OSCAR Student Guide | Opera Philadelphia

Page 1

OperA Philadelphia and t h e S c h oo l D i s t r i c t o f P h i l a d e l p h i a present

m o r r i so n / c o x

Academy of Music | final Dress Rehearsal W e d n e s d ay, f e b r u a r y 4 , 2 0 1 5 A T 2 : 0 0 P. M .

Best Practices in Arts Education is sponsored by Pennsylvania Alliance for Arts Education, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the Pennsylvania Department of Education


Opera Philadelphia believes that family is the most important foundation for learning. Let your kitchen table become a classroom where your children can build their knowledge of opera and the humanities. As you join in the teaching and learning process with your children, watch their eyes sparkle. Opera is a communal celebration and your children’s education should be one as well. Pennsylvania Academic Standards call for students to demonstrate what they know and are able to do, and children need to share what they have discovered or learned. Thus, the title of our program is Sounds of Learning™. It reflects our belief that children must actively engage in sharing ideas. The Sounds of Learning™ workbook and teacher guide integrates with the local core literacy curriculum in many ways. Just as opera is a uniquely integrated art—combining orchestra, voice, literature, drama, and dance—Sounds of Learning™ is an interdisciplinary, studentcentered program. The goal of the Active Learning section is to engage your children in the process of self-teaching. They will be able to show how they gain insights into their learning by drawing, writing, and discussing the issues most relevant to them. In this way, students demonstrate what they can do with what they know. In reading the libretto, or script, we suggest that you and your family members take turns reading particular roles. Dr. Ellen Winner of Harvard’s Project Zero found that “drama helps to build verbal skills that transfer to new materials,” and helps improve not only students’ reading skills but also “oral and written language development1.” 1.

Journal of Aesthetic Education, v34, #3/4, Fall/Winter, 2000.

GOALS AND OBJECTIVES OF SOUNDS OF LEARNING™ Improve literacy achievement by using the opera’s libretto to teach lessons across the curriculum Understand the plot, characters, and their motivations in the opera Learn something about the composer and others involved in writing the opera Make a connection to the historic and social context of the story Know some key musical elements, recognize certain melodies, differentiate between voices Understand the role music plays in expressing emotions and heightening the dramatic experience Understand the various elements of producing opera and the functions of those involved: e.g., conductor, director, set designer, technical crew, etc. Develop the ability to make inferences about the opera, production, and performance Relate incidents in the opera to those of the present day



A Family Guide to the Opera

G E T T I N G R E A D Y F O R T H E O P E R A 4

Going to the Opera at the Academy of Music


Theater Anatomy


The Then and Now of Opera



The Importance of Being Earnest: The Life of Oscar Wilde


Lord Alfred Douglas: Oscar Wilde’s Undoing


Poetic Companions: Walt Whitman and Oscar Wilde


What in the World? Events in Three Poets’ Lives


Opera Vocabulary


The Countertenor Voice: Unique Brilliance and Beauty


New Collaborations in Opera: Theodore Morrison and John Cox



Oscar: Synopsis


Oscar: Libretto


Oscar: Meet the Artists



Bullying and Anti-Gay Attitudes


Plot in the Action: Oscar


Character Analysis Pyramid

48 Glossary Music by Theodore Morrison; Libretto by John Cox and Theodore Morrison; Based on Quotations from the Writings of Oscar Wilde and his Contemporaries; Libretto reprinted with permission from G. Schirmer, Inc. 3

G O I N G T O T H E O P E R A AT T H E AC A D E M Y O F M U S I C There’s nothing as exciting as attending the opera in a theater like the Academy of Music, where you’ll see the final dress rehearsal of Theodore Morrison’s and John Cox’s Oscar. The Academy is a very special building in that it is the country’s oldest grand opera house still used for its original purpose - performing opera! It is a grand opera house with a huge chandelier hanging from the ceiling. Its four-level design was based on the famous La Scala opera house in Milan, Italy. The Academy opened on January 26, 1857 with a Grand Ball and Promenade Concert and the first opera performed there was Verdi’s Il trovatore on February 25, 1857. The Academy is so important to our nation’s history that it was made a Registered National Historic Landmark in 1963. When you’re at the Academy of Music for Oscar, you may see several computer monitors and a large table spread out over the seats in the center of the first floor of the auditorium. Seated in this area is the production team: Director, Assistant Director, Costume Designer, Lighting Designer, and Set Designer, among others. They’ll be taking notes and communicating via headsets with the many people backstage who help make operatic magic. They’ll be able to talk to the crew DOs and DON’Ts at the OPERA

Here are some things you can do to make sure everyone in the theater can enjoy the opera: Use the bathrooms before the opera begins or at intermission. Enter and exit the theater in an orderly fashion. Turn off your cell phones and all electronic devices. Applaud after the arias; shout “Bravo!” for men and “Brava!” for women. Don’t forget... Please obey the theater ushers and staff. No food, gum or beverages are allowed inside the theater. No photos or audio/video recording may be taken during the performance. No talking or whispering during the performance. No shoving, jumping, running, spitting or throwing anything in the theater. Make your school proud!


