A Chamber Opera in Two Acts The Yellow Wallpaper is based on a Charlotte Perkins Gilman short story that was first published in New England Magazine in 1892. Set in a New England summer house in 1899, it describes the fate of Charlotte, a young wife and mother suffering from postpartum depression whose treatment — strict bed rest and a total absence of mental stimulation — leads to her emotional and intellectual decline. A contemporary tonal score with folk inflections.
Nell, a young girl, Realtor’s daughter (Soprano) Emily, a young girl, Realtor’s daughter (Soprano) Ed, an older workman (Bass) Len, a younger workman (Tenor) Realtor, a widower, father of Nell and Emily (Tenor) John, a doctor, married to Charlotte (Baritone) Jennie, John’s sister (soprano) Charlotte, married to John, has “neurasthenia” (Soprano) Dr. Silas Weir Mitchell, historical figure (Male voice*) Woman in the Wall (Soprano**) Mary, Ed’s wife, the baby’s nurse (contralto) Women’s chorus (SSA, at least 6-9 singers) Drunken clarinettist (male)
* This role involves almost exclusively a heightened speech (“Sprechstimme”) for which only rhythms and relative pitch are notated.
Instrumentation: Flute (doubling piccolo and alto flute), oboe, clarinet (doubling bass clarinet), bassoon, horn, trumpet, harp, piano (doubling celesta or, optionally, synthesizer), percussion (one player), string quintet (or small string orchestra)
Special: Onstage “drunken” clarinettist role may be played by the orchestra clarinet.
Based on the short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
1 hour, 45 minutes
Music Associates of New York, distributed by Jerona Music
“Perera’s music is well-made, tuneful, gratifying to voices and resourcefully orchestrated for 14 players. The opera is ingeniously organized, from the point of view of color, variety, thematic interrelationship and development.” Boston Globe 5/19/89
“Perera’s music captures the odd drama of the story, and makes some very beautiful sounds along the way. The “chamber” orchestra is rather large, particularly in the percussion, but the scoring is of a rare transparency. Perera also writes vocal lines flattering to singers, and he knows how to compose ensembles of all sizes — a new musical voice worth hearing again.” New York Daily News 12/11/92
“Mr. Perera… provided a pretty, eclectic score, full of melodies and skillfully orchestrated.” New York Times
“The music is pleasing, often with a melodic line for each line of conversation – which gives a modern effect — rather than a melody sustained for an aria.”
Associated Press 12/10/92
“The libretto (by Constance Congdon) is an ingenious opening out of the highly interior novella, and it’s musically and visually opulent.”
Village Voice 12/22/92
“The New York premiere of Ronald Perera’s The Yellow Wallpaper was presented . . . in a noteworthy production . . . . MSM’s production made a persuasive case for the opera . . . . The principal singers [were] uniformly commendable.”
An Opera in One Act
Based on the book by Sam Swope, with a libretto by Constance Congdon, The Araboolies of Liberty Street is designed for performance in schools where virtually no production facilities may be available. In this humorous treatment of the themes of tolerance and diversity, the kids of Liberty Street make it possible for an exotic new family to move into their conformist neighborhood, which is ruled over by the mean General and Mrs. Pinch. Performed by both adults and children, the opera is intended for use by opera outreach or young audience development programs for children in grades 4-8 and their families. The style is contemporary tonal musical theater.
General Pinch (Tenor) Mrs. Pinch (Soprano) Joy, a young teenage girl (Soprano) Boboolie, a young teenage boy Araboolie (Soprano, trouser role) Momoolie Araboolie (Mezzo-soprano) Popoolie Araboolie (Baritone) Kid’s Chorus, (Treble voices, 6-8 minimum)
Instrumentation: piano, 1 percussion (trap set, various small hand percussion)
Constance Congdon, Based on the book by Sam Swope
about 45 minutes
Pear Tree Press Music Publishers distributed by Subito Music Corp.
An Opera in Two Acts
Based on a novel by John Updike, S. is set in present-day Boston and Boston’s North Shore, in Florida, in England and Holland, at an ashram in Arizona, and on an island in the Bahamas. It follows Sarah Worth, a wealthy doctor’s wife and a loving mother, as she flees her suburban life to join her guru, a charismatic Hindu religious leader known as the Arhat, at his ashram in Arizona. A hilarious romp through ’80s American culture. Contemporary tonal music with Indian raga elements.
Sarah Worth, an upper-class WASP in her mid-forties (Lyric soprano) Charles Worth, Sarah’s husband, a doctor (Lyric baritone) Pearl, Sarah and Charles’ college-age daughter (Coloratura soprano) The Arhat, a founder of Ashram Arhat, Forrest, AZ (Lyric tenor) Durga, chief administrator of the ashram (Dramatic mezzo-soprano) Alinga, a staff member at the ashram (Lyric soprano) Gilman, Charles’ lawyer (Bass-baritone) Mother, Sarah’s mother, a widow retired in Florida (Lyric mezzo soprano) Midge, Sarah’s best friend on the North Shore (Soprano) Miles Murrow, a TV talk show host (Sprechstimme role) Swiss Banker (French speaking role) Ducky Bradford, Charles’ investment advisor and Dr. Podhoretz, Sarah’s dentist (Tenor) Sheriff Yardley, Sheriff of Dorado County, AZ and Dr. Epstein, Sarah’s psychiatrist (Bass) Chorus (minimum about 24, evenly distributed SATB); travelers, sannyasins, local people, TV crew, IRS agents and others (including a few small designated solo parts such as Fritz, Racher, Navajo Man, Minister, etc).
Instrumentation: 2 flutes (2nd doubling piccolo and alto flute), 2 oboes (2nd doubling E.H.), 2 clarinets (2nd doubling alto sax, bass clarinet), 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, harp, percussion (2 players), sitar (may be performed on synthesizer), optional tambura, strings. Alternative chamber version: 2 pianos (2nd doubling synthesizer), optional tambura, percussion (2 players).
Constance Congdon, Based on the novel by John Updike
2 hours, 25 minutes
E. C. Schirmer Music Company
Libretto, 5751A Piano/Vocal Score, 5751 Full score and parts available for rental.
“Perera took a bold step six years ago in his first opera, The Yellow Wallpaper, where we watch and listen as a woman sings her way down to madness. In S. he takes another bold step, setting to music Updike’s epistolary portrait of a vastly different and far more interesting person: Sarah is intelligent, strong, witty, passionate, and cunning. Entirely without malice, she knows what she wants and gets it… Perera’s music, memorable mainly for its texture and style, does beautifully in setting mood, defining character, underlining humor, and distinguishing the sounds of two worlds.”
The Valley Advocate-9/28-10/4/95
Excerpt is from Act I, scene 5. Singers include Jane Bryden, James Maddelena, Brenda Dawe, Paulina Stark, David Ripley, Jon Humphrey, and Stephen Curylo, with Monica Jakuc and Clifton J. Noble, Jr., pianos, and Peter Tanner and John Kelly, percussion. Paul Flight, conductor.