"Like the best of today's composers, from the late Lou Harrison to Osvaldo Golijov, Cuomo has developed a lingua franca that is international enough to allow the speakers of different musical languages to communicate... The music occupies a space that is not bound by geography or chronology." -- John Schaefer, WNYC
Cuomo's music has tensile strength, a distinctively American voice -- one hears strains of Copland and Adams, Bernstein and jazz -- and a fresh orchestral palette. (His writing for percussion is strikingly imaginative.) Often working inconspicuously, even subliminally, he is a master of the fleeting impression. His timing, comic and otherwise, is exemplary; his characteristic melismas are acutely expressive.—Larry Fuchsberg, Opera News
Of this there is no doubt: The opera, with a libretto by Shanley and music by Douglas J. Cuomo, makes for a gripping 2 1/2 hours of theater. The composer, who has written one previous opera called "Arjuna's Dilemma" and is perhaps best known for the theme music to TV's "Sex and the City," is clearly talented. He has an ear for subtle dissonance, and his inventive orchestrations are enhanced by judicious use of saxophone, piano and celeste.—Mike Silverman, Associated Press via Washington Post
Douglas Cuomo's music serves to expand the emotional palette of Shanley’s words, layering levels of meaning onto exchanges and adding extra shadings to an already complex tale. The operatic adaptation of Doubt received its world premiere in a Minnesota Opera production at St. Paul's Ordway Center on Saturday night, Jan. 26, and it's a production worth experiencing. It's impressively sung and staged, its story's ambiguity enhanced by Cuomo's conlicted music.—Rob Hubbard, Twin Cities Pioneer Press
Mr. Cuomo's orchestral writing... is fluent and attractive in a studiedly accessible sort of way. Particularly memorable are incursions of Bernsteinian dance and Glassian Minimalism.—James R. Oestreich, The New York Times
Cuomo is an essentially American composer. There are jazz rhythms, there's a saxophone, the strings are lush and gorgeous, but there's also an edge. One thing that surprised me was how much the orchestration brought it to life as a film noir, a Hitchcock mystery.—Director Kevin Newbury
BLACK DIAMOND EXPRESS TRAIN TO HELL
The New Criterion "Black Diamond Express Train to Hell is jolting, haunting, varied, infectious. Frankly, it is ingenious."
—Jay Nordlinger, ConcertoNet.com
"The best I leave for last, Cuomo's Black Diamond Express Train to Hell. The effect, in one word, was ecstatic. Eighteen minutes of velocity and ecstasy, a music which plunged and shouted, which filled Zankel Hall with lauds, antiphonies and esonating allelujahs! Mr. Cuomo's work was mesmerizing . . . fiercely American in the American sense of Whitman, Hart Crane and Ives.
—Harry Rolnick The New Yorker, Dec. 6, 2010
The New York Times
"Arjuna's Dilemma [is] an opera with an appealing and unabashedly eclectic score, based on the Bhagavad-Gita and presented at the Harvey Theater of the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Wednesday night. The production, directed by Robin Guarino, was the first full staging of this unconventional 70-minute work, which was developed over nearly eight years."
"Mr. Cuomo has written music for classical ensembles, theater, film and television (notably the effervescent, salsa-tinged theme song to Sex and the City. In composing Arjuna's Dilemma he immersed himself in North Indian music. The score boldly blends those Indian sources with diverse contemporary music idioms and hints of jazz..."
"Arjuna's vocal lines, a stylistic blend of Indian chant and Western lyricism, are enriched by a chorus of five women, singing in English. There are touches of Philip Glass in the choral writing, especially when the women latch onto a phrase and repeat words obsessively. I liked the score best when Mr. Cuomo pushed the complexity to extremes, piling up Arjuna's solos, choral counterpoint and instrumental textures to create haunting, astringent, multilayered music, with cluster chords in the electric keyboard and spiraling flights in the strings and winds..."
"The voice of Krishna is provided by the Afghan-born singer and musician Humayun Khan, who sits atop a platform playing the harmonium and other instruments and sings melismatic, earthy vocal lines in the Indian classical music tradition, including stretches of improvisation."
"Also crucial to the score's visceral allure is Badal Roy, who plays the tablas, Indian hand drums. In crucial episodes of the work he takes off on solo improvised flights, playing streams of percolating cyclic rhythms so eerily pitched that they sound almost like vocal lines."
"Mr. Cuomo's designation of Arjuna's Dilemma as a contemporary chamber opera is as apt as any. Still, it is doubtful that the audience that gave an ardent ovation on Wednesday cared much about categories."—Anthony Tommasini
The Washington Post
"In this opera, [Cuomo] blends Indian classical singing, jazz improv, the busy minimalist-style patterns that appear to have entered the bloodstream of so many composers and the jewel-like tones of a fourpart women's chorus, all worked into a seamless whole, like a golden Indian brocade..."
"It struck me that Arjuna's Dilemma has something a lot of new operas don't: appeal. Opera is an art form that was for many years the ne plus ultra of popular entertainment. That aspect of it is all to easy to lose sight of, as many current pieces show. Opera, to work, has to have a certain understanding of what drama is, and how it functions. But it also has to have an audience, and Arjuna's Dilemma...has a pretty good chance of attracting one."—Anne Midgette
Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Cuomo [is] a composer of serious intentions, as his haunting chamber opera Arjuna's Dilemma makes clear. The work's roots lie in Bhagavad Gita, the Sanskrit text that explores a discussion between the divine Krishna and worldly Arjuna, who searches his soul to come to terms with obligations as a warrior."
