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Sunday, July 7, 2013

Adapting the Classic Play Our Town into an Opera

Our Town, the opera, premiered at Indiana University in 2006 with critical acclaim.  
“Ned Rorem has written an intimate chamber opera to match the play’s spareness…. Deftly matching the character of the play, Mr. Rorem's music  is accessible, singable and full of integrity” (New York Times)
Ned Rorem and J. D. McClatchy stayed as true as possible to Thornton Wilder’s master work, with two notable differences.  
  1. The opera opens with the chorus singing a hymn during a funeral.  McClatchy felt that this would bookend the story nicely, and as music is one of the mediums that unlocks our memories, it works well in the opera and “hooks” the audience immediately.  
  2. The other main difference is how Rorem and McClatchy handled the character of the Stage Manager.  Using one of opera’s innovationsthe supertitle screenthey split the Stage Manager’s lines between music and screen.  This device helps distinguish the Stage Manager even more as a separate entity from the rest of the characters. 
Vale Rideout, center, portrays the Stage Manager in Central City Opera's production.
Photo by Mark Kiryluk.

Since the opera’s premiere in 2006, it has been produced 23 times, including Central City Opera’s production in July 2013 and a scheduled production in New Hampshire in August 2013.  Our Town the opera is well on its way to becoming as successful and popular as Our Town the play.

This blog post is just a small section of the article "The Lasting Impression of Our Town" written by Education & Community Engagement Coordinator Emily Murdock for our 2013 Opera Insider festival resource guideDownload the pdf for the full article and much more on the history of the 2013 Festival productions, their composers and librettists, interviews with the artists and more.

Our Town plays at the Central City Opera House from July 6 to 28, 2013.

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