Program Notes

Electric Love: A Ragtime Opera follows Thomas Edison through The War of the Currents.  When electric light was first made available to the public, there was a “war” between power companies over who would get to power the most homes.  The main contenders were Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse – though Nikola Tesla, a former Edison employee, was the scientific “brains” behind the Westinghouse operation.  The true battle, however, was between alternating and direct current electricity - Edison pursuing direct current, Westinghouse and Tesla pursuing alternating current.  Even though alternating current was the much more practical choice, Edison refused to acknowledge this and kept working on DC.  Eventually alternating current won out and Edison, years later, admitted that his refusal to accept the significance of alternating current was one of the biggest regrets of his life.

As Thomas Edison was a key factor in the transition to a modern America, Electric Love: A Ragtime Opera, pays homage to many of the cultural elements that, like Edison, led to America defining its modern identity - in particular: Silent Film, Vaudeville, and Ragtime.  All were neither starting nor arrival points, but significant bridges between an old and a new America.

As Edison showed a much greater emotional attachment to his work than he did to his family, and at that, much more loyalty to direct current than any of his other pursuits, it would seem that Edison’s “relationship” with direct current was tantamount to a star-crossed love affair.   Following this logic, Electric Love treats The War of the Currents as a classic silent film, in which Edison is the hero, direct current, the Heroine/Damsel in Distress, and Alternating Current, the Villain.

The piece also makes reference to a number of other things including Shakespeare, the development of opera, and the entire history of creation from the Big Bang onward.