Bonfire of the Vanities: The Opera

With a twist of rock and piercing wit, opera demolishes Wall Street in this groundbreaking adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s classic “The Bonfire of the Vanities”.

Trader Sherman McCoy invents a bond so hot it propels him to the top of the financial world. But just as he scores the highest bonus and the sexiest mistress, he gets sucked into a scandal that brings all of New York City crashing down upon him.

That scandal –  centering on a  a hit-and-run incident involving a young black man in the South Bronx -- draws in a washed-out alcoholic journalist, a feisty African-American female attorney, and a Harlem minister-powerbroker who all see opportunity in the tragic accident and who take the story of Bonfire to even darker levels as McCoy’s marriage and career disintegrate. 

A satire for our post-financial crisis world, this raucous tale mercilessly lampoons the wolves of Wall Street, the real housewives of Park Avenue, and anyone else who crosses its path.


Stefania de Kenessey: Composer

Stefania de Kenessey is a leading figure in contemporary classical music: “Shades of Light, Shades of Dark”, a CD of her compositions, received rave reviews as “fully worthy to share a program or disc with the masterpieces by Mozart or Brahms” (Fanfare).

Honored repeatedly with awards from ASCAP, de Kenessey’s music is performed nationally at venues such as Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, as well as throughout the world. Her output ranges from choral, vocal and operatic work to chamber and orchestral pieces, as well as scores for documentary films, theater and dance companies.

Her extraordinary adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s novel “The Bonfire of the Vanities” represents a landmark in her career.  While reading the book some years ago, she was immediately drawn to its possibilities as an opera.  “A bitingly funny, sprawling kaleidoscope of New York in all its glory and all its excesses… Is there anything more inherently operatic than that?” de Kenessey asks. “This brilliant, tour-de-force account of one man’s journey through that wild and corrupt labyrinth of the contemporary world cries out for musical realization.  It has everything – pathos, humor, sex, loneliness, belligerence – that an opera composer could possibly want”, she says.  “I have always wanted to write an updated, savvy, hip version of Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro”, my desert-island opera….Here it is!”

De Kenessey has served as the Dean of Eugene Lang College, the undergraduate division of The New School, as well as the Chair of the MA in Liberal Studies at the graduate level; she is currently the Director of its Civic Arts and Humanities Program.

Her music can be heard on Center Stage Records as well as on the North/South, TCC, ERM, Opus One, Leonarda and Tugboat Music labels.  Innova Records has just issued pianist Mary Kathleen Ernst’s solo recording of “Spontaneous D-Combustion” on her acclaimed CD “Keeping Time”; in January 2015, North/South Records will release the first disc devoted exclusively to de Kenessey’s vocal music, “Gotham Siren”, sung by soprano Adina Aaron, mezzo Adriana Zabala and baritone Christopheren Nomura.

De Kenessey currently serves on the board of the Martina Arroyo Foundation and the International Alliance for Women in Music.

She received her BA in music summa cum laude from Yale and her Ph.D. in composition from Princeton University, where she studied with Milton Babbitt.


““Stefania de Kenessey’s music is fully worthy to share a program or disc with the masterpieces by Mozart or Brahms.”

— Fanfare


Michael Bergmann: Librettist


Michael Bergmann is a writer and director whose films have won prizes in France, Canada and England as well as in his native United States.

Past films include Milk & Money called “a treat to see” by the NewYork Times, Trifling with Fate of which Variety said, “unafraid to be both smart and silly” and Tied to a Chair: “its very existence is wondrous” —The New Yorker.

As preparations get underway for the premiere of Bonfire, Bergmann and Stefania de Kenessey are already at work on another opera.