Dulce Horta, Director
308 West 77th Street, #2
New York, New York 10024
Phone: (646) 370-4802
Cell: (646) 639-4216


  • About Voice Afire
  • Butterfly's Trouble
  • Circus Terrifico
  • The Art of Love
  • Close Embrace
  • Viva Pablo Neruda
  • The Magical Singing Drum
  • Ray Luedeke
  • What People Say
  • Reviews
  • Press Kits

Voice Afire shows feature new and established artists in ensembles of 6-8 performers. Staging is adaptable to the venue. In a chamber music venue we dispense with the need for special lighting or scenery. In a theatre venue, we can do a fully staged production.

Voice Afire pocket operas include Butterfly’s Trouble, our English language re-invention of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly using rayluedekepictwo singers, one actor, and four instrumentalists; Viva Pablo Neruda, an original pocket opera using as its text the sensual poetry of Pablo Neruda; Circus Terrifico, a family show done in collaboration with Motus O Dance Theatre that can be done with recorded music or with live symphony orchestra; and The Magical Singing Drum, a collaboration between composer Ray Luedeke and African master drummer Joseph Ashong; Close Embrace, a multi-media tango cabaret; and The Art of Love / Into the Labyrinth for 2 pianos, actor, and visuals.

YouTube Video

Puccini’s masterpiece, Madama Butterfly, is transformed from grand opera to intimate music-theatre.

This English language production uses just two singers, an actor, and four instrumentalists (clarinet, violin, cello and synthesizer) to butterflystunning effect. With minimal changes to Puccini’s original text and music (some of Puccini’s music has been exchanged for the spoken word), the poignant play that inspired the opera emerges, as powerful as ever. Madame Butterfly, by the great American playwright David Belasco, was a huge hit in 1900 when Puccini saw it in London. This story of a clash of cultures, of the doomed love affair between an American naval officer and his Japanese bride, moved audiences to tears and is as relevant now as it was then.

Butterfly’s Trouble requires no scenery or special lighting. Or, it may be performed in a fully equipped theater. The four instrumentalists, performing an original orchestration by Ray Luedeke, sit as a group and have some some spoken text, while the two singers and the actor move around them. The production can be adapted to any space suitable for small ensembles.

In this adaptation of Puccini’s opera, Madama Butterfly’s son has returned as an adult to Japan. The time is 1945. As he stands on a hill overlooking the atomic bomb devastated city of Nagasaki, a suicidal Trouble sees visions. He is drawn in, reliving his mother’s tragic history and becoming various characters in her story.

Through the use of this theatrical device, Butterfly’s Trouble becomes original music-theatre, not opera in concert. A complete performance, with intermission, runs just over two hours.
YouTube videos for Circus Terrifico
Swan Lake
Sleeping Beauty
Selections from Act I

Circus Terrifico
is an hour long show featuring four mad-cap mimes and the music of Tchaikovsky. MOTUS O Dance Theatre has toured Canada with a version of the show that includes recorded music. In April 2012 Motus O premiered the show on a live concert with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.

The Story
We first meet our three circus performers boarding the train to their next show. A case of vanishing tickets, however, thwarts their plans and strands them on the platform. It takes every trick in the book (and their suitcases!) to create an impromptu show to raise money for new tickets. But it works! And as the Train Conductor watches the antics of these 3 enigmatic clowns, he's drawn into their mayhem and magic, finally agreeing to be their new Ring Master!

With the Train Conductor's help, our performers arrive at the theatre just in time to present their magnificent CIRCUS TERRIFICO ~ hilariously unkempt 10 minute micro-version interpretations of each of their favourite ballets, Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, and The Nutcracker!

Performed with the signature MOTUS O physicality and humour, see for yourself how a little magic, some juggling, tight-rope walking and fortune-telling can fulfill every child's fantasy to 'run off and join the circus!'

Circus Terrifico is a whimsical and poignant comedy featuring Tchaikovsky's soaring scores and original music by Canadian composer Ray Luedeke. It makes audiences of all ages laugh out loud and leave with a (big, clownish) smile!

