As One is a chamber work for two voices and string quartet by composer Laura Kaminsky and librettists Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed in which theatrical and musical magic are made within the span of ninety minutes. The Fry Street Quartet provides the instrumental accompaniment to the voices of mezzo soprano Sasha Cooke and baritone Kelly Markgraf in a new CD (BSTC-0127) soon to be released by Bright Shiny Things.

The story of Hannah, formerly a male and now transgender, is told in a series of vignettes tracing her journey from a young boy, through college to early adulthood. There is no plot in the conventional sense, but instead a strong narrative that reveals Hannah’s innermost thoughts and emotions.

Kelly Margraff, an impressive singing actor with a rich baritone, plays Hannah Before (i.e., before her transition), and Sasha Cooke, a fast-rising and creamy-voiced mezzo-soprano, plays Hannah After. Both gifted young singers tell the story of a transgender person in the process of first finding—and then reinventing—whatever is left of the outward trappings of her former self.

Admittedly not a subject matter familiar or perhaps even not palatable to some of the opera-going public, As One was inspired by the real-life story of librettist Kimberly Reed.
The creative team responsible for this welcome release handles the material sensitively and intelligently. American Opera Projects provided the infrastructure that saw this work from idea to reality. Judith Sherman, Louis Levitt, Matt Gray, Laura Kaminsky were the CD producers, Jamey Lamar the engineer.

Operas of this theatrical and musical quality are injecting new blood into a centuries-old repertory—not to supplant it but to infuse it with a 21st-century sensibility that rings bells of recognition for an audience that the opera world is hoping to attract. With Kaminsky’s inventive score serving the text 100% of the time, and Campbell and Reed’s libretto in full partnership with her, As One is a welcome breath of fresh air.

Rafael de Acha