Melly & Mafoo take The Lil Death on tour with Victoire

I’ve always liked calling TLDV1 The Lil Death, and now finaly, I feel justified in calling it just so. Over the next week we’ll  be bringing mini portions of the opera to audiences in Pittsburgh, Columbus, Bloomington and Detroit. We’ll be presenting a hybrid show of selections from the opera interspersed with our zany remixes and mash-ups. Joining us is Missy Mazzoli’s  all-star all-female ensemble Victoire who will be presenting portions from their upcoming album Cathedral City, which I had the privilege of singing on as well. (check out their free download over on New Amsterdam’s page.)

Here’s our itinerary:

August 7, 2010
8:00 PM
5015 Penn Ave.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

August 8, 2010
8:00 PM
583 East Broad Street
Columbus, Ohio
Victoire/M&M/Brian Harnetty/The Wet Darlings
$10 adv/$12 door

August 9, 2010
6:30 PM
201 East Randolph Street
Chicago, Illinois
Victoire FREE

August 10, 2010
8:00 PM
123 S. Walnut Street
Bloomington, Indiana
Victoire/M&M/Pantree Owl
$5 18 +

August 11, 2010
9:30 PM
5141 Rosa Parks Blvd
Detroit, Michigan
Victoire/M&M/Lord Scrummage/No Pussy for Old Men
$5 all ages

TONY, The AWL and Village Voice take on TLDV1

I am so proud of that picture. That’s yoga right there folks!! So TLDV1 got a few more write ups over the past few days, and I’m going to do the unthinkable and link to all of them- despite the fact that one is AWFUL. But we’ll talk about that later.

Time Out New York

Great theater review from Helen Shaw. TONY has been ridiculously supportive of TLDV1, including inviting us to perform on The Volume, and now linking to our video as their brain stealer of the week! Shaw had issues with the staging at times, which is bound to be tricky with a two person opera, but she did say that “in singing the music itself—unabashedly boppy, baroquely multireferential, then suddenly sentimental—the rapturous pair manage to save themselves.”

So, fine, these kids are all still figuring everything out. But that actually turns out to be the best argument for spending your time with them. Marks himself is a founding member of the new-music Alarm Will Sound crew, and has recently been working with the Dirty Projectors to arrange their piece The Getty Address for the stage. That is to say: he’s got skills across a pleasing range of disciplines. Here, even when I was confronted with moments or gestures that I found awkward or too call-attention-y, I respected his overall compositional attack.

Equally impressive is his co-vocalist Mellissa Hughes. I saw her sing in Louis Andriessen’s De Staat at Carnegie’s new music space a couple months back, and with the Signal ensemble at this year’s Bang On A Can festival, but those were both stand-and-deliver performances behind sheet music. So I actually wasn’t prepared for the strength of her physical performance in The Little Death. When she gutted out the the familiar tune “He Touched Me” while wearing a virginal wedding dress and sashaying toward Boy, Hughes came across as confused in the most delectable of ways. But when she turned it into a degraded, Madonna-at-the-1984-VMAs pole dance, everyone in the tiny St. Mark’s Church gym seemed under her crypto-erotic-religious spell. Developmental hiccups aside, I can always make time for that.

Awl author Seth Colter Walls had issues with the performance, he straight argues against calling it an opera in the second paragraph, but he appreciates the bold statements Matt’s made in his composition and is willing to wade through some of the “developmental hiccups” that accompany a work-in-progress.

Village Voice

Part of me doesn’t want to link to this at all, because critic James Hannaham HATED it. But he spent maybe 200 words attempting to trash something that he clearly doesn’t have the taste buds for, nor attempted to appreciate before slamming it with references that make absolutely zero sense. I’ll post the full review here for shits and giggles:

The Little Death: Vol. 1, at the Incubator Arts Project, takes the opposite approach, flaunting conventional values against an unconventional background. Composer Matt Marks, who writes what he calls “emotionally manipulative pop songs,” has staged a song cycle he describes as a “post-Christian nihilist pop opera.” On a set cleverly dressed to resemble a Midwestern high school gym, Marks and Mellissa Hughes, a talented singer, gesture their quasi–Robert Wilson way through Marks’s repetitive techno score, which sounds like MGMT’s outtakes with Annie Clark on vocals, played on a broken boombox at full volume. The barest plot emerges, of Christian chastity besmirched by sex, followed by piety, unresolved. The best moment is when the performers reveal a stained-glass window, a surprising reminder that, despite its avant-garde credentials, the theater space is still in a church. Too cool to be Christian, too Christian to be cool, the show hovers in the place between irony and sincerity, which, it turns out, is called blah.