"Cuomo's background in jazz and ethnomusicology appear to have given him the ideal grounding to create such an opera. His music embraces both Western and Indian classical music traditions, with voices used in notated chants and improvised episodes."
"The score is a mesmerizing blend of vocal and instrumental possibilities. Arjuna is assigned to a tenor who must negotiate high-lying lines, tender gestures and dramatic points, all the while singing in Sanskrit. The role of Krishna is divided between an Indian vocalist and a chorus - on this recording [members of] the remarkable female ensemble Anonymous 4 - that sings in English."
"However Arjuna's Dilemma unfolds in the theater, it is a gripping experience on compact disc. The excellent performers include tenor Tony Boutté as Arjuna, Amit Chatterjee as Krishna and an instrumental ensemble that features the adventurous string quartet known as Ethel."—Donald Rosenberg
"Arjuna's Dilemma has been created by a composer who trusts sound, a few finevoices and a few fine virtuoso instrumentalists, to reveal his message in the same way that the great opera composers trust the sounds will bring to us. The singers' art (and the instrumentalists' art) is the central focus of the work. The message is not made explicit and ordinary...its meaning comes to us subtly, open to our different levels of understanding, on the beauty of the human voice, of melody working sinuously to take us into trance states while we meditate, line by line, on the brief story being told us. Tony Boutté impersonates Arjuna, dancer John Kelly (who has also choreographed the piece) plays – but Humayun Khan sings – Krishna, advising, consoling, manipulating, guiding him. Their words are taken up, repeated, sung in canon, tossed about, harmonized by a chorus of ﬁve women, and the beauty of the sounds they make expresses a message never made explicit. We draw our own moral. The instrumentalists, too, are virtuosos, and take part in the dialogue. No message goes on too long before it evolves into a new manner of presentation, giving us in this brief space some hint of the breadth of the message, the universality of it."
"The piece concludes without a gimmick: they have said what they wanted to say, we have taken in what our individual senses and understanding have prepared us to take. A tale has been told. We have not been told what to feel. We feel for ourselves. Arjuna's Dilemma is a modern opera, a tale told through singing."—John Yohalem
ONLY BREATH, from Maya Beiser's Provenance
"Seeking to evoke the sound of wind passing through the prevalent minarets in Andalusia, Cuomo has crafted a work that plays with mobile filigrees and reverberant echoes. It makes good use of looping technology too; rather than using it to fashion a pad of repeated utterances, the loops instead allow for slow-building counterpoint of phantom cello Doppelgängers. The final result is a series of dovetailing, angst-filled melodic lines amid ghostly, floating verticals. I've heard many vocal settings of Rumi that have had much less to say than this more abstracted, yet tremendously thoughtful, instrumental meditation on his work."—Christian Carey
KYRIE from On Earth, Peace: a Chanticleer Mass
All Music Guide
"Cuomo's Kyrie is one of the most musically striking of the newly commissioned movements. His eclectic use of speech juxtaposed with tightly chromatic clusters is hugely effective musically, as well as awe-inspiring for the security with which Chanticleer performs it." —Stephen Eddins
San Francisco Examiner
"Chief among the mass's attractions is the "Kyrie" of Tucson-born Douglas J. Cuomo. Bay Area-raised, the New Yorker's equal facility with the sacred and the profane (his oeuvre extends from a sacred cantata on the Bhagavad Gita to the theme for the TV series "Sex and the City") has created an irresistible work that moves from heavenly simplicity to contrapuntal complexity." —Jason Victor Serinus
San Francisco Classical Voice
"American composer Douglas Cuomo's Kyrie began the series of commissioned works auspiciously. The work's architectonic structure is a palindrome. Cuomo builds outward through countertenor cluster chords, unison and octave chanting over Arvo Pärt-esque oohs and hums, a well-sung tenor solo, and a more dissonant Christe section. Everything then goes backward. Cuomo's 36-fold Kyrie managed not to seem overly long" —Thomas Busse
San Jose Mercury News
"In the Kyrie it was Eric Allatore whose rich bass practically set the basillic vibrating. Afine spun backdrop that evoked the slow melting of a brilliant pane of glass, the effect was rather awesome. Funny, in that Douglas J. Cuomo, the Kyrie's New York composer, is widely known for writing the theme for "Sex & The City"
The New York Times
"Not the least of its strengths is a musical score by Douglas J. Cuomo that blends electronically treated classical fragments and vintage kitsch into an eerie sound track that suggests the breaking down and reconstitution of matter into something ominous and uncontrollable." —Stephen Holden
"A supple score/sound design from Douglas J. Cuomo is whimsical and witty for the satiric sections – loved that mambo beat for the 50's stuff -- but easily turns stark and dramatic to underline the serious times. A long aria of lament about Hiroshima is sweet, scary, and lingers on in one's memory, especially as passionately sung by Mia Kim" —Michael Sommers
New York Newsday
"Set in the middle of this cock-eyed kaleidoscope is a haunting elegy to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The operatic aria is gloriously delivered by Mia Kim, alone and nearly immobile center-stage, clad in red dress and Japanese robe. The song — part of Douglas J. Cuomo's excellent score and sound design — provides an arresting contrast, the critical mass so important to popping nuclear reaction." —Aileen Jacobson
Other features and interviewsTurning The City’s Sights Into Sounds
Sex and Sermons with Douglas Cuomo
Sibelius Takes Composer Douglas J. Cuomo beyond Stage, Screen and TV
Are there things you can write in a film score that you can’t write for the concert hall?
Doug Cuomo -- Writing the theme of "Sex and the City"
Captured at the BMI film TV Awards 2003
Schott Signs Douglas J. Cuomo
Douglas J. Cuomo Signs with Schott Music