Purchase of Manhattan


Brent Michael Davids


Performance forces:
sop, ten, bar, American Indian singers — chamber orchestra, American Indian flute — SATB chorus



The new concert opera PURCHASE OF MANHATTAN sings-to-life the drama of New York’s hidden beginning. Was the island’s price tag really $24 worth of beads? A production of the Lenape Center in Manhattan, the opera’s intuitive quality captivates Indian and non-Indian audiences alike with an intelligent and inspired look into the life of Manhattan’s first inhabitants, the Lenape. PURCHASE OF MANHATTAN mingles together a perfect blend of operatic and American Indian singing styles about the famous beginnings of “New Netherland,” later becoming “New Amsterdam” and finally “New York.” By keenly re-staging New York’s founding from a Lenape perspective, the opera blazes uncharted territory with shrewdness and eloquence. PURCHASE OF MANHATTAN is exquisitely scored for three solo voices, chorus, American Indian singers, orchestra and Native American flute, by preeminent Mohican composer, Brent Michael Davids, in collaboration with celebrated Abenaki author, Joseph Bruchac, for the libretto. The music interlaces American Indian and Western European styles in a hybrid mix that is exuberant and dazzling; it’s an amalgamated compositional style that classical music critic Bill Parker describes as “never glib or facile, but rich in resonance.” As a Mohican from a tribe once residing in lower Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx, the composer’s lyrical conjuring of early Lenape life is unique and bold. Similar to his creations for Chanticleer and Kronos Quartet, we straightaway grasp the opera’s primal earthiness amid the sparkling orchestration, making our ears dance with delight. PURCHASE OF MANHATTAN was commissioned by the Lenape Center in Manhattan.