Thursday, November 15 , 2018, 2:26 pm | Fair 73º


Gerald Carpenter: UCSB Workshop Stages ‘Opera Scenes’

The popular quarterly event will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in Karl Geiringer Hall

The understandably popular quarterly event by the UCSB Opera Workshop — known simply as “Opera Scenes” — will take place at 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in UCSB’s Karl Geiringer Hall (Music Room 1250).

American composer Jack Beeson was noted for his operas.
American composer Jack Beeson was noted for his operas.

“Opera Scenes” is just that — scenes from well-known or unknown operas are partially staged with a piano serving as the orchestra, acted and sung by students with voices that are already well-disciplined but retain their youthful purity, with (in this production) stage direction by Paul Sahuc, musical preparation by Sahuc and Benjamin Brecher, and collaborative piano by Bridget Hough.

This installment features scenes from Agrippina by George Frideric Handel, Idomeneo by Wolfgang Mozart, The Love Potion (L’elisir d’amore) by Gaetano Donizetti, The Bartered Bride by Bedřich Smetana, Peter Grimes and Paul Bunyan by Benjamin Britten, Manon and Don Quichotte by Jules Massenet, Candide by Leonard Bernstein, The Freeshooter (Der Freichütz) by Carl Maria von Weber, The Merry Wives of Windsor (Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor) by Otto Nicolai and Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines by Jack Beeson.

Putting two selections from Britten is skating near the edge, in my opinion, but the rest of the program is rich enough to make up for such under-indulgence.

Beeson, who died last year at age 89, was born in Muncie, Ind., and studied with piano teachers in his hometown until he won a scholarship to the University of Toronto. He had four years of private study with Béla Bartók in New York, and also began his fruitful association with — appropriately enough — the Columbia University Opera Workshop.

As a composer, he was chiefly known for his operas — The Sweet Bye and Bye, My Heart’s In the Highlands and Hello, Out There. Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines was written in 1975, to a libretto by Sheldon Harnick, based on the play by Clyde Fitch (1865-1909). (It is an extravagantly romantic drama from Fitch’s romantic early period, when he was having hit after hit with the likes of Beau Brummel, Barbara Frietchie and Nathan Hale, and before he moved on to the glittering social satires such as The Girl with the Green Eyes for which he is remembered today, if at all.)

In his material and execution, therefore, Beeson is about as close as a composer can come to being an all-American boy. He was also a notable master, and taught Charles Wuorinen, John Kander, Phillip Ramey, Alice Shields, Joan Tower, Harvey Sollberger, Michael Rosenzweig, Bright Sheng and Richard Einhorn, among others.

Admission to “Opera Scenes” is $15 for the general public and $7 for students, with tickets sold at the door. For more information, click here or call 805.893.7001.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer.

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