Me thinks I spy a hardcore CATS fan. This is not a musical, or a song cycle, it’s an opera. A musical idea threaded through with a narrative. It is a piece of theater, albeit one wrought with staging and plot challenges. Despite the fact that this is a theater review, he doesn’t really trash the production, but he does dig into the space  “The best moment is when the performers reveal a stained-glass window, a surprising reminder that, despite its avant-garde credentials, the theater space is still in a church.” He spends the majority of his rant trashing Matt’s music, and comparing it to MGMT, and comparing my vocals to St. Vincent. Well, that just doesn’t even make sense. Like, at ALL. I’m still trying to wrap my head around that one.

In general all of our music reviews have been glowing, the theater reviews take some issue with the plot, but most are quick to realize that we’re only presenting half of the story. There’s been so much talk about is it an opera, is it a musical, it has no story… it drives me crazy. Most of the opera I’ve performed in, and I’ve definitely done my corsetted share, is based on this same boy-meets-girl premise, and all of the action takes place in the Act 2 summary printed in your program, mmm-kay?  I think people struggle with the electronics, and with the multi-style vocals used to portray the narrative. This is not a stand and deliver Sondheim musical theater technique, this is not a “park and bark” bel canto technique. Matt’s music requires a musical vocal vulnerability, he wants pure straight tone, Aretha Franklin Gospel belting, heavy metal Meatloaf-esque grit and edge, and requires me to sing so low at one point he actually wrote it out in bass clef. It’s all very “pastiche-y” Handel would be proud, and quite possibly even Tarantino.

My .02

The Little Death: Vol.1 Press Round Up

We opened at the Incubator Arts Project on Thursday night, still just wading into our first week of performances but the response so far has been really positive and the experience has been great. I thought I would post a round up of some of the press we’ve received over the last week.

Time Out New York’s The Volume

Live performance of He Touched Me!

WNYC’s Soundcheck

Steve Smith names Matt Marks’ album The Little Death: Vol. 1 on of his best of 2010!

Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone

What had been a great collection of smart, sometimes silly, pop songs in the guise of a gently confusing pop opera has evolved into a smartly stage, well focused piece of musical theater.

While Marks’ excellent music provided the building blocks, director Rafael Gallegos has built a solid foundation and has cemented the building block  together to form an elegant theatrical environment for the Marks’ eerie love story.


As a performer, Marks dives pelvis-first into the rock-star physicality of his part and exhibits a capable vocal range, even if he and Hughes are occasionally drowned out by the throbbing music. Thanks to her own strong vocals, Hughes is able to navigate the jumpiness of the music well, and her dirty, thrusting rendition of “He Touched Me,” in a wedding dress, is quite raucous and absurd, like something out of a Kate Bush music video.

NY Times!!

Saturated with sampled timbres and driven by sputtering hip-hop break beats, Mr. Marks’s music is bright and sentimental, at times even cloying in a manner meant to evoke anodyne commercial Christian pop. But Mr. Marks’s crafty juxtapositions, clashes and transformations add to the opera’s overall sense of ambiguity; in moments when he underscores sexual urges scarcely hidden within his squeaky-clean borrowed sources, substantial heat results.

A versatile soprano who excels in both standard classical repertory and modern works, Ms. Hughes sounded idiomatic and perky in indie-pop songs, and brought convincingly soulful grit to gospel numbers.

The Big City

The direction by Rafael Gallegos is really fine and adds a great deal to something that is already interesting, involving and satisfying. Just listening to the CD leaves some odd narrative gaps that the mind tries to fill in, and Gallegos has worked out a fascinating and effective sense of temporal narrative. The events that the songs portray, including the opening shooting, have an overall order, even with what is one big flashback (and of course young men have a tendency to try and kill what they can’t possess), and having things unfold through time, both forward and backward, brings out more of the complex nature of the characters, who, despite their generic names, are holding real internal contradictions together, and touching on them alternately and simultaneously. It’s one of the better and more relevant Off-Broadway musicals out there right now, not preachy at all and completely entertaining.

It’s been an amazing week, and we have two performances left so use that discount code TLDV1 to snag your $12 tix for tonight or tomorrow. Next week’s performances run from Wednesday through Saturday.

And because I love you.. check out the official FULL I Don’t Have Any Fun Video by our awesome video crew Satan’s Pearl Horses

SIGNAL plays Shelter at the Bang on a Can Marathon Sunday!!

In all the Little Death excitement I’ve barely mentioned that I’m performing in Shelter on Sunday at the Marathon!! We’ve been in rehearsals all week, and the ensemble sounds amazing.. I can’t wait to see the video tomorrow. After a little sleuthing, I did manage to find one movement on Bill Morrison’s Vimeo Account. This is “What We Build” one of Michael Gordon’s movements. It’s epic, tragic, glissando-tastic, and devastating.

