The Scarecrow - A chamber opera in two acts (EP68299)

The Scarecrow - A chamber opera in two acts
Model# EP68299

Price: $132.00

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Composer: Joseph Turrin

The Scarecrow

A chamber opera in two acts

Vocal Score
Item Number: EP68299
Format: Sheet Music
Number of Pages: 152
ISMN: 9790300759913
Format: 190 x 272

Notes by the composer:

THE SCARECROW was originally composed in 1976 and made possible through a Bicentennial Grant from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. I found reference to the short story “Feathertop” by Nathaniel Hawthorne in the short essays of Charles Ives. After reading the story, I decided that the material would make a wonderful chamber opera. I approached Bernard Stambler with the project, and discovered that he was familiar with the story and also felt it was good opera material. After completing the vocal score, and the untimely passing of Bernard Stambler in 1995, the work was placed on a shelf as other projects took precedent.

Never orchestrated, the opera stayed in this incomplete state for many years. In 2004 I decided to look through the score once again and try to at least get it into a respectable state so that I might be able to send it to opera companies. I decided to revise the work, which consisted of expanding various musical sections. Along with developing a more detailed musical treatment of Feathertops transformation from a scarecrow to a human, I added an optional narration that would introduce each of the two acts. My reason for doing so, was that I wanted the audience to get some of the original bite that Hawthorne developed in his story
about man’s unworthy and despicable character. I also wanted the narration, specifically in act two, to explain the details that transpired between acts. For instance: Hawthorne himself gives no detail as to the relationship between Goodkin and Rigby, although we know there to be some sinister connection. The narration gives emphasis to this and explains how Feathertop gains entry into Goodkin’s house. I also decided to underscore the narration with short musical preludes, which would set the mood for each act. I also composed an aria for Polly in Act II for which I wrote the text, in addition to an overture and a short instrumental interlude between acts. The part of Dickon, Rigby’s imaginary companion, is to be played as a pantomime throughout at the discretion of the stage director. Although Stambler and I conceived Dickon to be invisible I believe his presence as seen by only Feathertop, Rigby and the audience add a good dramatic touch. With the directors creative skill Dickon can weave in and out of the action lending help to Rigby and supplying sustenance for Feathertop. In the University of Texas performance Dickon was also the narrator. There are many possibilities if so desired. The part may also be viewed as optional with only vocal references to the character.

As I began thinking about instrumentation, I thought of the many possibilities and combinations that were viable. I was at the Eastman School of Music in the spring of 2004 for a performance of my “Hemispheres” by the Eastman Wind Ensemble. Mark Scatterday, the director of the Eastman Wind Ensemble, suggested I think of winds, harp, and piano as a possible instrumentation. He also suggested I put together a consortium of colleges and universities to commission the scoring of the opera. After looking at the score I decided in a complement of 13 winds along with harp, piano, 2 celli, bass, and 2 percussion. As an option, cello 1 and 2 may be doubled for a total of four players.

The work is about 70 minutes in length and should be performed without intermission. I leave staging and sets up to the creative imagination of the director. Since there is so very little time between acts, the set design might be constructed as to make this transition as quick as possible.

As to the technical consideration: The creation and destruction of Feathertop present some thought and imagination. Transforming Rigby’s inanimate scarecrow relies on the use of smoke that emits from the scarecrows pipe, obscures the figure and is then quickly replaced by the living Feathertop. His destruction is in reverse. Consideration to lighting can play an important part in these illusions. As for the music, the score is fairly straightforward and vocally contains elements of both a dissonance declamatory style along with a more lyrical style.

I’d like to express my gratitude to the following consortium of schools: University of Texas at Austin, Eastman School of Music, Hartt School of Music, University of New Mexico, University of Michigan, Yale University, Michigan State University, University of Minnesota, Baylor University, University of North Texas, University of Oklahoma, Arizona State University and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Special thanks to my friend Eric Rombach-Kendall for his help in organizing this consortium and for his encouragement, and guidance in making this project a reality.

The Scarecrow was a finalist in the National Opera Association’s chamber opera competition in 2006 and also selected as a finalist by the Academy of Arts and Letters Richard Rodgers Committee in 2007. The premiere took place on February 24, 2006 at the University of Texas at Austin. Produced by the Sarah and Ernest Butler Opera Center. Directed by Robert DeSimone and conducted by the composer. A commercial recording is available on the Longhorn Music label recorded and produced by the University of Texas at Austin.

Review: “The mood is set by a powerful overture, seamlessly flowing through its hypnotic sequences, the mystical beginning, dramatic middle and poignant end, which heighten the audience’s anticipation for masterful storytelling” (The News-Gazette, Urbana-Champaign, IL – 4/29/2007)


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