so changes can be made right away. Should things go wrong, the rehearsal might be stopped or a part repeated to make sure that it is perfect. Unlike actors on television or in the movies, performers on stage are very aware of the audience. They want to share their love of performing with you. Everything you do in the audience affects what happens on stage. You can show them how much you appreciate their work and the opportunity to come to the rehearsal by being as quiet as possible. Show your respect for the cast, musicians, the production team, and everyone in the theater by not talking. Give the artists and the production your full attention! To take a tour of the Academy of Music, please visit kimmelcenter.org/ planning/tours.php

Photo by Michael Bolton


The auditorium seats 2,897; 14 columns support the tiers; the auditorium is encased within a three feet thick solid brick wall. The Academy chandelier is 25 ft high, 50 ft in circumference, almost 17 ft in diameter, and 3,500 pounds in weight. It has 23,000 crystals on it, which, if laid out, could reach from Broad Street to Rittenhouse Square and back. The red and gold pattern on the Academy’s stage curtain is of a pineapple, a Victorian-era symbol for “welcome.” The first-ever indoor football game was held at the Academy on March 7, 1889 between the University of Pennsylvania and Riverton Club of Princeton. 1,600 people attended the first-ever motion picture screening on February 5, 1870. Air conditioning was installed in 1959. There was no elevator for the general public in the Academy until 1990!

T H E AT E R A N ATO M Y Opera singers must act on stage as well as sing! This means that they have to understand the stage set-up. When the director is rehearsing with the singers, he or she must be clear about where they should be on stage, otherwise there could be a big traffic jam! So special vocabulary is used. Upstage is the very back of the stage (away from the audience) and downstage is at the front (near the audience). Stage Left and Stage Right may seem to be on the wrong sides as well. Can you figure out why? You might also wonder about “up” stage and “down” stage. Opera sets are frequently built on a platform or “deck” that’s lower in the front near the apron and higher in the back near the back stage area. Thus, the lower end is “downstage” and the higher end is “upstage.” Also, when you visit the Academy of Music, look for the bas-relief portrait of composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at the top of the proscenium.














Diagram from OPER A America’s MUSIC! WORDS! OPER A! Level II Teacher’s Manual ©1991, OPER A America Inc.


THE THEN AND NOW OF OPERA Have you ever wondered where opera got its start? Back in the late 1500s, during the height of the Renaissance (1400–1600), a group of men called the Florentine Camerata got together to create a new and moving theatrical experience. They wanted to recreate what the ancient Greeks did during their legendary dramas. The result was something entirely new – opera! Most of the early operas were based on Greek myths. The most famous opera of this early period that is still performed today is Claudio Monteverdi’s Orfeo (1607). Certain basic ingredients were included in opera: songs, instrumental accompaniments, costumes, dance, and scenery. We still use all of these ingredients today! The early operas were first performed in the grand courts of Italian nobility, but soon opera became popular with the public, too. Soon, theaters were built just to mount operas. These theaters had elaborate stage machinery to create special effects like flying actors or crumbling buildings. During the Baroque period (1600–1750), Italian opera spread all over Europe. The Italian style of opera was so popular that even non-Italians wrote in this style. For example, Georg Frederic Handel (1685–1759) was a German-born composer who lived and worked in England. His

Photo by Kelly and Massa


operas, like Julius Caesar (1724), were written in the Italian language and used an Italian style of music. The eighteenth century was full of change for both Europe and opera. This time period was known as the Age of Enlightenment. People were talking about new forms of government and organization in society, especially the evergrowing middle class. Music displayed this new thinking as composers dropped the Baroque era’s complicated musical style for simpler, more emotional music. One of the first operas to use this new style was Christoph Willibald Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice (1762). In 1776 the American Revolution changed the world. A few years later the French had their own revolution (1789) and the first modern democracies were born. To match the times in which they were created, audiences wanted to see characters like themselves on stage, not gods and goddesses. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro (1786) featured a timely story of aristocratic class struggles that had both servants and nobility in lead roles. In the 1800s opera continued to grow. The Italian tradition continued in the bel canto movement, which literally translates to “beautiful singing.” The most famous bel canto composers were Gioacchino Rossini (1792–1868), Gaetano Donizetti (1797–1848), and Vincenzo Bellini (1801–1835). Their operas, like Rossini’s popular comedies The Barber of Seville (1816) and Cinderella (1817), are still some of the most popular operas performed today. By the middle of the century, the Romantic Movement led many composers to champion their own national identities. German operas like Carl Maria von Weber’s Der Freischütz (1821), Russian operas like Mikhail Glinka’s A Life for the Tsar (1836) and French operas like Giacomo Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots (1836)

were performed across Europe. In Germany Richard Wagner took Romanticism to the extreme in The Ring of the Nibelung (1876), which takes over 15 hours to perform! Opera in the twentieth century became even more experimental. Composers like Giacomo Puccini (La bohème, 1896), Claude Debussy (Pelléas et Mélisande, 1902), Richard Strauss (Salome, 1905), and Benjamin Britten (Peter Grimes, 1945) evolved their national styles. Others, horrified by the destruction of World War I (1914-1918) and other aspects of modern life, created music that was new and drastically dissonant. American opera had a huge hit with George and Ira Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess (1935) which included jazz and blues musical styles. Today, opera is still growing and expanding. Opera Philadelphia helps to shape the future of opera by producing important new works like Kevin Puts and Mark Campbell’s Silent Night (2013), an opera based on the World War I Christmas truce. Upcoming productions include Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD (2015) by Daniel Schnyder, about the tortured jazz saxophonist, and Cold Mountain (2016), an opera composed by Philadelphian Jennifer Higdon and based on the book of the same name by Charles Frazier. Although opera is one of the oldest musical art forms, it still remains and expands today. From the old favorites to the new experimental works, opera continues to be a moving art form of the people.