About the Music
Circus Music, the music for the first act was composed by Ray Luedeke, a contemporary Canadian Composer. In the second act of the show the music of Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker was composed by Tchaikovsky. Ray Luedeke has re-orchestrated the Tschaikovsky excerpts for:

2 fl. (2nd +picc.)/2 ob. (2nd + E.H.)/2 cl. (2nd+ bs. cl.)/2 bsn
4 hn/2 tpt/3 tbn/tba
timp/ 2 perc. (bs. dr, cym., tgl., tamb., tam tam, glock.)/ harp
Circus Music is for the same orchestration

art of love logo
YouTube video playlist

The Art of Love / Into the Labyrinth
is a multi-media event featuring Ray Luedeke’s original, virtuosic score for two pianos; Ronald Hurwitz’s riveting visuals, shot in Paris; and a text adapted from an ancient manual banned for two thousand years, Ovid’s The Art of Love.

Two pianists and an actor interact with each other and with visuals projected onto transparent screens positioned in front of the back-lit performers. This show is by turn wildly funny and then dead serious, but always riveting and entertaining. Don’t be surprised to hear music that ranges from Rumba to Tango to Avant Garde – all in the name of Love. Or is it Lust?

The first half of the show features the brilliant Bergmann Piano Duo.

Close Embrace logo
YouTube video playlist

Voice Afire's Tango Cabaret
is a unique blend of the traditional and the non-traditional.

While a master of ceremonies/vocalist leads us through a narrative exploring the “heart and soul” and the history of the art-form that is tango, the dance team El Abrazo performs to the music of our four piece “tango nuevo” band. Our band performs adaptations made from original recordings by the Buenos Aires tango orchestras of 1930-1950, the Golden Age of tango, as our dancers perform in the “close embrace” style of tango, the style danced in the salons of present day Buenos Aires.

The show also features a multi-media tango ballet, Tango Dreams, created by visual artist Jarek Obsadny and composer Raymond Luedeke. Images of tango dancers seem to float through the air, projected onto transparent screens surrounding the musicians. Our multi-media tango cabaret is designed to delight both the tango aficionado and the tango novice. This is a show that will make everyone in the audience want to learn tango, and, since it ends with a tango lesson and a milonga, anyone willing and able can give it a try, or just watch and enjoy.

YouTube playlist

It is September 11, 1973. Pablo Neruda, the great Chilean poet and political activist, lies dying. Matilde Urrutia, the great love of his life Pablo and Matildaand soon-to-be widow, faces a moral and personal crisis. Will she take up her husband’s “flag”? Will she stand up to the murderous military dictatorship that has inundated Chile? Or will she retreat behind the walls of her beloved garden. In Chile, in 1973, questions of social responsibility are a matter of life or death.
In Viva Pablo Neruda (I Confess, I Have Lived) two actors play Pablo and Matilde, and two singers also play Pablo and Matilde, but in the manner of alter egos or of a Greek chorus. The singers, accompanied by 4 on-stage musicians, perform settings of Neruda’s poetry, which he wrote daily and was mostly a concealed diary. The actors have dialogue which surrounds and entwines the poetry, illuminating and explaining it.

The music is by Ray Luedeke and the text is by Pablo Neruda, with additional dialogue by Ray Luedeke, dialogue based on the life of Pablo Neruda as revealed in his autobiography Confieso que he vivido (I Confess, I Have Lived) and in the autobiography of Matilde Urrutia, Mi vida junto a Pablo Neruda (My Life with Pablo Neruda).

YouTube video

Using a traditional story from East/Central Africa, Raymond Luedeke, Toronto composer, and Joseph Ashong, master drummer magial singing drum imagefrom Ghana, have woven together elements of traditional African music and dance with more contemporarysounds to create a unique blend that will delight audiences of all ages.

Ntobuasie, a young girl wanting her freedom from grown-up rules, becomes trapped in a magic drum controlled by an Ogre, Foowala. When Foowala plays his drum, Ntobuasie must sing; and when Ntobuasie sings, she so delights the villagers that they bring the starving Foowala "chicken and rice, potatoes, tomatoes with butter and cream." But Menpaba and Enidaso, Ntobuasie's rather straight laced parents, are not willing to easily lose their beloved daughter. Leaving all they have behind them, they set off in search of the itinerant Ogre and his mysterious drum. Eventually all is resolved, there is a happy conclusion, and some valuable lessons are learned by Ntobuasie, by her parents and by a contrite Ogre.

The Magical Singing Drum is a very compact production, using only four characters, who all sing and dance, an oboe and English Horn player, and a synthesizer player. Joseph Ashong, co-composer, is himself the Ogre and provides traditional African drumming as well as African songs and dances. Built into the synthesizer score are a wealth of colourful sounds as well as an entire African drum

Born in New York City, composer Ray Luedeke attended the Eastman School of Music, the Vienna Academy of Music, Northwestern University, and Dartmouth College, where he studied raysmilepicwith George Crumb. His output is extensive and varied. It runs the gamut from entertaining theater pieces for children, through a long list of sophisticated solo and chamber music to colorful, carefully crafted pieces for orchestra.

