It’s a play that both Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein wanted to make into an opera, but the playwright always said, “No.”
We’re talking about “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder, a nostalgic but bitter-sweet look at life and love and death in Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire, set in the early 1900, complete with white picket fences, boy meets girl, and a drugstore soda counter.
It wasn’t until decades after Wilder’s death in 1975 that the executor of the Wilder estate, after a long search for just the right composer for an ”Our Town” opera, settled on Ned Rorem, and a libretto crafted by the poet J.D. McClatchy, who also happened to be an authority on Wilder’s works.
Rorem was in his 80s when the opera premiered on today’s date in 2006 at the Opera Theater at the Jacobs School of Music in Bloomington, Indiana.
The New York Times thought the resulting opera a success, writing “’Our Town’ opens with a hymn, and Mr. Rorem retained and refracted the familiar melody, turning pat modulations slightly bitter, as if the music were heard through a lens of nostalgia that turned it sepia. This nostalgia proved a hallmark of the score.”
Music Played in Today's Program
Ned Rorem (b. 1923)Opening, fr Our TownMonadnock Music; Gil Rose, cond.New World 80790
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