It is not often that, after 40 years in a career of any kind, one finds entirely new vistas beckoning. But such has been the experience that began for me in July of 2013 when I received an e-mail with the subject "Commission" from my friend Alfred Calabrese. What he proposed was an oratorio on the life of Saint Rita of Cascia, the patron of the Church in Dallas where he is music director – and a saint I didn't really know much about.
After accepting the commission I had to find a librettist – and I had to learn something about St. Rita. There are two ways to know about things: through simple, bare facts, and through the richer lens of imagination informed by those facts. Imagination is a much-misunderstood word. It is not simply the noun form of "imaginary" ("not real"). Imagination is the exercise of creative insight that leads to a deeper understanding of people and things. "King Lear" is "imaginary", but what Shakespeare teaches us about human nature in that play is very real.
When the librettist for the project, Matthew Lickona, delivered his work to me in July of 2014, I encountered an extraordinary exercise of imaginative and insightful writing. Through the lens of his ambitious libretto – and over the course of the 15 months of intense work in composing the music – I came to realize that Margherita Lotti, born in Roccaporena, Italy in 1386 was a very real person who had lived a very real life of great turmoil, pain, sacrifice and ultimately, holiness.
On May 21, 2016 in Dallas, the collaboration between Calabrese, Lickona and me will finally bear fruit when the oratorio, entitled A ROSE IN WINTER - the life of St. Rita of Cascia is premiered. It is a very large work for chorus, orchestra, organ and four soloists, 90 minutes in length. It is my hope that all those who, like me, knew little to nothing of St. Rita, will leave with a deep admiration for a remarkable daughter, wife, mother, Nun and Saint.