Recordings of his music include Shadow Music with the Louisville Orchestra, The Transparency of Time with pianist Andre LaPlante and the Winnipeg Symphony, The Moon in the Labyrinth and The Lyre of Orpheus with harpist Judy Loman and the Orford String Quartet, Brass Quintet with the New Mexico Brass Quintet, Circus Music with the Hannaford Street Silver Band, and Ah, Matsushima! with violin/marimba duo Jacques and Michael Israelievitch.  Quartetto Gelato has recorded Ray’s brilliant arrangement of Maurice Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin and has performed it worldwide.

The striking originality and meticulous craftsmanship of his music have been recognized by numerous grants and awards, among them prizes from the Manhattan Choral Ensemble, from the Percussive Arts Society, from the International Horn Society, and from Northwestern University. His contest winning orchestral Fanfare, opened Toronto’s Thomson Hall and his overture The North Wind’s Gift was performed throughout Europe in the 1991 tour of the Toronto Symphony. Six Canadian orchestras jointly commissioned Tales of the Netsilik for narrator and orchestra.

Ray Luedeke is an experienced librettist. He collaborated with playwright Sean Dixon for his first opera, Wild Flowers, produced at The Guelph Spring Festival. Subsequently, he worked with acclaimed director/dramaturge Tom Diamond to write the libretto for his second opera, The Magical Singing Drum, and the script for The Art of Love/Into the Labyrinth for two pianos, visuals and actor. The distinguished Canadian playwright Guillermo Verdecchia served as dramaturge for Ray’s script for his third opera, Viva Pablo Neruda (I Confess, I Have Lived).

In the summer of 2007, Ray started a music theater company, Voice Afire Pocket Opera and Cabaret, and produced three shows, each reflecting a particular passion of the composer/arranger. Viva Pablo Neruda (I Confess, I Have Lived) is based on the poetry of Pablo Neruda. Butterfly’s Trouble is an re-invention of Puccini’s great masterpiece. Close Embrace relives the Golden Age of Argentine Tango and includes 8 performers: a Master of Ceremonies, 2 dancers, 4 musicians, and a singer.

From 1981-2010 Ray served as Associate Principal Clarinet of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. In the summer of 2010 Ray moved back to New York City.

On May 18, 2013 at the Flamboyán Theater, a multi-cultural Spanish center in lower Manhattan, Voice Afire presented Viva Pablo Neruda! The show featured sections from My Life with Pablo Neruda, Ray Luedeke’s Pocket Opera-Cabaret. The show received rave reviews, including this one from Manhattan with a Twist:
“New York City is full of culture and excitement. Over the weekend, My Life with Pablo Neruda, a Pocket Opera-Cabaret that is compelling, intense, and seductive, was celebrated by an evening of Chilean wine and performances….Based on the poetry of Pablo Neruda and Matilda’s memories, this pocket opera can be seen as portraying one of the greatest love stories of the past century. The poetry is gripping, exciting, passionate, and yet full of such emotion that it takes the audience inside their world and the atmosphere surrounding them at the time the poems were written.”

Voice Afire is now working with Dan Swern at CoLAB Arts www.colab-arts.org
to produce an extended run of the show, first in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and then in New York City.

Video from Viva Pablo Neruda is on Youtube:

More Testimonials for Voice Afire

“How does one transform a grand opera so that it can be performed in an intimate setting by a small group of performers and yet not lose its dramatic impact?  Raymond Luedeke’s Voice Afire Production of Madama Butterfly appears to be the answer to that question.   The tale is told by Butterfly’s grown son, reflecting on the events that led to his birth.  By use of narration and excerpts from the opera skillfully arranged for a chamber ensemble, Mr. Luedeke has managed to create a compelling and captivating work.  Bravo!”

Robert Sutherland
Chief Librarian
The Metropolitan Opera

“As a publisher, I have travelled the world, but as a tango dancer I keep my eyes open for tango shows wherever I happen to be. I have been entranced by shows in such unlikely places as Edmonton, Bologna, Ellenville, New York and more traditional centres like London, Antwerp, Amsterdam and of course, Beunos Aires. But one of the most surprising was a wonderful program of dance, music, and tango history put on by Toronto musician Raymond Luedeke as part of the Shaw Festival Summer program at Niagara-on-the-Lake. His musicians and dancers were excellent and his commentary tied it all together nicely in a neat, historical package. If it comes to your town, it is a show not to be missed!”

