Four Saints in Three Acts - Year - 1989

program cover

Four Saints in Three Acts

UCLA Department of Music
and Center for the Performing Arts

UCLA Opera Workshop,
Music Theatre Workshop, Chamber Singers,
and Contemporary Music Ensemble

Samuel Krachmalnick,
John Hall
and Donn Weiss, Directors

Music by
Virgil Thomson
Words by
Gertrude Stein

Four Saints in Three Acts
Fridays & Saturdays,
February 3, 4, 10 & 11, 1989
Schoenberg Hall, 8:00 P.M.

UCLA Festival of American Music:
A Retrospective,
February 10 - 19, 1989


About "Four Saints . . . "

When the Music Department began plans for the 1989 Festival of American Music it seemed fitting that an opera or piece of music theater by a native composer should be included. While many American composers have written for the operatic stage, there was always the Thomson/Stein collaborations that stood apart from the rest. UCLA Opera had mounted a very successful production of The Mother of Us All here in 1965, but the earlier, more famous Four Saints in Three Acts had not been performed in the Los Angeles area for some time.

Now, Four Saints is one of those operas that most people know about but few have ever seen. The 1934 premiere was a glittering critical success sponsored by a group called the Friends and Enemies of Modern Music at the Hartford Atheneum. It later moved to Broadway for 60 performances and was seen by everyone from Toscanini to Gershwin. Four Saints was the first real success of American producer/director John Jouseman, featuring movement by Frederick Ashton, the voices of an all-Negro cast of singers, and the famous cellophane sets of Florine Stettheimer. Virgil Thomson’s music was called a “sow’s-ear” by critic Theodore Chanler, and composer Roger Sessions thought that Thomson had not made maximum use of the orchestral resources, but Aaron Copland loved the fresh orchestral sound. Most of all, it was Miss Stein’s unique use of language that surprised and mystified everyone.

After World War I many artists actively rejected the reality and artistic forms that were popular before the war. In the visual arts, cubists, futurists, constructionists, dadaists and surrealists were all breaking down traditional forms and experimenting with new ideas that still define a twentieth-century reality for us all. In language, poets like Guillaume Apollinaire and Edith Sitwell were playing with words and sounds in an abstract manner, but it was Gertrude Stein who best manipulated words, language, syntax, and reasonless rhyme into a new kind of abstract art. Linear development of plot or structure was not the only way of establishing meaning(s) of their own - meanings that differed with each listener, that could reach hidden places. While it is an oversimplification, Stein uses words in much the same ways her friend Picasso used form, breaking up the recognizable and, therefore, easily accepted reality into other patterns and new shapes. It was a painter, Maurice Grosser, that gave a structured scenario for the first performance of Four Saints, but he counseled other directors to devise their own, hoping they would find this deeply fanciful work a stimulus to their own imagination. Since I have been concerned with clear story-telling, having no story to tell was both exhilarating and frightening.

Hearing this language is far different than reading it. There are secrets on the page that only my cast can know because many words sound the same and yet can mean different things )to, two, too . . . for example). But to intone these words of Gerturde Stein is to give them life. Like a magical spell, Miss Stein’s words have power off the page. In this way, the enourmous contribution of Virgil Thomson is often underestimated. By his careful and sensitive setting of the poetry, he breathes life to the words to let them work their magic. Never in the history of opera has so abstract a text been set so clearly to music. This is also the great frustration of the piece. While you can clearly understand the words, you can’t understand a meaning of the words. Logic doesn’t apply.

As I watched my cast agonize over the difficult memorization of the text, I also saw some fun and games with their attitudes toward a libretto that I had never seen before. The limited harmonies and rhythmic patterns of the score made purely musical rehearsals agony for the orchestra. Only with the singers and Miss Stein’s words does any rehearsal become possible. (I wonder with the repetitive musical structure now found in the operas of minimalist composers such as Philip Glass and John Adams how the orchestra survives.)