1. During the Renaissance, on what were many of the first operas based? 2. What kind of opera spread all over Europe during the Baroque period? Give one example of this kind of opera. 3. What artistic genre played a huge role in French opera during the Baroque period? 4. How did the Enlightenment movement during the 18th century change how composers wrote operas? 5. What new operatic qualities did Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro display due to the American Revolution and its effect in the world? 6. Describe “bel canto” opera and give one example of a composer who used this style. 7. Nationalism was a prominent feature in the operatic world in the 1800s. Give an example of a composer who strayed from the Italian operatic form to write nationalistic operas. 8. What other musical styles did the American opera Porgy and Bess include? 9. Name three new operas that Opera Philadelphia has produced or will produce in the future.

above: Kevin Puts and Mark Campbell ’s new American opera, Silent Night left: Soprano Michelle Johnson as Puccini’s Manon Lescaut

far left: Bass Morris Robinson dominates Verdi’s patriotic Nabucco


“ To h a v e d o n e i t i s n o t h i n g , b u t t o make people think one had done it was a triumph”

-Oscar Wilde, upon his arrival in America, when asked by a reporter if he had walked down Piccadilly (a hotel in New York) with a lily in his hand, an image made famous by the aesthete. Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde, was born on October 16, 1854, and lived with his older brother, William, and younger sister, Isola, in the Irish city of Dublin. Oscar’s parents were successful, yet unconventional and scandalous compared to their conservative, upper-middle class peers. By the time his father, William Wilde, was 28, he had graduated as a doctor, completed voyages all over the world, written two books, and been appointed medical advisor to the Irish Census. Oscar’s mother, Jane Francesca Elgee, regularly contributed controversial articles to the local paper under a pen name and held weekly “conversazione” where she would encourage her children to mingle with the esteemed and well educated guests. At school, Oscar was admired for his photographic memory which allowed him to read and absorb books at extraordinary speed. As a result of his academic successes, he received a scholarship to

Oscar Wilde in 1882, on his American Tour


Trinity College in Dublin at the young age of 17 where he then applied for and received a coveted scholarship to Magdalen College in Oxford, England. “The two great turning points in my life were when my father sent me to Oxford, and when society sent me to prison,” Oscar wrote. While Oscar was at school, his father passed away. However, Oscar continued to do well at Oxford and was awarded the Newdigate Prize for his poem, “Ravenna.” After graduation, Oscar moved to London and in 1881, he published his first collection of poetry called “Poems” which helped to move his writing career along. “Aestheticism is a search after the signs of the beautiful...It is, to speak more exactly, the search after the secret of life.”

-Oscar Wilde

Eventually, the 6’3” Oscar became the poster boy for the aesthetic movement in art. Oscar and his aesthetic contemporaries were parodied in Gilbert and Sullivan’s British operetta, Patience. Sent by Gilbert and Sullivan’s manager, D’Oyly Carte, to promote the operetta in America, Oscar set off in 1881 on a 50-lecture tour of the US, which lasted a year. During this time he met with Henry Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Walt Whitman, the last of whom became a lifelong friend and admirer of Oscar. He then set off on a lecture tour of Britain and Ireland. On May 29, 1884, Oscar married Constance

A poster of G&S’s Patience from 1881


Lloyd and had two sons in quick succession. Oscar then accepted a job revitalizing the Woman’s World magazine and published two collections of children’s stories. His first and only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, was published in an American magazine in 1890 and in book form the following year. The English considered the implicit themes of homosexuality to be immoral, and the book would later be used as evidence in his trial. Oscar’s first play, Lady Windermere’s Fan, opened in February 1892 and his subsequent plays, including The Importance of Being Earnest, all were highly acclaimed and firmly established Oscar as a playwright. Oscar then started on the path that would eventually lead him to ruin when he took up an illicit affair with Lord Alfred Douglas, known as Bosie. The two would be together until Oscar’s arrest four years later. Bosie’s father, The Marquess of Queenbury, disapproved of Bosie’s relationship with Oscar, and left Oscar a card at a performance of his one of his plays stating, “For Oscar Wilde, posing as a [homosexual],” and in April 1895, at the urging of Bosie, who hated his father, Oscar sued the Marquess for libel. Queensberry avoided conviction by demonstrating in court that the charge he had made against Oscar was factually true by introducing into evidence several highly suggestive erotic letters that he had written to Bosie. Then, after Oscar was closely questioned about the homoerotic themes in The Picture of Dorian Gray, on his lawyer’s advice, he dropped the charge against Queensbury. Without a conviction, the law made Oscar pay Queensberry’s considerable legal costs, which left him bankrupt. The next day, Oscar was arrested for indecency, and went to trial which resulted in a hung jury. Later that year the prosecutor retried Oscar, and he was sentenced to two years of hard labor in prison. Bosie was forced into exile in Europe. Constance, his wife, took the children to Switzerland and changed their last name to an old family name, “Holland.” While in prison, Oscar’s health declined and he wrote a famous letter to Bosie, De Profundis (Latin for “from the depths”). It was a spiritual exercise, as he was not allowed to send the letter. In it, he recounted their affair and the