Mary Macchiusi
President, Pembroke Publishers

“To most people tango is a distinctive dance accompanied by distinctive music.  There is no dance like it; no music like it. So where did it come from?  Many places, but it is most associated with Argentina. Raymond Luedeke, a noted musician with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, is a conductor, arranger, musicologist, historian, and....a tango dancer. Putting all these skills together and with the help of some of his talented colleagues, he presented a superb evening of music and dance as part of the Shaw Festival. The program incorporated all the evolutionary stages of tango - its rich history, accompanied by music and dance of the time. While it was educational, it was also an evening of exceptional dance and music which left the sold out audience begging for more.”

Harry Black
Author, Pembroke Publishers

“As Argentine Tango dancers ourselves, we enjoyed Ray's Voice Afire Productions immensely, particularly “Close Embrace”.  Ray is a very talented musician, writer, and narrator who presents a history of Tango that is fresh and surprising even to an audience familiar with it. His arrangements for string quartet were evocative and the dancers illustrated the music beautifully.  The intimacy of the production was also refreshing.  Ray can impart a lot about his topic without ever being pedantic. "Close Embrace" was a unique theatre experience.”

Colleen Clancey & Dieter Hessel
Owners, Dance Café

 “One of our most successful concerts was performed here at Music Niagara in 2008 and 2007.  Voice Afire Production’s Close Embrac” generated great community excitement, and was sold out with audiences of all ages.  The audience loved the music and dance demonstrations, and the participatory part even more.  The dance teachers were excellent and fun to watch.  And what a thrill for me to see the novice dancers delight in their capacity to tango!  Percy Webb, a Niagara-on-the-Lake resident and friend of mine who attended this performance said, “I thought I had two left feet but was dancing like a pro after 20 minutes.  Great fun!”

Virginia Mainprize
Executive Director
Music Niagara
Niagara International Chamber Music Festival

“As a seasoned opera enthusiast, I was wondering what new can be done with such a popular piece as Madama Butterfly. My skepticism was turned into euphoric enthusiasm after seeing Luedeke’s Voice Afire Production of Madama Butterfly.  Yes, a lot can be done. Without falling into populist approach, ie, “just give ‘em a tune”, Luedeke managed to create a concise little jewel that glows with beauty, intelligence and elegance.  I anticipate an announcement of more operatic productions from Luedeke and the Voice Afire team.”

