One of the most exciting events we can look forward to in 2011 is the Sarasota Opera’s production of “The Crucible.” This exceptionally romantic, dramatic opera is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and it’s wonderful to know that our own opera company has decided to venture into the repertoire of American classics.
Have no fear that this 20th-century opera is inaccessible and foreign to our “classical music” proclivities. Far from it, Robert Ward’s music is, when called for by the story, beautiful, romantic, energetic, hummable, memorable and riveting. In fact, Arthur Miller, the author of the original drama, said that he liked Ward’s opera better than he liked his own play.
To fend off any (unfounded) fears of something new, Sarasota Opera is taking steps to make this opera even more approachable — if that’s possible. It is partnering with the Sarasota Film Society for showings of the 1996 film of “The Crucible,” which is somewhat different from the original Miller play but still gets the story across with excellent acting by Daniel Day-Lewis, Winona Ryder and Paul Scofield.
They’re also partnering with the Asolo Conservatory Jan. 24 for a “Spoken and Sung” program of highlights that will show you how Ward took Miller’s words and set them to music.
And, because SILL is bringing the 94 year-old composer to Sarasota for an appearance at Holley Hall for Music Monday’s March 7 program, the Sarasota Opera will have Ward not only attend the March 5 opening performance at the Opera House, but earlier in the day, it will present him in conversation with Artistic Director Victor DeRenzi.
If there’s any one opera from the 20th century I’d earmark as a classic featuring the essence of opera — a gripping story with music that actually elevates the original play — it would be “The Crucible.” If you are moved by Verdi and Puccini operas, you will find that Ward has brought their sensibilities to us in the 21st century.