Tom Cipullo (born November 22, 1956) is an American composer. Known mostly for vocal music, he has also composed orchestral, chamber, and solo instrumental works. His opera, Glory Denied, has been performed to critical acclaim in New York, Washington, and Texas.
Tom Cipullo was born into a musical family on Long Islan, New York.His father, a jazz bassist playing under the name Ray Carle, performed throughout the New York area and hosted a successful radio show in the late 1950s and early 1960s, broadcasting with a quartet from the Café Rouge of the Statler Hilton Hotel. Cipullo’s brother, Chris, was a drummer in Los Angeles. Cipullo’s father named him after the bandleader Tommy Dorsey. Dorsey, who appeared frequently at the Café Rouge, died just a few days after Cipullo’s birth.
Cipullo attended Hofstra University, Boston University, and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. His teachers included David Del Tredici, Elie Siegmeister, Albert Tepper, Thea Musgrave (orchestration), and Graham Forbes, a highly regarded jazz pianist and the accompanist for Frank Sinatra during a period in the 1950s.
Cipullo's song cycles may be said to have entered the standard repertoire. He has composed over 225 songs, one evening-length chamber opera, six works for voices and chamber ensemble, solo piano pieces, and works for chorus and orchestra.Several of his song cycles are published by Oxford University Press, and others are distributed by Classical Vocal Reprints. His music appears on over a dozen commercially-released compact discs on the Albany, CRI, PGM, MSR Classics, GPR, Centaur, and Capstone labels.
Cipullo is a composer of tonal music, though his use of harmony may occasionally stretch to include bitonality and extremely dissonant passages. His vocal music is lyrical in the extreme, but marked by large leaps, lengthy phrases with surprising breaths, numerous shifts in meter, virtuosic piano accompaniments, and a love of musical allusion. Writing for The New York Times, Allan Kozinn said, “Mr. Cipullo’s vocal writing is fresh and natural, and he amplifies it with thoughtful, sometimes picturesque commentary in the piano line.” [ citation needed ]Cipullo's compositions are text-driven, and Fanfare magazine noted that “he excels by pulling off the conjuror’s trick mastered by all the great writers of poem-based song from Schubert forward—the blurring of the demarcation between where the word ends and the music begins.” In presenting him with its Arts & Letters Award, the American Academy of Arts & Letters cited Cipullo's music for its "inexhaustible imagination, wit, expressive range and originality."
Cipullo is married to the Belgian artist Hedwig Brouckaert. They have one daughter, Lois.
Cipullo’s chamber opera Glory Denied has met with considerable success and garnered critical acclaim. The opera, based on the oral history by journalist Tom Philpott, tells the true story of Colonel Jim Thompson, an American soldier held as a prisoner of war in Vietnam from 1964-73. The story deals not only with Thompson’s suffering in the jungles of southeast Asia, but also chronicles the personal struggles that followed his liberation and repatriation. In short, Glory Denied is the story of an American family during one of the nation’s most turbulent eras. Richard Bernstein, in reviewing Philpott’s book for the The New York Times, stated, “Indeed it is not too much to say that Glory Denied… encapsulate[s] something of the moral essence of the Vietnam War and the imperishable bitterness of its legacy.”Some of the opera's success is no doubt due to the resonance audiences have found with the subject matter. As Allan Kozinn of the The New York Times neatly summed up, “How is this for a story with operatic potential? A prisoner of war held for nearly a decade returns home to find that his wife has moved on, his nation has changed beyond recognition, and he is unable to find his bearings in the society he fought to defend. It is Monteverdi’s "Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria" in reverse: the story of the returning warrior, but in this thoroughly modern version, everything has gone wrong, and redemption is out of reach.” Glory Denied is written for a cast of four (two sopranos, a tenor, and a baritone) and the score exists in three different orchestrations, from nine players to full orchestra. The work was recorded live by Fort Worth Opera and released on Albany Records in August of 2013 (Troy 1433). Critical reaction to the opera has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic. The following examples are typical:
An opera by Cipullo to a libretto by David Mason based on the life and poems of Miklós Radnóti.
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