SIGNAL plays Gordon/Lang/Wolfe’s SHELTER
June 27, 2010 – 10PM
World Financial Center Winter Garden

Music composed by Michael Gordon, David Lang, and Julia Wolfe
Libretto by Deborah Artman
Film by Bill Morrison
Projections by Laurie Olinder

Brad Lubman, Conductor
Martha Cluver, Soprano
Caroline Shaw, Soprano
Mellissa Hughes, Soprano
Jessica Schmitz, flute
Christa Roninson, oboe
Ken Thomson, clarinet/contrabass clarinet
Brad Balliett, bassoon
Nathan Koci, horn
Jeff Missal, trumpet
Steven Parker, trombone
Dan Peck, tuba
David Skidmore, percussion
Oliver Hagen, piano
Olivia DePrato, violin
Ari Streisfeld, violin
Chris Otto, viola
Lauren Radnofsky, cello
Ike Sturm, bass
Caleb Burhans, electric bass
Taylor Levine, electric guitar

For more information visit:

It’s coming!!

Here is the new The Little Death: Vol.1 Video TRAILER

If you want to see the FULL video, you’ll just have to come to our Opening Night Video Premiere at the Incubator Arts Project!!

The Little Death: Vol. 1, Matt Marks’s post-Christian nihilist pop opera, is an ambitious new work that fuses bombastic electro-pop hooks, frenetically chopped break beats, hypnotic lyrics, and apocalyptic Christian imagery. Holding these disparate elements together is a unconventional narrative that follows two characters, Boy (Matt Marks) and Girl (Mellissa Hughes), on a journey through the world of Fundamentalist Evangelism, as they cope with repressed sexuality in a modern world.
The sample-heavy work draws on musical references that echo the character’s sexual-religious confusion, including pop songs and gospel standards with evocative titles (“He Touched Me” and “When God Dips His Love In My Heart”). Marks took most of the sampled material from his own collection of 1970s gospel albums and classic hip-hop and soul recordings. Using a DIY approach, he produced the album using only a couple of microphones and a laptop running Ableton Live. The stage show as directed by Rafael Gallegos takes inspiration from a number of sources, including The Brady Bunch Variety Hour and church lock-ins.

Starring Matt Marks and Mellissa Hughes
Directed by Rafael Gallegos

Set Design by Brett J. Banakis
Lighting Design by Jimmy Lawlor
Costume Design by Sydney Maresca
Choreography by Michele Torino Hower and Rafael Gallegos

Video Promotion by Satan’s Pearl Horses

Here’s what people are saying about The Little Death: Vol. 1:

“it’s like rollerskating straight from Xanadu into the Void” Outsideleft

“Never have I heard a sexier performance of my grandmother’s favorite hymn. And it makes me uncomfortable, which is precisely why I love it so much.”The Indie Handbook

“eerily dreamy”NY Times

“The music is just so good that I found myself strolling through Brooklyn this morning humming ‘OMG I’m Shot’ to myself, certainly the best sock-hop-dance-pop-driving-rock song about being shot ever written.”The Big City

“sultry, bright, infectious”Altsounds

July 8 -11, July 14-17th
Tickets: General $18/Student $14
Buy tickets here

The Little Death: Vol.1 album, out now on New Amsterdam Records, is streaming here

You can also buy the album on Amazon

and iTunes

The Little Death: Vol.1, & A Voice Studio Opens in Brooklyn!

Welcome to summer! I’m writing this from the inside of my steamy Brooklyn apartment with  no air conditioning. Melly, why don’t you have air conditioning, you ask? Well, I live in a fourth floor walk up and for the sake of everyone’s safety, I’ve decided to let a professional install this one.  Truly, you should be grateful.

This month is FULL of The Little Death! We’ve celebrated the release, been interviewed by, been reviewed by several great blogs, recorded a podcast, and been offered a two week run at the Ontological Society, all in the merry month of May! First off, last Tuesday The Little Death: Vol. 1 dropped on Amazon and i tunes ! Go and buy it for a hundred million of your closest friends! Give it a listen over on the New Amsterdam site where you will find the full album streaming, and while you’re there, give our podcast a listen too. And check out our high res new fancy press photos… Meow!!

Matt, myself,  and our director Rafael Gallegos have been working with the video team Satan’s Pearl Horses (could there be a better collaborative team for this project??) on a music video for I Don’t Have Any Fun, which we expect will screen in mid June. That’s them over to the left with their triple camera action! That was the most serious video set up I’ve been involved with ( and with me in that gigantic Scarlett O’Hara dress, people assumed we were a modeling shoot, not complainin’).  So stay tuned for a double video/album release party! Rumor also has it that there might be karaoke, and you know much I like my karaoke!

Also just yesterday a great colleague of mine, Daniel Felsenfeld, who writes for published an interview with myself, Matt and Corey Dargel, who’s amazingly intelligent pop-art album Someone Will Take Care of me also debuted last week  (Also streaming at New Amsterdam). I thought Danny asked some really great questions, and although there has been lots of great press surrounding the album, Danny is the only person to ask ME about my involvement, which I of course appreciated for purely selfish reasons.

