UCLA Department of Music
Opera Workshop and Chamber Orchestra
Two one-act operas
Friday & Saturday
December 2 & 3, 1994 at 8pm
Schoenberg Hall, UCLA
The story of Abu Hassan, an honest debtor who humorously foils his creditors, was very appropriately used by Weber as the basis for his one-act opera. During the years 1810-11, the time in which he composed the work, the young composer/conductor/pianist was struggling with serious debts himself. The story comes from the Thousand and One Nights of Arabia, and was put into the form of Weber’s libretto by Franz Karl Hiemer. Weber began work on Abu Hassan while he was in Darmstadt, just before he left on a concert tour. The work was ready by the time he reached Munich, and there it was premiered with great success. Not only did the premiere confirm in the composer’s mind his calling as an opera composer, but it also helped boost public enthusiasm for German opera.
Abu Hassan has been termed a “Turkish Opera,” in the tradition of Mozart, Haydn, and other 18th century composers. This refers not only to the setting, but to the prominent use of cymbals in the orchestra. Weber’s orchestration is dramatic, colorful and romantic in nature, but at the same time he adheres to traditional formal principles. Arias, duets, trios and choruses alternate with spoken dialogue, aligning this work with the Singspiel tradition.
The opera begins, following the overture, with Abu and his wife Fatima who are destitute but in good spirits, sharing a meager meal. The first duet consists of the two characters feigning playfully that they are feasting. They have reason for alarm, however, in spite of their merry-making. Abu must pay off his creditors, and Omar will help him do so only in exchange for the attentions of his wife. So Abu and Fatima contrive a plan. Abu will feign death so that Fatima can collect burial money from the Sultana, and then Fatima will pretend to die so that Abu can collect from the Calif.
While Fatima is gone to the Sultana, Abu is confronted by the creditors, and Omar arrives on the scene in time to pay them off, just to please Fatima. When Fatima returns with the burial money, Abu heads off to the Calif. While he is gone, Omar confronts Fatima at her home. Abu returns suddenly, and afraid of appearances, Fatima hides Omar in a closet. At this point Zemrud, the confidant of the Sultana, arrives to find out which one of the couple is really dead, and both Abu and Fatima feigh death. The arrival of the Calif and the Sultana quickly follows, and when the Calif offers 1000 gold pieces to whoever can tell which one of them died first, Abu rises and explains Omar’s attempt at blackmail. Omar immediately falls into disfavor, and Abu gets the gold as well as having his debts paid off. – Christine DeBoer
Born in 1893, Douglas Moore studied composition in Paris with Vincent D’Indy and Nadia Boulanger and in America with Ernest Bloch. It was a meeting with the poet Vachel Lindsay that encouraged him to see Americana as an artistic resource. His first success in music theater was his folk opera The Devil and Daniel Webster (1939) on the story by Stephen Vincent Benét. He became chairman of the music faculty at Columbia University in 1940 and held that position until his retirement in 1962.
His most famous work, The Ballad of Baby Doe (1956), established him as America’s most accomplished composer of American opera until his death in 1969. Tonight’s work, Gallantry, was written directly after the success of Baby Doe and is his one attempt to deal satirically with a contemporary subject in a contemporary fashion. His librettist, Arnold Sundgaard, was practically the house writer for G. Schirmer. Sundgaard wrote two other libretti for Moore as well as pieces for Alec Wilder and Kurt Weill. Sundgaard’s breezy style is well suited for this take-off on that most American art form, the soap opera. - John Hall
A Comic Operetta in One Act, based on the part of the tale of Abu al-Hasan the Eccentric, told by Shahrazad to King Shahryar on the 647th through 653rd nights of “The Thousand and One Nights.”
Music by Carl Maria Friedrich Ernst von Weber (1786-1826)
Libretto by Franz Karl Hiemer (1768-1822)
First performed in Munich, June 4, 1811
Translated from German into English
by Mark Herman and Ronnie Apter
(in order of appearance)
John Lawler (graduate student
in Theater MFA Directing program)
Assistant Stage Manager
Greg Magie (graduate student
in Music DMA conducting program)
Assistant Set Designer
Assistant Lighting Designer
“A Soap Opera”
Music by Douglas Moore (1893 - 1969)
Libretto by Arnold Sundgaard
(Premiere Columbia University, 1958)
(in order of appearance)
Billy Boy Girls
Jessica Wodinsky (Master Electrician)
David Gregg (Master Carpenter)
Richard Hodge (Deck Hand)
Scene Shop Supervisor
Costume Shop Supervisor
Aspects of this production have been executed by students enrolled in UCLA Department of Theater courses in scenery, costuming, lighting, sound, and advanced laboratories. Their supervisors are: Costuming – Alan Armstrong, Dunya Ramicova, David Paul, Alex Jaeger; Lighting – Neil Peter Jampolis, Jane Fitzgerald Hall, Bobby Harrell; Scenery and Properties – Marsha Ginsberg, John Chris Kerins, Kevin Basham, Eric Larson; Sound – William Ward, Kevin Goold, Joel Schonbrunn.
(The following photos are from Gallantry)