show Poe the artist struggling with the most profound issues: life, death, reality, and faith, and taken together, I believe they provide the perfect counterpoint to our staging of Masque of the Red Death.

 

I could never have written this music without the help and support of so many people, and I want to acknowledge a few of them here. First, I want to thank Emilie Skinner for asking me to collaborate on a project of such scope, and for her energy, effort, and vision in bringing this whole production together. Matt Albert has been indefatigable, incredibly enthusiastic, encouraging, and accommodating. He, and the brilliant, beautiful musicians of SMU’s SYZYGY have given me the priceless gift of their time, talent, and artistry, and I cannot thank Matt and all the musicians enough. Finally, I want to thank my family for their constant support and love, and especially my amazing wife, Valeria, who spent months helping me through the process of writing this music, helping me stay on track, offering invaluable feedback, and not murdering me when the project so consumed me that it seemed for months I could say nothing but the single word, “Nevermore.”