Signature of Oscar Wilde

subsequent trial and spoke of his feelings for Bosie and all of the pitfalls in their relationship. De Profundis was published completely in 1962 in a work entitled The Letters of Oscar Wilde. After being released from prison, a now penniless Oscar fled to exile in France after being released from prison. Oscar fled to France in impoverished exile. He and Bosie reunited briefly, but Oscar mostly spent the last three years of his life wandering Europe, staying with friends and living in cheap hotels. He died of cerebral meningitis, possibly stemming from an ear injury sustained in prison, on November 30, 1900. Sources -www.cmgww.com/historic/wilde/bio3.htm -http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord_ Alfred_ Douglas -http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oscar_Wilde -www.newrepublic.com/article/119885/when-walt-whitman-metoscar-wilde -Holland, Merlin. The Wilde Album. London: 1997. Print.

Active Learning 1. Oscar Wilde is known to have said, “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.” Do you agree with this? What examples in your life make this true or untrue? What about Oscar’s life do you think he is referring to? 2. Nowadays, people aren’t sent to jail for slander or libel, but they can be taken to civil court for it. Why do you think this law has changed? Do you think people should be put in prison if they lie about someone else in order to cause harm? Why or why not? See the article about slander and libel: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defamation. Can you think of an example of this in the media? 3. Read the first paragraph of De Profundis here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Profundis_(letter). Imagine you are in prison for a crime and write a letter to a loved one like De Profundis. To whom would you write? What would you say? 9


Bosie in 1914, age 44

Lord Alfred Douglas, known as Bosie (from Boysie, a nickname given to him by his mother) was born October 22, 1870 in Worcestershire, England. Bosie was an English author, poet, and translator. He was more famously known as the friend and lover of writer Oscar Wilde.

Bosie was born as the third son to John Bosie, the 9 th Marquess of Queensbury, a Scottish nobleman. He was educated at Magdalen College, in Oxford, which he left without obtaining a degree. Much of Bosie’s early poetry was Uranian (which means a female psyche in a male body, or homosexual) in theme, though later in life, he moved away from both Oscar’s influence and Uranian themes in his poetry. In 1891, Bosie met Oscar Wilde and they began an affair. Bosie was described as spoiled and reckless and he spent most of his money on boys and gambling; he expected Oscar to do the same. They feuded and broke up many times but then would always reconcile until Oscar’s arrest four years later, when they parted ways. In 1895, after the Marquess accused Oscar in writing of being a homosexual, Bosie encouraged him to sue his father for libel, which he ultimately dropped. Due to incriminating testimony and strong evidence that was presented during the trial, Oscar was arrested and later incarcerated for indecency. Bosie then abandoned Oscar and went into exile in Europe. After Oscar was released, on May 19, 1897, the two reunited in August in France, but stayed together only a few months due to pressures from their families and the public. Oscar lived the remainder of his life 10

primarily in Paris, and Bosie returned to England in late 1898. However, when Oscar died in 1900, Bosie attended the funeral and publicly mourned him. After Oscar’s death, Bosie condemned both their relationship and his homosexuality. In 1902, he married Olive Eleanor Custance, an heiress and poet, and had one son. He later embraced Roman Catholicism and, in 1920, founded a fiercely anti-Semitic magazine, Plain English, in which he printed numerous anti-Jewish attack articles. Bosie published several volumes of poetry, two books about his relationship with Oscar, and a memoir. Ironically, Bosie was to experience prison for himself after being convicted of libel against Winston Churchill in 1924 and spent six months in prison. He wrote an echo of Oscar’s letter to Bosie from prison, De Profundis, entitled In Excelsis, which was his last poetic work. After his incarceration, Bosie began to sympathize with Oscar, which he professed in one of his books about their relationship. He made many public appearances lecturing about poetry throughout the 1930s and 40s until his death from congestive heart failure in England in 1945 at the age of 74.

Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred "Bosie" Douglas

P O E T I C C O M PA N I O N S WA L T W H I T M A N A N D O S C A R W I L D E Walt Whitman was an influential American poet whose most famous work was Leaves of Grass. He was born in 1819 in Long Island, New York and was the second of nine children. His family’s economic situation was rough and Walt Whitman, 1887, age 68 as a result, Walt dropped out of school at age 11 to work. He worked for two lawyers and for a series of newspaper printers as a typesetter and anonymous contributor of articles. Whitman was determined to become a poet and in 1855, completed a self-published volume of Leaves of Grass, a collection of poems. The book was widely distributed and was highly acclaimed, mostly due to strong praise from Ralph Waldo Emerson, a well-respected writer of the time, however it was criticized for its underlying sexual themes. When the Civil War started, Whitman became involved in politics and was deeply affected by the horrors of war. He immediately moved to Washington, D.C. where he volunteered as a nurse in army hospitals. He later wrote an essay and a book about his wartime experiences. In 1866, he published a new volume of Leaves of Grass, and The Poems of Walt Whitman was published in England. His popularity grew and he stayed in Washington until 1873, when he suffered a paralytic stroke. He was then moved to his brother’s house in Camden, New Jersey, where his ill mother was also staying. He was very productive at this house, publishing three more volumes of Leaves of Grass and entertaining Thomas Eakins, a Philadelphia painter, photographer, and sculptor, and Oscar Wilde, while he was in the States giving his lecture series.

“I come as a poet to call upon a poet,” ­–Wilde said, when Whitman opened his door.

There has been much speculation about Whitman’s sexual orientation, with most scholars concluding that he was either homosexual or bisexual. Whitman had many close relationships with men and women during his life, with no conclusive evidence of sexual relationships with either gender. Whitman’ s contributions to poetry are great, and he is known as the Father of Free Verse even though the poetic form existed before Leaves of Grass, which was prose-like and used unusual imagery from nature. Whitman died in 1892 at the age of 73. His funeral and public viewing at his Camden home was attended by thousands and lasted three hours. Sources -www.newrepublic.com/article/119885/when-walt-whitman-metoscar-wilde -en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walt_Whitman

Active Learning 1. What do you see as common themes in the lives of Walt Whitman, Bosie, and Oscar? Why do you think they experienced similar issues and difficulties during their lives? Do you think homosexuals are freer to be themselves in today’s world without as much fear or repercussions? 2. Read “Beat! Beat! Drums!” at tinyurl.com/ wrote this during the Civil War as a patriotic rally cry for the North. Use the “Diamond Poems” worksheet in the teacher’s guide or a different poetic format to write your own rally cry, whether it be for a political reason or a personal one.



W H AT I N T H E W O R L D ? EVENTS IN THREE POETS LIVES Below is a list of events that happened in the lives of Oscar Wilde, Lord Alfred Douglas (Bosie), and Walt Whitman’s. The events that have an asterisk (*) have local significance. 1854 Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde is born in Dublin, Ireland. 1855 Walt Whitman self-publishes first limited edition (12 poems) of Leaves of Grass. 1857 *The Academy of Music opens with a concert conducted by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. 1861-65 The American Civil War takes place. 1870 Lord Alfred Douglas, “Bosie,” is born in Worcestershire, England. 1873 Whitman suffers a paralytic stroke; goes to live with brother in Camden, NJ. 1874 *The first zoo in the United States opens in Philadelphia. 1876 Whitman publishes sixth edition of Leaves of Grass. 1879 Whitman, in better health, takes off on a year’s lecture tour. 1881 Oscar sets off on a lecture tour of the US. He meets Walt Whitman in Philadelphia. 1884 Oscar marries Constance Lloyd in London, England. *Whitman buys his first home on Mickle Street in Camden. 1888 Whitman publishes Complete Poems and Prose of Walt Whitman 1889 Whitman publishes eighth edition of Leaves of Grass. The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar’s only novel, is published. Oscar meets Bosie; they soon began an affair. 1892 Oscar's first play, Lady Windermere's Fan, opens. 1892 Whitman publishes ninth edition of Leaves of Grass; he dies in March at the age of 73. 1894 *Milton Hershey (1857-1945) founded Hershey Foods in Pennsylvania. 1895 The Importance of Being Earnest, a play written by Oscar, is performed. Oscar is tried for indecency. Oscar is convicted of gross indecency and sentenced to two years hard labor. 1897 In prison, Oscar writes De Profundis, a long letter which discusses his spiritual journey through his trials. Oscar is released from prison on May 19, 1897. *Famous singer and civil rights pioneer Marian Anderson is born in Philadelphia. 1898 Bosie separates from Oscar and returns to England. 1900 Oscar dies of cerebral meningitis at the age of 46. 1902 Bosie marries Olive Eleanor Custance. 1924 Bosie is convicted of libel against Winston Churchill and spends six months in prison. From prison, Bosie writes In Excelsis, which is his last poetic work. 1945 Bosie dies in England of congestive heart failure at the age of 74. 1957 *The Walt Whitman Bridge, spanning the Delaware River from Philadelphia to Camden, NJ, opens to traffic. 12

