for four singers and chamber ensemble
libretto and music co-written with Sarah Perske
The idea for The Man with the Good Face came from the 1921 short story of the same name by Frank Luther Mott, in which the protagonist sees a mysterious man on the New York subway. We found the story to be a profound metaphor for the nature of love, the basis of human dignity, and the tension between appearance and reality in modern society. In the story, James Neal, an aficionado of the human face, retouches photographs for a living and dreams of finding a face that reflects a purely good character. When he finally sees such a face one day on a passing light rail train, James begins to radically change his behavior – performing acts of kindness and self-sacrifice – in his efforts to meet its owner. While his coworker Anna doubts that such a man exists, she and James eventually discover their feelings for each other. After James is killed in a train accident, Anna laments the loss of her friend. In this scene, a nurse claims to have seen a mysterious man with “a remarkable face” visiting James in the hospital just before his death.