A New Kind of Fallout

Presented by

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With this developmental workshop of A New Kind of Fallout (working title), SummerFest offers you a wonderful opportunity to see a new opera in its early stage. With music by noted composer Gilda Lyons (Night Caps: Moonlight Suite from 2012) and a libretto by Pittsburgh playwright Tammy Ryan (A Soldier's Heart, Lost Boy Found in Whole Foods), A New Kind of Fallout is an evening-length work touching on the life of Rachel Carson, the Pittsburgh-trained scientist and author whose seminal 1962 work, Silent Spring, helped launch the environmental movement in the United States. Carson was born in nearby Springdale, PA, and attended Pittsburgh College for Women (now Chatham University). 

A New Kind of Fallout logo

Opera Theater will present additional workshop performances of this new American opera, with feedback sessions with the composer, librettist, and director as part of the opera's ongoing development for a world premiere at SummerFest 2015. The working title is quoted from Carson’s 1963 Congressional testimony. 

 Generous support for the development of A New Kind of Fallout is provided by:

  • Highmark
  • The Lloyd Foundation
  • National Endowment for the Arts
  • Funds of The Pittsburgh Foundation: the James H. Beal Fund, the George and Anna Neider Fund, the Helen Mason Moore Fund, and the Gail N. Platt Arts Fund


Production Team



Composer   Gilda Lyons   Alice Front   Lara Lynn Cottrill
Librettist   Tammy Ryan   Jack Front   Dimitrie Lazich
Conductor   Robert Frankenberry   Arthur Begman   Eric Lindsey
        Older Alice   Daphne Alderson
        Bob Dart/Scientist   Joseph Brent
        Ed Blocker/Doctor   Xiaozhong Wang
        Hayy Stritch/Reporter   Antonio Watts
        Reporter   Jake Jacobsen
        Flora Dart/The Earth   Desiree Soteres
        Winnie Blocker/Science   Patricia Westley
        Bette Stritch/The Word   Evelyn Rossow


Meet the Composer


Gilda Lyons, (b. 1975), composer, vocalist, and visual artist, combines elements of renaissance, neo-baroque, spectral, folk, agitprop Music Theater, and extended vocalism to create works of uncompromising emotional honesty and melodic beauty. Tom Strini of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel describes her "Nahuatl Hymn to the All-Mother" for treble choir (Clarion CLCD-936), commissioned by The Milwaukee Choral Artists, as "hair-raising, yet elegant [with] slides, dips, yips and yelps amid ceremonial intensity."

Gilda Lyons
Gilda Lyons

Recent premieres in Beijing, Tokyo, Seattle, New York, and Pittsburgh include "walk, run, fly" (voice / pre-recorded sound; The Flea, New York City), "Lady Beetle" (koto solo; Yumi Kurosawa, Torifony Hall, Tokyo), "Moonlight Suite" (chamber opera; Opera Theater of Pittsburgh), "Coney Run" (voice / piano / pre-recorded sound; Two Sides Sounding, New York City), "Hold On" (voice / piano; Adrienne Danrich, Thomas Bagwell; AIDS Quilt Song Book at Twenty), "La Novia de Tola" (piano trio; Beijing New Music Ensemble, Beijing; Finisterra Trio, Seattle; Entelechron, New York City), "Invocations" (voice / shakuhachi; Kyo-Shin-An Arts, New York City) and "rapid transit" (voices; 5 Borough Music Festival, New York City, GPR Records).

In addition to A New Kind of Fallout, she is also completing large-scale commissions for Mirror Visions Ensemble and IonSound. Past commissions have come from The ASCAP Foundation / Charles Kingsford Fund, American Opera Projects, Amy Pivar Dances, Beijing New Music Ensemble, ComposersCollaborative Inc., Fort Greene Park Conservancy, Paul Sperry, Sweet Plantain String Quartet, and The Walt Whitman Project, among many others. Composer-in-Residencies include Vermont's New Music on the Point (2013); Seasons Music Festival in Washington State (2009-2012); and Hartford Women Composers Festival (2011).