With the support of my colleagues Samuel Krachmalnick and Donn Weiss as well as my designers Robert Demann and Russell Pyle, and my wonderful and patient student cast, I have devised an entertainment designed to divert and amuse. For the duration of the opera, I invute you to leave 1989 behind and come to a different place, a place populated with Saints who say, sings, and do the most marvelous things. - John Hall


Chorus 1

UCLA Music Theater Workshop,
John Hall, Director

David Babich
Hawkin Chan
Samantha Crisp
Susan Egan
Jeremiah Enna
Kennard Gray
Jennine Jones
Eric Leviton
Leslie Loubier
Anthony Milosevic
Stefanie Morse
Chris Norton
Bruce Olstead
Eric Palmiotti
David Paul
Suzanne Pellett
Gary Romm,
Dan Saffer
Linda Samia
Rebecca Semrau
Janis Thomas
Sarah Uriarte
Amy Wooley
Stephanie Wurzel

Chorus 2

UCLA Chamber Singers,
Donn Weiss, Director

Ashlie Beringer
Monica Griffin
Angela Luzano
Claire Sallee
Katherine Seares
Susie Tallmann

Noelle Balla
Shirley Benesh
Rebecca Hilberman
Kathryn McGuinness
Kimberly Mantzke
Katrina Sentry

Nathan Ballard
Charles Benesh
Carlos Rodriguez
Daniel Mortenson
Dan Wells

Ken Baggett
Eric Jordan
Andrew Funk
Darin Grimes
Aaron Shapiro


Heidi Herzog

Malcolm McKenzie

St. Stephen
Joe Lasell

St. Settlement
Stephanie Sharpe

St. Sarah
Teri Kraut

St. Plan
Mark Dyer

St. Teresa 1
Aimee Willis

St. Teresa 2
Brian Asawa

St. Ignatius
John Gillott

St. Genevieve
Stacey Frederick

St. Cecilia
Kimberly Breault

St. Chavez
Sung Hwan Cho

St. Anne
Amy Wooley

St. Answers
Chris Norton

St. Philip
Anthony Milosevic

St. Tan
Samantha Crisp

St. Go
Jeremiah Enna


Eric Gorfain, Concertmaster
Philip Ho
Charles Ro
Rachael Scott
Lowell Silverman
Teresa Welch

Derek Juhl
David Laurence
Andrew Picken
Wayne Randall

Jonathan Few

Pablo Aslan
Simeon Pillich

Jocelyne Kopf
Paul Shapiro

Margaret Gilinsky
Karen Sperry
Lara Jacques
Amanda Walker

Sarah Howard

French Horn
Sarah Crampton
Alice Hunt

Carolyn O’Keefe

Nicholas Hill

David Early
Aaron Smith

Yvonne Schnebly


Producer and Stage Director
John Hall

Samuel Krachmalnick

Scenic Design
Robert Demann

Lighting Design
Russell Pyle

John Hall, Robert Demann

Adrienne Parker

Musical Preparation
Theodore Crain
Joan Colman
Roger Malouf
Norman Mamey
Laraine Stivers
Donn Weiss

CASO Event Manager
Michael Heafey

Master Electrician
Ken Scarborough

Kathleen Moon

Poster and Ad Design
Robin Weisz

John Hall

Music Department Coordinator
John Hayes

Dotty Allison

Edythe Johnson

UCLA Opera Workshop

General Director
Samuel Krachmalnick

John Hall

Musical Coaching
Theodore Crain
James Low
Roger Malouf
Laraine Stivers

Sybil Hast

Edythe Johnson

Teaching Assistant
Szu-Tzu Chiu

UCLA Chamber Singers

Donn Weiss

Teaching Assistant
Sung Hwan Cho

Jake Heggie

UCLA Music Theater Workshop

John Hall

Music Coaching
Joan Colman

Adrienne Parker

Teaching Associate
Norman Mamey

UCLA Contemporary Music Ensemble

Samuel Krachmalnick

Teaching Associate
Larry Kohl

UCLA Voice Department

Heinz Blankenburg
Kari Windingstad
Timothy Mussard
Dorothy Warenskjold




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Brian Asawa, the elephant, and Aimee Willis