1997 semi-staged reading of act one of the opera by composer Jeffrey Lependorf and poet Jeffrey Jullich, performed by Hell's Kitchen Opera, William Maxfield conducting, directed by Linda Lehr, composer at the piano (playing piano reduction of orchestral score), featuring Jeffrey Mandelbaum (counter tenor) as Nathaniel Hawthorne and David Zimmerman (tenor) as Herman Melville. Performed at American Opera Projects through support from an AOP Helping Hands grant.
AMERICAN LIT: PART ONE:
I. LOUD OVERTURE: Wondrous Love
Overture, sung entirely in fa-so-la-ti syllables, as in 19th century shape-note hymns.
II. PRELUDE: SEAL AND HER YOUNGER BROTHER LIVED THERE
A Clackamas Indian child asks her mother why "Uncle's wife" seems so "different." (The tale concludes in American Lit: Part Two.) A Singing Footnote explicates.
III. SCENE ONE: The Day on Monument Mountain
Nathaniel Hawthorne longs for the wine he has not yet tasted.
The summer of 1850: an exploration of eclipse-watchers up Monument Mountain (mistakenly two days early for the eclipse) — Hawthorne and Herman Melville meet for the first time. The party seeks shelter from inclement weather, within the menacing Ice Glen. The happiest days of their lives.
Simultaneously, one hundred years later, Professor Newton Arvin, award-winning biographer of the two authors, lecture on Hawthorne's, "Rappacini's Daughter."
Sophia Hawthorne, left home alone, writers to her sister about Melville, the famous author of the adventure novel "Typee."
IV. INTERLUDE: "Why?" (#1)
A scene from Hawthorne's novel "The Scarlett Letter." Pearl Prynne, wearing a green letter "A" made of seaweed on her chest, surprises her mother Hester with a persistent question: "What does the scarlet letter mean, and why does the minister hold his hand over his heart?"
V. SCENE TWO: The Shaker Village at Hancock
One year later, the summer of 1851: Hawthorne and Melville are reunited, while touring a nearby Shaker village with Hawthorne's son Julian and Melville's friends the Duykunck brothers. The sight of the Shaker's all-male sleeping quarters inexplicably enrages Hawthorne.
Closing hymn: a vision of a meteor over head.
VI. INTERLUDE: "Why?" (#2)
Pearl Prynne wakes her mother with the same, increasingly urgent question. Hester, losing patience, scolds her child to hold her tongue.
VII. INTERLUDE (close of Part One): "Why?" (#3)
Hester forbids her daughter ever to ask that unanswerable question again.