OPERA VOC ABUL ARY Act - main sections of a play or opera Aria - a solo song sung in an opera Audience - people who watch a performance and sit in the “house� or auditorium Ballet - dance set to music within an opera Blocking - action on stage Character - person who is part of the opera’s story Chorus - music composed for a group of singers or the name of a group of singers in an opera Conductor - person who rehearses and leads the orchestra Duet - a song performed by two singers Libretto - the text of an opera or other long vocal work Orchestra - a group of musicians who play together on various musical instruments Ornamentation - any of several decorations, such as the trill, occurring chiefly as improvised embellishments in music Overture - a piece of instrumental music played at the beginning of an opera Program - booklet that contains information about the opera, composer, performers, the opera company, and includes advertisements Recitative - words that are sung in the rhythm of natural speech - a bit like the 18th century version of rap Rehearsal - time when singers/actors practice with or without the orchestra; time when musicians practice together with the conductor Scene - segments of action within the acts of an opera TYPES OF SINGERS Soprano - highest pitched female voice Mezzo-soprano - female voice between soprano and contralto Contralto - lowest pitched female voice Countertenor - male who sings in falsetto, in a female range Tenor - highest pitched male voice Baritone - male voice between tenor and bass Bass - lowest pitched male voice


THE COUNTERTENOR VOICE UNIQUE BRILLIANCE AND BEAUT Y In our opera Oscar, the role of Oscar Wilde is sung by a countertenor, a man who sings in the same vocal range as a woman. The singer, David Daniels, who plays Oscar Wilde, was the composer’s inspiration for the newly written opera. The composer, Theodore Morrison, had already written a successful song cycle for the countertenor, and he had wanted to try his hand at writing an opera for him. Throughout operatic history, composers have used women to portray young males through an operatic convention known as a "trouser� role. Performing en travesti (literally, "in disguise") is an operatic tradition dating back to the earliest days of opera. The trouser role is simply a male role performed by a woman. It does not imply any sexual preference for the character, singer, or composer. Some trouser roles now performed by women were originally written for male singers called castrati.

allowed the composer to include a higher range of pitches in the all-male chorus. This practice was also very important in the early development of Italian opera, and composers like Vicenzo Bellini and Gioachino Rossini wrote roles for castrati, who were among the most famous and highly paid men in Europe (the rock stars of their day.) Highly regarded for the beauty, brilliance and power of their voices, castrati brought amazing expressivity to their singing and could sing intricate high-speed vocal passages. As the castrati disappeared by around 1830, the roles they sang were assumed by contraltos, the lowest-voiced female singing range. In the early and middle 19th century, a large number of female singers came to specialize in heroic male roles. Even as the romantic tenor roles began to dominate opera, some composers like Mozart still chose women to play boys and court pages as late as 1890.

The famous castrato, Farinelli

Today, countertenors are much in demand in many forms of classical music. In opera, many roles originally written for castrati are now sung by countertenors, as are some trouser roles originally written for female singers. Many modern composers continue to write countertenor parts, in choral works and opera, as well as songs and song-cycles for the voice.

In many 17th and 18th century operas, most heroic male roles were written for high voiced male castrati. Young, musically gifted boys with beautiful voices were chosen to become castrati. Boys became castrati through a surgical procedure that prevented the male hormone testosterone from lowering the boy's voice at puberty. In Italy at that time, women were not allowed to sing in church; thus, the high-ranged voices of castrati 14

Countertenor vocal range

Contralto vocal range

Ombra Mai Fu, Handel, David Daniels, (countertenor) tinyurl.com/OmbraDaniels Ombra Mai Fu, Handel, Jennifer Larimore, (mezzo-soprano) tinyurl.com/OmbraLarimore Cara Sposa, Handel, David Daniels (countertenor) tinyurl.com/CaraDaniels Flow my Tears, Dowland, Gerard Lesne, (countertenor) tinyurl.com/FlowLesne

N E W C O L L A B O R AT I O N I N O P E R A THEODORE MORRISON AND JOHN COX Composer and co-librettist Theodore Morrison began composing at the age of 42, more than twenty years after he was well established as a conductor specializing in large works for chorus, soloists and orchestra, as well as music for chamber orchestra. Over Oscar composer, Theodore the past 35 years he has Morrison composed an epic choral symphony and a number of other large works for voices and orchestra, and many shorter pieces. His music has been performed throughout North America and Europe, and in Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Morrison marks his first collaborations with The Santa Fe Opera and Opera Philadelphia with Oscar, an opera in two acts based on the trial and imprisonment of Oscar Wilde. Co-librettist John Cox is an English opera director, who made his directing debut with Ravel's L'enfant et les sortilèges for the Sadler's Wells company in 1965. He held important posts in several major opera companies, and in 1988 was appointed Oscar librettist, John Cox production director of the Royal Opera, Covent Garden. Morrison says of collaborating on the Oscar libretto with Cox, "As one of the foremost opera directors in the world, John is as exciting an inventor of language for the stage as I can imagine. Working with him has been a wonderful opportunity for me.

