Alarm Will Sound: “What Belongs to You,” a new opera for tenor and chamber orchestra

February 11, 2022
7:30 pm - 9:30 pm
E. Desmond Lee Concert Hall, 560 Music Center, 560 Trinity Avenue, University City, MO 63130

Alarm Will Sound is “one of the most vital and original ensembles on the American music scene” (The New York Times).  A 20-member band committed to innovative performances and recordings of today’s music, they have established a reputation for performing demanding music with energetic virtuosity.  They offer a first look at What Belongs to You, an opera-in-progress by composer/librettist David T. Little, based on the celebrated novel by Garth Greenwell (WashU alum). This preview performance will feature the Lebanese-American tenor Karim Sulayman, the 2019 Grammy-winner for Best Classical Solo Vocal Album.

The Department of English is offering an evening of readings by Garth Greenwell, the author of What Belongs to You on Zoom.  Tuesday, February 8 @ 8pm – Reading by Visiting Writer Garth Greenwell

Alarm Will Sound and the WashU Dept. of Music are pleased to offer a first look at What Belongs to You, an opera-in-progress by GRAMMY-nominated composer/librettist David T. Little, based on the celebrated novel by Garth Greenwell (Washington University alum). This preview performance will feature the Lebanese-American tenor Karim Sulayman, the 2019 GRAMMY-winner for Best Classical Solo Vocal Album.

Garth Greenwell’s What Belongs to You “tells the story of a man caught between longing and resentment, unable to separate desire from danger, and faced with the impossibility of understanding those he most longs to know.” This manifests as an obsession with a hustler named Mitko, with whom the unnamed narrator begins a long, unstable, and ultimately destructive affair. The story is specific and personal, but the experience Greenwell describes is universal: the search for self and the desire to belong amidst loneliness and enduring heartbreak.

Greenwell falls into a lineage of queer literature that reaches back through Edmund White and Jean Genet to Arthur Rimbaud. His tale is operatic in emotional scale and his writing is inherently musical, in no small part because Greenwell trained as an opera singer before becoming a writer. “Sometimes I feel that I’m writing into the shape made by a musical phrase,” he has said of his prose. “I often strive to feel the energy of a sentence in the same way a singer feels breath.” And yet for all its carefully wrought phrases, there is something direct and raw in Greenwell’s narrative: strong images that burn into your memory, connected by nourishing language and searing psychological insight.

Greenwell’s writing is itself a conversation with his literary predecessors. Likewise, Little’s score looks back to look forward, channeling the white heat of Britten’s Rimbaud setting, Les Illuminations, the melancholy of Dowland, Monteverdi, Schubert, and vanitas paintings, and the startling color of Gerard Grisey’s Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil. Each of these guides the work as Little explores the kaleidoscopic sonic potential of Alarm Will Sound, tracing the work’s narrative as it blooms. What Belongs to You will seek to capture timeless pain in a new frame, as Greenwell’s text is distilled to its poetic core and presented anew as music-theatre.

DAVID T. LITTLE (composer / librettist) is “one of the most imaginative young composers” on the scene (The New Yorker), with “a knack for overturning musical conventions” (The New York Times). His operas JFK, Dog Days, and Vinkensport (librettos by Royce Vavrek), and Soldier Songs have been widely acclaimed and performed around the globe, “prov[ing] beyond any doubt that opera has both a relevant present and a bright future” (New York Times). A 2022 GRAMMY®-nominee, Little has been commissioned by the world’s most prestigious institutions and performers, including recent projects for The Metropolitan Opera / Lincoln Center Theater new works program, The Kennedy Center, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, New World Symphony, London Sinfonietta, Alarm Will Sound, ICE, The Crossing, Eighth Blackbird, Kronos Quartet, and Beth Morrison Projects. His music has been presented by Carnegie Hall, Holland Festival, LA Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Opera Philadelphia, Opéra de Montréal, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the LA Philharmonic. From 2014–2017, Little was Composer-in-Residence with Opera Philadelphia and Music-Theatre Group, and currently chairs the composition department at Mannes—The New School. The founding artistic director of the ensemble Newspeak, his music can be heard on New Amsterdam, Pentatone, Sono Luminus, Bright Shiny
Things, and National Sawdust Tracks labels. He is published by Boosey & Hawkes.

Lebanese-American tenor KARIM SULAYMAN (soloist) has garnered international attention as a sophisticated and versatile artist, consistently praised for his sensitive and intelligent musicianship, riveting stage presence, and beautiful voice. A 2019 GRAMMY® Award winner, he regularly performs on the world’s stages in orchestral concerts and opera, as well as in recital and chamber music. This season included his debuts at Stockholm’s Drottningholms Slottsteater, Florentine Opera, Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie, and Venice’s Teatro Goldoni, and his return to the Ravinia Festival with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Last season marked debuts with the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra. Other recent engagements include Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, Houston Grand Opera, Boston Lyric Opera and New York City Opera. His growing discography includes his debut solo album, Songs of Orpheus, which was released to international acclaim on the AVIE label. Named “Critic’s Choice” by Opera News, and praised for his “lucid, velvety tenor and popstar charisma” by BBC Music Magazine, Karim was honored with the 2019 GRAMMY® Award for Best Classical Solo Vocal Album. He also appears on the ARTE documentary Leonard Bernstein – A Genius Divided, and his performance of Bernstein’s Mass with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is slated for national televised broadcast in 2020.

GARTH GREENWELL is the author of What Belongs to You, which won the British Book Award for Debut of the Year, was longlisted for the National Book Award, and was a finalist for six other awards, including the PEN/Faulkner Award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. His second book of fiction, Cleanness, was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award and was longlisted for several other awards, including the Prix Sade. A New York Times Notable Book, it was named a Best Book of 2020 by more than thirty publications. Greenwell’s fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and A Public Space, and he has written criticism for The New Yorker, Harper’s, and the London Review of Books, among others. His work has been translated into more than a dozen languages. A 2020 Guggenheim Fellow and recipient of the 2021 Vursell Award for prose style from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, he lives in Iowa City.

ALARM WILL SOUND is “one of the most vital and original ensembles on the American music scene” (The New York Times). A 20-member band committed to innovative performances and recordings of today’s music, they have established a reputation for performing demanding music with energetic virtuosity.

With classical skill and unlimited curiosity, Alarm Will Sound takes on music from a wide variety of styles. “Stylistically omnivorous and physically versatile” (The Log Journal), their repertoire comes from around the world, and ranges from the arch-modernist to the pop-influenced. Since its inception, Alarm Will Sound has been associated with composers at the forefront of contemporary music. The group itself includes many composer-performers, which allows for an unusual degree of insight into the creation and performance of new work.

Alarm Will Sound is the resident ensemble at the Mizzou International Composers Festival. Held each July at the University of Missouri in Columbia, the festival features eight world premieres by early-career composers. In 2013-14, Alarm Will Sound served as artists-in-residence at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Alarm Will Sound may be heard on fifteen recordings, including including For George Lewis | Autoshchediasms, their most recent release featuring music of Tyshawn Sorey, and the premiere recording of Steve Reich’s Radio Rewrite. Acoustica, their genre-bending, critically-acclaimed album, features live-performance arrangements of music by electronica guru Aphex Twin.

For more information and to join the mailing list, visit Alarm Will Sound’s website at

Health and Safety Requirements – 560 Music Center

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•    Prior to coming to campus, all guests are required to complete the visitor self-screening (
•    Guests ages 12 and older are required to show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. All guests must also show a photo ID for entry.
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