I’m also pleased to announce that The Little Death: Vol.1 has been offered a two week run at the Ontological Society (soon to be known as The Incubator Arts Project). This theater has a stellar reputation for experimental art, and we’re tickled to be their first run as they change their look. Come on out and see how director Rafael Gallegos has transformed this opera from a recording in a Brooklyn bedroom to a fully staged dancing production. The show runs two weekends in July (8-11, 15-17th), so if you missed it in March, now is your chance!! And speaking of the Ontological, or the Incubator Arts Project as I should call it now,  I just confirmed with composer Jacob Cooper yesterday that TimberBrit will have a run there in November too! TimberBrit shows will run November 18-21, so if you haven’t experienced the platinum love fest that is TimberBrit, get ready!

Finally, I’m starting a voice studio in Brooklyn. I’ve been busy preparing a teachable space in my music studio for lessons and coachings, so if you or anyone you know is interested, please don’t hesitate to contact me! For more information, see the lesson section on my website.

M is for May & Melly & Mafoo

Melly & Mafoo Variety Hour
Saturday May 1st
The Gershwin Hotel
7 E 27th St (Manhattan)
8:00 pm, $10

Please join me and my whacky partner in crime, Matt Marks at the Gershwin Hotel on Saturday evening for a wild and zany set of low tech and emotionally warped pop covers. The Melly & Mafoo Variety Hour is a self indulgent creative project we had always kicked around, but came into light about a year ago, and our minds have been brewing ever since. Featuring the music of Aaron Neville, Linda Rhonstadt, The Magnetic Fields, Beyonce Knowles, Faith Hill, Danny Elfman, and Corey Dargel!

Melly & Mafoo Variety Hour is:
Mellissa Hughes: voice, drum pad, keys
Matt Marks, voice, ukelele, keys, various awesomeness

And here is a link to our newest cover “Straight Up” by Paula Abdul.

Sunday May 2nd
Music with A View
The Flea Theater
3pm FREE

On Sunday I will perform in Neil Rolnick‘s new multi-media chamber piece for soprano, string trio, electronics, video and dancers. Also on the program is music of Paula Matthusen, Ken Ueno and others.

Monday, May 10 at 6pm
Zankel Hall
John Adams, conductor
Son of Chamber Symphony, John Adams
Concerto for Piano and Winds, Stravinsky
De Staat, Louis Andriessen

I am honored to perform again with ACJW in the monstrous undertaking that is Andriessen’s De Staat. For those of you in the Philadelphia area, there will be a 3pm performance of this exact program Sunday May 9th.

Finally: The Little Death Vol. One:  After our performance at Galapagos in March, there has been a lot of hype surrounding our show! If you haven’t checked out Matt Marks’ post-Christian nihilist pop opera, you’re in luck because the album is officially available for pre-order on Amazon! and will officially drop on May 25th, but if you can’t wait that long, feel free to visit the New Amsterdam Record site to download two FREE tracks. And stay tuned for our video release in June, it is sure not to disappoint!

My Ears are Open Podcast

In January I had the pleasure of sitting with James Holt who runs a lovely podcast series called My Ears Are Open. The month of March he dedicated to singers, and I was quite honored to be the first singer he has ever interviewed!

Now, you might think that being able to talk about yourself and your accomplishments for an hour or so would be fun, but I personally found it to be quite terrifying. However, I think the interview comes off very well, and I don’t sound too much like an idiot. I talk about my work with young composers, and my obsessive compulsive tendencies when it comes to score formatting! Composers take note!!


TimberBrit- It’s on!!

As of this afternoon, if you logged into, you’d see my pretty face (in a god awful platinum blond wig) next to Paula’s. Why is my pic on NPR? well-there’s been a lot of media hype about a recent spread on Jacob Cooper‘s TimberBrit. We shot a video two weeks ago that launched slightly before the NPR blurb on All Things Considered.

Here’s a link to the NPR interview – complete with slideshow of Melly, and below is the youtube video.

what’s been amazing to me is the comment threads, we’re even a twittering topic..and on reddit? Various blogs have picked it up, and man, has it sparked a lot of discussion into what ‘opera’ is. It seems we have two audiences commenting, those of the NPR ‘opera must be written by dead guys crowd’, and the real Britney fans who think it’s weird, but somehow have missed the point that this isn’t actually Britney…I’m a little disapointed in that I expected more from the crowd that supported us nearly a year ago…when we packed TWO SHOWS in a row on a Sunday night in Tribeca. So apparently, there are more than nine people willing to pay for it.

Hanging up the wig for the evening, as always, yours in platinum love,


previously on Mellysblog

timberbrit podcast

a beatiful show indeed