“For several years John and I consulted over fifty books and articles by and about Oscar Wilde and created a libretto that is based on Wilde's own writings and those of his contemporaries. As part of our research we communicated with Merlin Holland, grandson of Oscar Wilde and the preeminent contemporary scholar of his grandfather. We wanted to present a stage work that offers a fresh and provocative take on the subject. Most accounts of Oscar Wilde present him as victim. We present him as a brave character, and accept the fact that he is sometimes self-destructive. So ours is a serious opera, but filled with delightful witticisms of Wilde and his friends Ada Leverson and Frank Harris, who also appear in the opera as major characters. The connective tissue is ours.” Merlin Holland shared these reflections after seeing Oscar in Santa Fe: "My grandfather's story has been told dozens of times and from dozens of angles but never, until now, has he been accorded the singular distinction of the title role in an opera... Theo Morrison and John Cox saw in Oscar's life all the elements of the classic tragedy that it was. Hero? Not really. Saint? Certainly not. Just a profoundly 'human' being who still makes us laugh, but whose work often forces us to stop and think a hundred years after 'the love that dare not speak its name' brought him to prison and an early death. A story made for the emotional world of the opera? Yes, indeed. Surprising that no one thought of it before." To read more about Theodore Morrison, please visit theodoremorrisonmusic.com Sources Cited -en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Cox_(director) -theodoremorrisonmusic.com


synopsis FOR OSCAR Walt Whitman met Oscar Wilde during the young Irish poet's lecture tour of the US in 1882. Walt was at the height of his fame, whereas Oscar was merely a celebrity lecturer explaining the new Aesthetic Movement (see glossary) to the American public. He had at this point written nothing to hint at his enduring genius. By the time Oscar met Lord Alfred Douglas, known as Bosie, Walt was dead while Oscar was very famous. It is from his vantage point of Immortality that Walt presents our opera, revealing to us the catastrophe that Oscar's love for Bosie brought about. Bosie Douglas was the youngest son of the Marquess of Queensberry, and they despised one another. Oscar soon found himself in the crossfire of their enmity when Queensberry raised public objection to Oscar's relationship with his son, imputing a sexual basis to it. Bosie forced Oscar to sue Queensberry for libel, hoping thereby to disgrace him, but Queensberry won the case, so that the disgrace fell on Oscar. He was rapidly put on trial, convicted and jailed for "gross indecency."

A ct I Oscar is out on bail awaiting the verdict (on his trial for gross indecency). Queensberry (his lover, Bosie’s, father) has bribed two detectives to warn hotel managers against giving him a room. Bosie, under pressure from Oscar, leaves the country, but, portrayed by a dancer, he haunts Oscar's imagination throughout the opera. Oscar eventually finds shelter with Ada Leverson, also a writer and adored by Oscar, who calls her Sphinx. She puts him up in the children's nursery where they are joined by their friend Frank Harris. At first the innocent gaiety of their surroundings brightens the mood. Drinks are served and playful repartee prevails. Then the influential Frank reveals that he has made arrangements for Oscar to abscond bail, flee the country and escape the inevitable guilty verdict. After much agonizing, especially over his two young children, Oscar refuses to run away. The only honorable course is to face his accusers. In what essentially becomes a show trial the nursery morphs into the courtroom and the toys enact the proceedings as farce. The "guilty" 16

verdict is handed down and Oscar is sentenced to hard labor for two years.

A ct I I The prison wardens are sarcastically making their celebrity guest welcome, but a reality check is brutally provided by the sadistic governor, Isaacson, whose personal mission is to punish his charges to the furthest extreme. Oscar will be no exception. He is rapidly broken in body and spirit by the prison regime. In his feverish weakness he suffers a fall during chapel service and injures his head. In the face of rebellious protests by the prisoners, Isaacson grudgingly sends Oscar to the infirmary. In the infirmary Oscar is able to talk with other sick prisoners, discovering levels of simple humanity that restore his spirits. He realizes that there are greater degrees of suffering in life than he has ever imagined. We discover that there is soon to be an execution. On the eve of the execution, the tension inside the prison reaches a terrifying pitch as all feel the presence of Death in their midst. Oscar senses that this death prefigures his own.

Nearing the end of his sentence, Oscar is visited by Frank Harris. Early release has been beyond Frank's political influence but at least the authorities have decided to replace the tyrannical Isaacson with a more moderate governor who will allow Oscar writing materials, more books and to work in the garden. It is here that he receives his last visitor. Ada Leverson comes to discuss plans for his return to freedom. Alas, his request to join a closed Christian community has been refused. It will be some time before society is prepared to tolerate his return. Indeed, he will have to pass over to the next life before that process can truly begin. Walt greets Oscar on the threshold of Eternity and conducts him, amidst general acclaim, to his place among the Immortals. Watch a sneak preview of this production via Opera Philadelphia’s online trailer at: tinyurl.com/ OscarPreview

Oscar on the rock in Dublin

S atire in Victorian L iterature In Victorian literature, satire, the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, served as an instrument of sociopolitical protest and also as a reinforcement of class, imperialist, and/or antifeminist ideologies. The preeminent satirist of the Victorian era was the playwright, novelist, and poet, Oscar Wilde, whose social comedies publicly criticized and made fun of Victorian drama and morality. Oscar Wilde’s play, Lady Windermere's Fan bitingly satirizes the morals of Victorian society, particularly marriage. The opera Oscar begins with Wilde’s speech given at the premiere of the play. The story concerns Lady Windermere, who discovers that her husband may be having an affair with Mrs. Erlynne who he invites to his wife's birthday ball. Angered by her husband's unfaithfulness, Lady Windermere leaves her husband for another lover. After discovering what has transpired, Mrs. Erlynne follows Lady Windermere and attempts to persuade her to return to her husband and in the course of this, Mrs. Erlynne is discovered in a compromising position. It is then revealed Mrs. Erlynne is Lady Windermere's mother, who abandoned her family twenty years before the time the play is set. Mrs. Erlynne sacrifices herself and her reputation to save her daughter's marriage. Find Out More: tinyurl.com/WikiVictorian tinyurl.com/WikiSatireVE tinyurl.com/LadyWindermere tinyurl.com/GSPatience


JOHN COX AND THEODORE MORRISON OSC AR LIBRETTO Final Dress Rehearsal – Wednesday, February 4, 2015 at 2:0 0 p. m . Libretto by John Cox and Theodore Morrison; Based on quotations from the writings of Oscar Wilde and his Contemporaries; Libretto reprinted with permission from G. Schirmer, Inc. Words bolded in the libretto are defined in a glossary at the back of the book.