An active vocalist and fierce advocate of contemporary music, Dr. Lyons has commissioned, premiered, and workshopped new vocal works by dozens of composers. Of her performance in Daron Hagen's Shining Brow (Buffalo Philharmonic/Falletta) (Naxos) David Shengold of Opera, UK writes "Gilda Lyons's clear soprano compels admiration."

Dr. Lyons serves as Artistic and Executive Director of The Phoenix Concerts, New York's "plucky Upper West Side new-music series." (The New Yorker)  Her music is published by Schott, E.C. Schirmer and Burning Sled.  She received her Ph.D. in Music Composition from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and Bard College. Dr. Lyons made her professional debut as composer and vocalist with the American Symphony Chamber Orchestra in 1997, performing the world premiere of her orchestral song cycle "Feis."


Tammy Ryan
Tammy Ryan

Tammy Ryan's award winning plays have been produced across the country and internationally. She won the 2012 Francesca Primus Prize awarded by the American Theater Critics Association for her play Lost Boy Found in Whole Foods which was developed by the New Harmony Project, and received its world premiere in a co-production at Premiere Stages and Playwrights Theater of New Jersey.

Her work has been commissioned, produced and developed at The Alliance Theater Company, Dorset Theater Festival, Florida Stage, Marin Theater Company, The REP at the Pittsburgh Playhouse, City Theater, Bricolage, and the Lark Play Development Lab among others, and has been featured at NNPN's National Showcase of New Plays. In addition her plays for young audiences have twice received the National Playwriting for Youth Bonderman Award, including The Music Lesson which also received the American Alliance of Theatre in Education's Distinguished Play Award.

Other honors include the Heinz Endowments Creative Heights Grant, The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust Creative Achievement Award and fellowships from Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Sewanee Writers Conference and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

She serves as the Pittsburgh regional representative for the Dramatists Guild of America.


Rachel Carson's Silent Spring

Silent Spring is an environmental science book written by Rachel Carson and published by Houghton Mifflin on September 27, 1962. The book documented the detrimental effects of indiscriminate use of pesticides on the environment, particularly on birds. Carson accused the chemical industry of spreading disinformation, and public officials of accepting industry claims unquestioningly.

Silent Spring

Late in the 1950s, Carson turned her attention to conservation, especially environmental problems that she believed were caused by synthetic pesticides. The result was Silent Spring (1962), which brought environmental concerns to an unprecedented share of the American people. Although Silent Spring was met with fierce opposition by chemical companies, it spurred a reversal in national pesticide policy, which led to a nationwide ban on DDT for agricultural uses, and it inspired a grassroots environmental movement that led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

As biographer Mark Hamilton Lytle writes, Carson "quite self-consciously decided to write a book calling into question the paradigm of scientific progress that defined postwar American culture." The overriding theme of Silent Spring is the powerful—and often negative—effect humans have on the natural world.

Carson's main argument is that pesticides have detrimental effects on the environment; they are more properly termed "biocides", she argues, because their effects are rarely limited to the target pests. DDT is a prime example, but other synthetic pesticides come under scrutiny as well—many of which are subject to bioaccumulation. Carson also accuses the chemical industry of intentionally spreading disinformation and public officials of accepting industry claims uncritically. Most of the book is devoted to pesticides' effects on natural ecosystems, but four chapters also detail cases of human pesticide poisoning, cancer, and other illnesses attributed to pesticides. About DDT and cancer, the subject of so much subsequent debate, Carson says only a little:

In laboratory tests on animal subjects, DDT has produced suspicious liver tumors. Scientists of the Food and Drug Administration who reported the discovery of these tumors were uncertain how to classify them, but felt there was some "justification for considering them low grade hepatic cell carcinomas." Dr. Hueper [author of Occupational Tumors and Allied Diseases] now gives DDT the definite rating of a "chemical carcinogen."

Carson predicts increased consequences in the future, especially as targeted pests develop resistance to pesticides, while weakened ecosystems fall prey to unanticipated invasive species. The book closes with a call for a biotic approach to pest control as an alternative to chemical pesticides.

Read more about the publication of and response to Silent Spring on Wikipedia. 


Additional Resources

Learn more about Rachel Carson, Gilda Lyons, and Tammy Ryan from these books, recordings, and scores available on Amazon: