Friday, August 6, 1999

Anna Madrigal Remembers


Performed by Chanticleer and Frederica von Stade
Written by Jake Heggie
Text by Armistead Maupin
WORLD PREMIERE | 6 August 1999

from the program:

"Chanticleer and Friends" brings together the celebrated mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade and Chanticleer together in concert for the first time. The world premier of "Anna Madrigal Remembers," a commissioned work written for Chanticleer by Bay Area composer Jake Heggie, with a new test by author Armistead Maupin.

Armistead: "Anna Madrigal, the transsexual mother figure from my "Tales of the City" novels, turns eighty this year. [1999] So when composer Jake Heggie asked me to collaborate with him, I decided to write a monologue in which the landlady welcomes yet another prospective tenant to 28 Barbary Lane, her apartment house on Russian Hill. Along the way, the earthy octogenarian reflects on her speckled past, her quest for daily astonishment, and that 'mad little dance in the rain' called love."

PRESS LINKS ABOUT "ANNA MADRIGAL REMEMBERS": "Even more "Tales of the City" Armistead Maupin and the San Francisco Opera's Jake Heggie imagine toking transsexual Anna Madrigal as a mezzo-soprano."

San Francisco Chronicle Review: "Von Stade, Chanticleer Make Beautiful Music Fun premiere of `Anna Madrigal Remembers'"

For more on Chanticleer and a schedule of their upcoming performances, see


By Armistead Maupin

Come on in, dear. I'll show you the apartment. Just through the gate and across the garden. And mind the steps on the way up. They're a bit rickety these days -- but, then again, who isn't? I'll be eighty this year, I'm delighted to say, just in time for the millennium.

No -- please don't tell me I don't look it. I want to look it. I want it all to show on my face. Every last goddamn thing. I've lived enough for two people, you see, which is not just a figure of speech. For over half of my life I was -- oh, how can I put this politely? -- a man. And a mess of a man, too. Careless and selfish and full of the cruelty of youth.

What did that boy know?

Nothing at all.

What does the woman know now?

Nothing at all

Except nothing remains.

Nothing endures, not even the pain.

And love is a mad little dance in the rain

To which nothing can ever compare.

Oh, dear, I can see I'm confusing you. Never mind. I'll explain it when you've settled in. Assuming of course that you like the place. We'll have a nice chat and a glass of sherry or smoke something special from the garden. Then, if you like, we can go up on the roof and watch the moon,

Remember what the moon used to be? No, of course you don't, my dear, but I do, I do. When I was a boy, the moon was full of mystery and green cheese, a land for lovers and lunatics, presumed to be more wonderful than anything on earth. And then we went to see for ourselves. And what did we find? A swirl of dust and carbon compounds, a horrid little golf course in Hell. But what would we have done. I wonder, if we'd found a place that was just like this? A moon as blue as a baby's eye with canyons and trees and scarlet butterflies. Would we not have been astonished at the sight?

That's our job, you know: to be astonished. To wake up every morning and see this place anew, as bright and golden the egg in our cup. Our lives are just a flicker in the darkness, and all we ever really have is astonishment and love. Can you do that, my dear? Can you promise to love and be astonished, to taste everything and doubt nothing and cherish every moment as it comes? Tell me yes and the place is yours forever -- no deposit necessary, utilities included. Tell me yes and you're already home.

So what d'ya say? Can we move you in today?

What did that boy know?

Nothing at all?

What does the woman know now?

Nothing at all

Except nothing remains.

Nothing endures, not even the pain

And love is a mad little dance in the rain

To which nothing can ever compare.

Wednesday, August 4, 1999

Even more "Tales of the City"

Armistead Maupin and the San Francisco Opera's Jake Heggie imagine toking transsexual Anna Madrigal as a mezzo-soprano.

By Stacey Kors
August 4, 1999

"Has there ever been a chamber piece written for a transsexual character?" wonders Armistead Maupin. Throughout the 1970s and '80s, the gay author and activist boldly broached previously "taboo" subject matter in his beloved, bestselling "Tales of the City" series, a touching and humorous homage to San Francisco in its hedonistic heyday. Now Maupin braves new territory again with "Anna Madrigal Remembers," a classical composition based on "Tales" and featuring new text by Maupin and music by San Francisco Opera's composer-in-residence Jake Heggie. The work, which was written for mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade and the male a cappella choral ensemble Chanticleer, receives its world premiere in San Francisco on Aug. 6 and 7, with additional performances and a recording scheduled for later this year.

Maupin, who describes himself as being a "classical neophyte" with a "music hall sensibility," admits to having felt a bit of trepidation about writing text for a classical composition. "But Jake's music is extremely lyrical, and there's a great deal of heart in what he writes," he tells Salon Arts & Entertainment from his home in San Francisco. "So I thought we might be compatible. Some modern classical music is so atonal that I run screaming from the room; but Jake is not afraid of a tune."

After toying with a number of ideas, Maupin hit on the notion of revisiting Anna Madrigal, the toking transsexual landlady who presides over Babylon-by-the-Bay's most famous fictional address. "I thought I should let people know that Anna is still around and still at 28 Barbary Lane."

When von Stade was approached to sing this unusual role, she was a bit surprised. "I did wonder why, of all people, they thought of me," she says with a laugh. But the renowned mezzo also says that she genuinely enjoys the challenge of portraying Anna onstage. "What's fascinating about this character," says von Stade, speaking from Philadelphia, "is that she spent 25 years as a man and then became a woman, so she has these two different perspectives."

Heggie found Madrigal's transsexuality an interesting challenge as well. "Since she is both a man and a woman, I have the whole chorus of men as sort of her inner life, and Anna herself, in Flicka [von Stade's nickname], as the end result. I sort of played with that in the whole piece, so that sometimes she's having a conversation with herself, and sometimes it's a unified voice."

Maupin's own experiences since first creating Anna Madrigal have had a profound effect on his latest incarnations of her. "She's 80 this year. She was 56 when I was writing 'Tales,' which seems impossibly young now since it's just a year older than I am. It's fascinating. When I was working with Olympia Dukakis on the 'More Tales of the City' miniseries, I found myself madly rewriting scenes because I felt I understood that character for the very first time. I knew what it felt like to be middle-aged and to have lived a life with a lot of ups and downs. So I loved delving into that character now because I'm able to bring a lot of myself to the table."

Nonetheless, Maupin says that he has no plans to write another book for the "Tales" series. "I don't know where I'd start. They'd all be 50 years old and scattered to the four corners of the Earth. I'd have to invent a new cast of characters, and what point would there be in that? It's not inconceivable that one of these days when I'm starving to death I'll write 'Christmas at Barbary Lane,'" he quips, "and they'll all reunite for a small, piquant book."