NEW VERSION OF TOBIAS PICKER’S OPERA
AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY RECEIVES WORLD PREMIERE
AT THE 2014 GLIMMERGLASS FESTIVAL ON JULY 20 AT 1:30 P.M.
The new production celebrates the composer’s 60th birthday, on July 18,
with nine performances taking place July 20 – August 24
NEW YORK, NY (June 19, 2014)—The Glimmerglass Festival presents the premiere of a new version of An American Tragedy, which was originally commissioned by and premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in 2005, by composer Tobias Picker and librettist Gene Scheer on Sunday, July 20 at 1:30 p.m., with subsequent performances through Sunday, August 24. One hour prior to the opening performance and other matinee performances, Mr. Picker will preview his work in a free discussion at the Preview Pavilion next to the performance venue. The production is directed by Peter Kazaras and conducted by George Manahan, and the cast features Glimmerglass’s 2014 Young Artists. Tickets range from $10-$144 and can be purchased by calling the box office at (607) 547-2255 or online at glimmerglass.org.
Based on the 1925 novel by Theodor Dreiser, An American Tragedy tells the story of Clyde Griffiths, a young and ambitious working-class man entangled between two women, Roberta Alden and Sondra Finchley, and culminates with a mysterious death in a lake in the Adirondack Mountains. For the new Glimmerglass production, the first since the 2005 Met Opera premiere, Mr. Picker and Mr. Scheer cut the 18-minute-long first scene, expanded pivotal scenes, and rewrote arias such as Sondra’s “New York Aria.” They also made changes to how audience members see the end of the plot unfold, and to the musical references the score makes in the final scene.
“Seeing An American Tragedy produced at the Met gave both Gene and me an opportunity to study the piece in a way that you can only when it’s fully produced, with an audience,” says Mr. Picker in an interview with Glimmerglass Dramaturg Kelley Rourke. “We loved what we wrote, but in the end, we saw that not all of it was needed.” Like many composers and librettists before them, Mr. Picker and Mr. Scheer reconsidered the structure and musical language of their opera after it opened at the Met Opera and made small but significant changes for the Glimmerglass production. In fact, a common thread between An American Tragedy and the other three mainstage productions at Glimmerglass this season—Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, Strauss’s Ariadne in Naxos, and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel—is that they all were revised by their creators after receiving their world premieres.
Nine performances of the new American Tragedy production take place in the Alice Busch Opera Theater, Glimmerglass’s mainstage venue located on the northwest shore of Lake Otsego near Cooperstown in rural upstate New York. The theater is located in an appropriate setting, considering both the murder in the plot of An American Tragedy and the true events that inspired Mr. Dreiser’s novel occurred in the upstate New York area near Cooperstown.
“Theodore Dreiser’s novel An American Tragedy is a powerful portrayal of the dark side of the American dream,” says Mr. Picker. “It was my father’s favorite book. I remember him being profoundly moved by the conflict between ambition and morality depicted in the novel, a conflict that remains one of the central challenges at the core of the American experience. When the opportunity arose to write an opera for the Metropolitan Opera I immediately knew that Dreiser’s book had to be my subject. I am thrilled that The Glimmerglass Festival has brought together such a wonderful production team and I look forward to working with them to bring a newly revised version of An American Tragedy to the stage.”
The novel is based on the real-life trial and execution of Chester Gillette for the 1906 murder of his pregnant girlfriend Grace Brown, which created media frenzy and a national sensation. Mr. Dreiser’s novel explores not only the murder itself, but also the society that bred the murderer, calling into question America’s class system. In addition to Mr. Picker’s opera, it has been adapted for the Broadway stage, and into the films An American Tragedy in 1931 and the Academy Award-winning A Place in the Sun, featuring Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift, in 1951.
Mr. Picker originally brought An American Tragedy, his fourth opera, to the Met Opera House in his Met Opera debut in December 2005. It was called “a serious, substantial piece” and “a fitfully inspired creation” by The New Yorker’s Alex Ross, and The Baltimore Sun said it offered “an attention-holding mix of theatrical strength and skillful music.” Directed by Francesca Zambello and conducted by James Conlon, this American Tragedy production was only the fourth world premiere at the Met Opera in 37 years. Patricia Racette, Nathan Gunn, Susan Graham, and Dolora Zajick performed in principal roles.