In The Pillar, a prominent woman confronts the tragic consequences of her own compromise. Embracing a role that brought her position and affluence, Ruth centered her whole life on her husband Bernie, a seeming pillar of the community. When he is finally revealed as a world-class confidence man and gaslighter, all of her choices—indeed her very identity—comes into question. Digging beneath the surface of an historic scandal, The Pillar unearths an all-too-timely parable of corruption, complicity, family dysfunction and the nature of contemporary love.
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Concert Performance – 3 scenes
February 28, 2016
The Washington Chorus, Julian Wachner, Music Director
Ruth – Marnie Breckenridge
Bernie – Jim Shaffran
Harry – Peter Tantsits
Mark – Jonathan Blalock
“According to the splendid performance by all the singers and instrumentalists Woolf’s THE PILLAR is off to a great start… what wrenching, realistic theater it was — the rise and fall of the Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff and the resulting human tragedies.”
– The Washington Post
“THE PILLAR focuses on Ruth Madoff, a woman who has dedicated her life to her husband, a pillar of the community. When he falls into disgrace, she must confront choices, and consequences, of operatic proportions. The Pillar uses this contemporary scandal to deliver a timeless meditation on loyalty, corruption and the nature of love.”
– Georgetown Patch
“Ruth Madoff’s struggle is Shakespearean … as if Gertrude from Hamlet has been fleshed out for us.”
– Loretta Toscano, Actor/Educator
“The drama is so moving … all we wanted was more than thirty-something minutes!”
“Musically inventive and powerful … such economy in the language … It’s brilliant!”
– Elizabeth W. Scott , Dunch Arts
“It made me look at the whole event in a different way … it becomes deep, tragic and human … a Biblical story.”
– Dillon McCartney, NYIOP International
Bernie’s aria as a pants role
Krisitn Hoff, Mezzo-soprano
Jennifer Szeto, piano
September 14, 2014
Opera America Center Recital Hall
Canadian-American composer Luna Pearl Woolf has long used her creative voice to advocate for social and political change. Her music has been praised by The New York Times for its “psychological nuances and emotional depth.”
Woolf’s 2021-GRAMMY-nominated composer portrait album, LUNA PEARL WOOLF: Fire and Flood, grapples with climate change, poverty, zealotry, racism, gender roles and plague through music that is as is intensely emotional as it is lyrical and complex. Particularly renowned in the field of opera and vocal music, Woolf’s commissions include Jacqueline, on legendary cellist Jacqueline du Pré, for Toronto’s Tapestry Opera; and Better Gods, about Hawaii’s Queen Lili‘uokalani, for Washington National Opera. Her opera, The Pillar, was awarded one of Opera America’s inaugural Discovery Grants for female composers. Among Woolf’s most widely-performed works are Après moi, le déluge, written in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina; and Angel Heart, recently released worldwide in a new German-language edition. Noted collaborators include Matt Haimovitz, Dame Evelyn Glennie, The Choir of Trinity Wall Street, conductor Julian Wachner, among many others.
Woolf co-founded the ground-breaking Oxingale Records in 2000, and publisher Oxingale Music in 2010. Her music is available internationally on the PENTATONE Oxingale Series.
Librettist David Van Taylor is an award-winning filmmaker whose feature documentaries include A Perfect Candidate, Ghosts of Attica, and Good Ol’ Charles Schulz. Supported by the NEH, the NEA, and the Guggenheim Foundation, his works have been praised as “riveting” (New York Times), “quietly cosmic” (LA Times), and “compelling as any fictional narrative” (Austin Statesman).
Research for The Pillar was informed and assisted by the book, The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust, by Diana B. Henriques. Permission granted by the copyright holder.