On October 7, 8, and 9, 1976, Sir Georg Solti led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the world premiere performances of David Del Tredici’s Final Alice. Twenty-seven-year-old Barbara Hendricks was the soprano soloist.
The work was performed again on October 26 and 27, 1979, and recorded by London Records with sessions on October 27 and January 29 and 30, 1980. The recording was produced by James Mallinson; James Lock, John Dunkerley, and Michael Mailes were the recording engineers. It recently was released on CD for the first time.
The composer supplied comments for the recording’s liner notes: “Final Alice, commissioned for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra by the National Endowment for the Arts in celebration of the U.S. Bicentennial . . . is dedicated to Sir Georg Solti. Scored for huge forces—an amplified soprano/narrator, a solo concertante group of folk instruments (mandolin, banjo, accordion, two soprano saxophones) and a very large orchestra—Final Alice unfolds a series of elaborate arias interspersed and separated by dramatic episodes from the last two chapters of [Lewis Carroll‘s] Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: the Trial in Wonderland (which gradually turns to pandemonium) and Alice’s subsequent awakening and return to ‘dull reality.’ To these I have added an Apotheosis. The work teeters between the worlds of opera and symphonic music, and were I to invent a category I would call Final Alice an ‘Opera, written in concert form.’
“Final Alice tells two stories at once; primarily, it is the tale of Wonderland itself, with all its bizarre and unpredictable happenings painted as vividly as possible. But between the lines, as it were, is the implied love of Lewis Carroll for Alice Liddell, as suggested by ‘Alice Gray’ and the Acrostic Song. By introducing these additional poems into the Trial as depositions of evidence, given by the White Rabbit (acting as a kind of chief prosecutor), I wished to bring that love story closer to the surface—not so close as to disturb the amusing, eccentric, sometimes terrifying story, but close enough to leave a recognition. I wished, that is, to add what one might call the human dimension of the man, seen only intermittently to be sure, but, hopefully, always affectingly—perhaps lingering in the memory after the dream of Wonderland itself has faded.”