Positions 1956

An Instructional Opera in Three Parts

Libretto by Michael Korie
Inspired by Instructional Manuals of the 1950’s

COMMISSIONED: By UrbanArias, Washington DC

PREMIERE: April 2012, the Artisphere Theater; conductor, Robert Wood; director, Noah Himmelstein; The Bride, Amedee Moore; The Groom, Jesse Blumberg; The Trainer/The Instructor, Vale Rideout

DURATION: 90 minutes

PUBLISHER: All Conrad Cummings works are self-published; contact him here.

INSTRUMENTATION: violin, cello, woodwind doubler (flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, soprano sax, tenor sax)(alternately two woodwind players), and keyboard


The Bride, soprano
The Groom, baritone
The Trainer/The Instructor, tenor


Positions photo

Program Note


“Positions 1956” explores the “positions” both sexual and societal of the mid-1950s as a newlywed Bride and Groom educate themselves with instructional manuals.

Part One, “Marriage Manual,” is set in a bedroom over the first few months of the Bride and Groom’s marriage as they explore positions and begin to learn about each other.

Part Two, “Physique,” is set in a gym where the Groom goes to a Trainer to receive a course in physical fitness based on exercises from 1950s men’s physique magazines.

Part Three, “Social Dancing,” is set in a dance studio where the Bride and Groom learn how to dance from an Instructor using methods from “How to Dance” manuals of the 1950s.

“Marriage Manual” requires a double bed, night tables and two lamps. In “Physique,” the bed is replaced with a gym mat, a bench, a stool, and a few weights. “Social Dancing” is set on a bare stage set up to look like a dance studio.
To support the “instructional manual” core on which the opera hinges, the chapter headings of each of the marital positions, exercises, and dances are projected in a visible manner, e.g. on the wall behind the bed, the gymnasium and the dance studio.
The opera features three principal singers accompanied by an instrumental quartet: violin, cello, woodwind and synthesizer. There are no pauses between the three parts of the opera. The few set changes are expedited in view of the audience.


Positions Libretto graphic

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Production Gallery

Production photos from Urban Arias’ 2012 production

Part 1: “Marriage Manual”

Part 2: “Physique”

Part 3: “Social Dancing”

Perusal Materials

Download the complete score:

Download the complete libretto:

Complete audio:

Part 1: Marriage Manual

Part 2: Physique

Part 3: Social Dancing

Concert Suite with Piano

For a fifteen-minute concert suite for mezzo or soprano, baritone, and piano, see “FROM POSITIONS 1956”