Friday, August 16, 2013

 

What's up at the opera, Doc? (unforgettable Warner Bros. cartoon starring Bugs Bunny) Part One

So, when I began my unintended but overlong hiatus from blogging in the spring, Fritz and I were in the final stages of a first draft full libretto for the new opera, Anne Hutchinson.  The premiere is set now for the weekend of January 25 & 26 and the company, Intermezzo: The New England Chamber Opera Series, decided to workshop the opera in the summer and fall to get some audience feedback and let all involved hear some of the music before having to go into rehearsal.

The opera takes place during Anne's two day trial in November of 1638 on overt charges of heresy and of holding weekly meetings in her home to subvert the power and reputation of the Massachusetts Bay Colony's ministers by discussing the previous Sunday's sermon and then giving her own take on various points on which she disagreed.  There was also a not so "sub" subtext which was that she refused to be the typical totally domestic, ideally compliant and subservient Puritan wife and mother.

Mother she was (15 pregnancies with an astonishing number of children surviving to adulthood for the era) but "subservient" was not in her vocabulary, given the education her minister father had given her which is estimated to have been virtually the equivalent of the one Queen Elizabeth I was given.  She and her husband Will had also worked out an equal partnership agreement for their marriage, which exposed him to some ridicule in the colony, and her to accusations of dominating him and leading him around by the nose.  At the trial, her forwardness was repeatedly thrown in her face as she repeatedly argued the Judge, Governor Winthrop, and the ministers to silence because she was smarter than the lot of them.

Now, trials can be dramatic dynamite on stage or in the movies, but they can also be too much of a one-note, fairly grim situation -- and Anne's was a very serious trial indeed.  We faced a couple of potentially major decisions: a)  do we base the libretto solely on the trial transcript, which has survived and is fascinating reading; b) do we use the language of the time, as fully revealed in the transcript in archaic terms and in torturous Jacobean syntax, as is; c) do we limit ourselves only to the trial, leaving the audience wondering how Anne got into the situation in which she, and we, find her as she answers Governor Winthrop's summons to the Court with a firm and defiant "Anne Hutchinson is present!"

To be continued.



Comments:
I look forward to reading more
 
I recently read some history on her - what a kick-but woman!
 
Oh, no,don't we need the backstory to know how she got to this? We 'll talk about it next month, and maybe something I can do to help in order to go to some rehearsals during staging particularly.
 
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