Benjamin: An Opera in Two Acts[CD]
~ William Wright
'Benjamin' (1987) is an opera in two acts. The music is by John Carbon and the libretto by Sarah White. The opera was commissioned and premiered in 1987 by Franklin & Marshall College (Lancaster, Pennsylvania) to celebrate the college's bicentennial. To celebrate Franklin's 300th anniversary in 2006, F&M revived the work in a new production, during which this recording was made. The opera explores facets of the legend called Benjamin Franklin. A printer-publisher by trade, Franklin respected the written word, used it to achieve his goals, and worked industriously toward the creation of his own persona, keeping copious notes, writing thousands of letters, and composing an autobiography. Three of our five scenes emphasize verbal signs, and show them combining, like the composer's musical phrases, to invent a character named "Benjamin". In two other sequences, the Prologue and the Paris scene, a different type of Franklin invention is highlighted, the Glass Harmonica, to suggest those playful, non-verbal, less purely rational traits that he had in abundance but did not always sufficiently cherish. A pervasive theme, involving orchestra, principals, chorus and dancers, arias and ensembles, is that of the Gulf Stream. It's color, warmth and speed embody the best intellectual, aesthetic, political and personal currents of Benjamin's life, and perhaps of our own lives as well. The Franklin texts that most influenced libretto and score were: 'The Autobiography', 'Poor Richard's Almanac', letters of Benjamin and Deborah Franklin, and the 'Bagatelles.' ====================================================== Synopsis: Prologue: About 1715. Benjamin Child plays with musical glasses while the chorus warms up for the opera. Benjamin Baritone, impatient to proceed, stops the game and makes the Child climb into a steamer Trunk and close the lid. Act One, Scene 1: About 1730. Benjamin Baritone reveals his plan to become a productive and reputable citizen. He founds the Philadelphia Gazette and marries the good and faithful Deborah. An alter ego, Benjamin Younger, emerges from the Trunk and tempts him to undertake a life of pleasure in exploration and invention. Benjamin Baritone forces him back into the Trunk. He meets the Virtues. Dismayed by how many there are, decides not to try to practice them all at once. Act One, Scene 2: About 1740. Having attained prosperity and civic importance, B. Baritone releases B. Younger and declares that they can now devote themselves to philosophical amusements. Deborah is shocked by her husband's plan to sell the printing shop. During a storm, novel uses of lightning are discovered. B. Baritone accepts two invitations to London, which he accepts to the joy of B. Younger and the dismay of Deborah. Act Two, Introduction: 1757. Atlantic crossing. Act Two, Scene 1: In London and Philadelphia for nearly 15 years Benjamin and Deborah write letters. Benjamin has a busy, delightful life, and Deborah's is "rather hollow." In 1774, politics force B. to leave London, but he arrives back home after Deborah's death. In sorrow, guilt and anger, he turns on B. Younger. Interlude: 1776. Act II, Scene 2: B. Younger finds himself on a steamer bound for France-a diplomatic mission for B. Baritone. Act Two, Scene 2: In the salon of beautiful Madame Brillon, B. Baritone is celebrated in song, and B. Younger enjoys translating, conducting, and hypnotizing. B. Baritone proposes to Madame and her rebuff sends both Benjamins back to Philadelphia. Interlude: 1785. Final Atlantic crossing. Act Two, Scene 3: 1790. Dying B. Baritone expresses regrets and loneliness. B. Younger fails to console him with words, but stages two wordless encounters, each bringing reconciliation and peace to our hero. The Epitaph he wrote for himself is sung by all.
You May Also Like
Page 1 of