Jarek Obsadny
Director &Producer of independant films












Theatre Mania review of Butterfly's Trouble

Opera lives!
by FigandFlan on Monday, Jan 9th, 2012 at 1:49 pm

True, the grand productions at the Met are thrilling, but sadly (as the NYC Opera is in today's news) opera as we used to know it is becoming extinct, so it is exciting to see the art form rising from its own ashes to live a new life in this new century. Butterfly began as a short story in the late 19th century, and Belasco wrote a one act play based on the story - but his play focused only on what is now the last act of the Puccini opera - it opens with Butterfly awaiting Pinkerton's return, and her decision to give up her son to Pinkerton and his new "real" American wife. Puccini expanded the story, drawing from other sources as well, and fleshed out the background, producing a full length story providing a basis for his lush music. Today, the music remains lush and thrilling, and while the plot still evokes tears it seems a bit shallow and faded these days. This new version by Ray Luedeke (premiered now in NY after earlier runs in Canada) breathes new life into the Puccini work as a real piece of theater, and may mark the direction for opera to take as a living art form in the coming century. The use of a chamber group to provide music and participate in the show reflects the compromises needed to produce live music and theater in the modern world. Yet we should be mindful that through much of its history opera was performed by relatively small groups and in intimate venues, so there is no radical departure here, and anything lost in the reduction of the orchestra is made up in the more intimate production, as well as the greater musical focus resulting from the chamber quartet arrangement. More on that later. As to the story, this version brings back some of the dialogue from the Belasco play. The story is framed, opening with the mature Trouble - Butterfly's son - and then tracking back to his origin, which is of course where the Puccini opera begins. From there, we are taken through the Puccini opera in a fairly straightforward fashion, until the last act, where, again, Trouble enters the story and Butterfly's conflicts are explored in a fuller manner than in Puccini, mainly through dialogue, either from the Belasco play or elsewhere. While the present version of this work is quite successful, we can hope that it will continue to be produced and edited further. It is difficult to reconcile our expectations from the Puccini opera with the final conflict in this version. Puccni is all pathos and melodrama, and we associate the music with these extreme emotions. The more thoughtful dialogue in Luedeke's work conflicts with these expectations. Wisely, this dialogue is kept fairly compact, but it is difficult to determine exactly what points are being made while we are focused on wondering when Butterfly is going to kill herself. Perhaps a bit more editing could smooth out this problem. As for the production itself, it is almost uniformly wonderful, with a few details that could be attended to in the future. The set, clearly done on a tight budget, works well and does not have the incomplete look we often see in such productions. The use of projections onto the set fills out the show effectively. The show as a whole is nearly flawlessly directed by Heidi Lauren Duke. Our only comment would be that the single actor gets a little frantic with costume changes in the opening sequence, and perhaps a streamlining of that process would make it a little less distracting. Julianne Park as Cho-Cho San is more than outstanding. Her voice is flawless and generously fills the small theater, and her acting is a perfect compromise between stage and operatic drama. John Tedeschi's Pinkerton is one of the best we have seen, and he brings real life to a character we usually see at a distance. He also hints effectively at all the reasons we should dislike Pinkerton while simultaneously maintaining a rosy demeanor. He sang beautifully, but unfortunately when we heard him his voice tightened up uncomfortably on the top notes that should soar. Hassan Nazari-Roboti, the single actor who plays Trouble and a host of other characters, deftly shifted from character to character, so we never lost track of who he was. His Sharpless was stunningly realistic and brought a great perspective to the story as a whole. The only slight drawback was the decision to have him change costumes repeatedly in the opening sequence. The chamber group, led by Jemmy Chen on keyboard, provided a nearly flawless musical grounding for the work, and also stepped in for several characters and as a sort of chorus from time to time. Edmund Bagnell on violin made us remember why that instrument is the basis for so much Western music, providing a virtuosic reading of a complex score with innumerable shades of voice and tone. Jonathen Cohen on Clarinet and Bobbie Lee Crow III on Cello ably rounded out the quartet. Finally - the music, We could not tell where Puccini left off and Luedeke stepped in, but suffice it to say that we felt nothing was lost from the original, but there also seemed to be a great deal that was added. This qualifies as an original composition, and ranks with the best of new music that is being written.

Jan Narveson at Kitchener Waterloo Society- Butterfly's Trouble (Pocket Madama Butterfly)
I Hate Opera (But I Love Madama Butterfly)
Review by Jan Narveson:

K-W Chamber Music Societis presentation of the Voice Afire Pocket Opera Production of Puccini's Madama Butterfly, with a short variety program to start off, was a resounding success in their diminutive Music Room on July 3, 2009. The hall was filled literally to capacity - the last patron was wedged into a corner - and the audience was rapt and enthusiastic. Voice Afire has managed to avail itself of outstanding performers for this venture, with Natalie Donnelly and Romulo Delgado, soprano and tenor, singing not only all of the main arias and duets of Act One, but also the Jewel Song from Faust, and Libiamo from Traviata. In this production, the well-known veteran Canadian actor Colin Fox takes over several of the subordinate roles in a speaking part, enabling the audience to understand the action to an extent not easy to replicate in a full operatic production. Fox was superb throughout, effectively adopting the persona of the Japanese marriage broker, the American ambassador Sharpless, and others as needed. In such a production, of course, the voices will be the centre
of interest, and no one had any problem with the admirable sounds of this soprano and tenor. They sang with fine tone, passion, and warmth, and had the audience eating out of their hands. Equally impressive was the superb little orchestra - piano, violin, clarinet, and cello, each in the hands of a superb musician (two from producer Raymond Luedeke's home base, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra). Delicious solos from each musician, and reliable support from pianist Chris Donnelly, kept everything moving beautifully throughout. It's a very different experience from hearing opera in a big hall, but the 85- seat Music Room offers an intimacy that no hall can match, and everyone felt it. Great show!

Voice Afire Pocket Opera and Cabaret
Chamber Music as Theater

Voice Afire productions use a combination of actors, dancers, singers, and musicians to create a unique fusion: a blend of small ensemble music with theater, dance, and visuals.Our shows feature new and established artists in ensembles of 6-8 performers. Staging is adaptable to the venue.