Born With The Moon In Cancer (1986)

A somewhat autobiographical dramatic deconstruction of the traditional vocal recital

Story, Choreography, Direction, Visual Design by John Kelly

Music by Georges Bizet, Bernard Hermann, Gustav Mahler, Joni Mitchell, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Giovanni Pergolesi, Camille Saint-Saens, Piotr Ilich Tchaikovsky and Giuseppe Verdi; Lighting Design by David Ferri.
Premiere: P.S. 122, New York, May 2, 1986.

Born With The Moon In Cancer……..D’Amor su ali rosee (Verdi)
Oh, He’s Mild…………..Se Tu m’ami (Pergolesi)
Pigskin Option………..Stride La Vampa (Verdi)
Burning The Candle………….Habanera (Bizet)
Death Of Dagmar………..Arabian Dance (Tchaikovsky)
Spring Lake…………..River (Joni Mitchell)
I Have Become Lost To The World……….Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen (Mahler)
Here And Now…………Mon coeur s’ouvre a ta voix (Saint-Saens)


Born with the Moon in Cancer was my first hour-long solo work––a deconstruction of the traditional vocal concert, in which nine songs and arias were glued together by movement and music. The piece was also somewhat autobiographical, tracing the ambition of a young man who goes to the big city, becomes a club singer, and gets strung out on drugs and cigarettes and caught up in a cycle of relentless revelry.

Throughout his journey, his constant companion and alter ego is a stuffed pet chicken, the focus of his affection, neglect and eventual grief. After a serious brush with mortality, the young man returns to his childhood home, where he finds refuge and confronts his demons. Having survived so much self-inflicted abuse, he is left with feelings of salvation, reprieve and an unexpected wisdom.

Experimenting with the vocal concert form, I realized I would never be content to stand still in the traditional manner in the service of the “ideal climate” for vocal production. I was used to moving my body to music. Obviously though, if I was going to produce a decent sound, my kinetic concerns had to be orchestrated in such a way to not only serve the desired dramatic effect but also give me time to catch my breath and open the throat; there is no point in getting too winded before an aria.

I approach every song as if it were a short play or drama. Every good song is a “mini play” of sorts, an aural feast with a plot, texture, atmosphere and emotional point of view that can be matched with a corresponding feeling and physical action. Assuming the “shapes” of a song assists one in reaching the intention of the composer–its dramatic essence. The combination of ingredients always changes, and this piece was the first time I came up with the right recipe in long form.

© John Kelly 2019

  • Photo by Paula Court