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Arts and Culture Wednesday, Jun. 2, 2010 4 years ago

Music Review: Looking ahead

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by: June LeBell Contributing Columnist

Sex, intrigue, passion, romance, executions, conspiracies and deceptions are just a few of the themes you find in Arthur Miller’s play, “The Crucible.” When Robert Ward took it on 50 years ago to make it into one of the greatest American operas, it became even more significant, bringing harsh horror, fear and cruelty on wings of song that overwhelm even the hardest of hearts.

Ward, who will turn 93 this fall, is fit, feisty and excited about being invited to visit Sarasota in March. While here, he will discuss his career during SILL’s Music Monday series at Holley Hall and, a couple of days earlier, attend the opening of his opera, “The Crucible,” at the Sarasota Opera.

“I can’t imagine a better 50th birthday present for ‘The Crucible,’” Ward wrote in a recent letter to SILL.

As exciting as Ward’s visit is to Sarasota, the prospect of Victor DeRenzi’s company offering an American Classics series is even greater, and it couldn’t have started with a better work.

“The Crucible” has music that is so sweepingly gorgeous you actually leave the opera house humming it.
From the love duet between Abigail and John, to the hymn tune in 7/8 meter, this is an opera filled with beautiful, memorable music. It’s a true masterpiece. The story, which recreates the Salem witch trials of the 1600s with such stark reality you feel you’re in the courtroom, becomes even more vivid with Ward’s music throbbing beneath the text.

It’s even reported that Miller, having heard Ward’s opera, said he liked it better than his own play.

Sarasota Opera will also be presenting some 18th- and 19th-century blockbusters, including “La Boheme,” Rossini’s intoxicating “Cinderella” and “Don Giovanni,” and the company will continue its Verdi cycle with “I Lombardi.”

With masterworks such as these at the Sarasota Opera and guests such as Ward (and Dick Hyman, Jacques d’Amboise, Robert Sherman and Martin Bookspan) at SILL, 2011 promises to be a blockbuster season in Sarasota.

— June LeBell

 

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