Oscar Wilde............................................................Dav i d Dan i e l s c ount e rt e no r Ada Leverson.....................................................................H e i d i Sto be r so p rano Frank H arris.....................................................................W i llia m Bu r d e n t e no r Walt Whitman...............................................................dway n e c ro f t b a rit one Lord Alfre d Douglas (“B osie”)................................................R e e d Lu pl au d anc e r Judge Sir Alfre d Willis & Col. H enr y B. Isaac son.......Way n e Ti gg es b ass - b a rit one Insp e ctor Lit tle child & 1s t Prison Warder................................J ose ph Gai n es t e no r Thomas M ar tin & H otel M grs........................................R i c ar d o R iv e r a b a rit one Insp e ctor Ke arley and 2nd Prison Warder.................Be n ja m i n S i e v e r d i n g b ass Prison Chaplain............................................................................Roy Hag e t e no r Prison Infirmar y Patient #1....................................................Jar r ett Ott b a rit one Prison Infirmar y Patient #2..................................Th om a s Sh ivo n e b ass - b a rit one B ailif f...............................................................................To ffe r M i halk a t e no r Le ggat t................................................................Fr an k M itc h e ll b ass - b a rit one Jur y Foreman.................................................................Dan i e l Sc h wartz t e no r Toy jur y memb ers, sp e ctators, cour t p ersonnel, prisoners, Immor tals Conductor...................................................................................Evan Ro g iste r Dire ctor.....................................................................................K e v i n N e w bu ry S et D esign.....................................................................................Dav i d Ko r i ns Costume D esign.....................................................................Dav i d C . Wo o l ar d Lighting D esign...................................................................................R i c k Fish e r Chore o grapher...............................................................................S e án C u r r an Chorus M aster.......................................................................E liz abeth Br ad e n East Coast Premiere | American Repertoire Program Co-commission and co-production with The Santa Fe Opera Libretto Copyright © 2012 by G. Schirmer, Inc. (ASCAP), New York, NY International Copyright Secured. All Rights Reserved Warning. Unauthorized reproduction of this publication is Prohibited by Federal law and subject to criminal prosecution.


Copyright materials from The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde reprinted by kind permission of Harper Collins Publishers and Merlin Holland. First published in Great Britain in 2000 by Fourth Estate Limited This collection copyright © 2000 Merlin Holland

I ntroduction After the premiere of his first great comedy, Lady Windermere’s Fan, Oscar Wilde responded to rapturous applause and calls of “Author!” from his appreciative audience. The opera opens with a version of this famous speech that Wilde himself later called “Immortal.” In the minds of many it confirmed his creation of a new kind of celebrity for the modern age. For the “Curtain Raiser” Oscar should be suave, mischievous, arrogant, wickedly playful, and very, very self-confident. In a surprising way it gives him a brief but telling moment as the brilliant public personality that our audience understandably expects, and most of all, puts the scale of his catastrophic fall on stage for all to see.

C urtain R aiser As the audience enters the theatre, on each corner of the stage in front of the closed curtain stand very large placards advertising the premiere of Lady Windermere’s Fan. The house lights fade as the conductor enters to applause, which he or she accepts in the usual way. Over the live applause will come amplified applause, mixed with cries of “Author!” A sudden, brash spotlight appears center stage on the curtain. Oscar enters abruptly through the curtain divide. If this is not practical he comes from the corner and a follow-spot brings him to center. He is wearing white tie, tails, and a green carnation in his buttonhole, and is smoking a cigarette in an elegant holder. He is in an exalted mood, gleaming for his audience.

do myself. Together we have borne witness to an Immortal occasion. Thank you! Oscar bows and exits to renewed applause.

A C T I P rologue

In the regions of Immortality

As soon as Oscar exits, cast members in period costumes quickly take away the placards from each side of the stage, and the curtain rises on a splendid library, which acts as a literary pantheon in Immortality. Walt Whitman, as one of the great Immortals, is waiting to address us. He is carrying a copy of Leaves of Grass, which he opens to its first page and sings rhapsodically what he is reading with noticeable satisfaction. W a lt

COME, said my Soul, Such verses for my Body let us write, (for we are one,) That should I after death invisibly return, Or, long, long hence, in other spheres, There to some group of mates the chants resuming,

O s c a r Ladies and gentlemen! I deeply

appreciate your attending this first performance of Lady Windermere’s Fan. I, like you, have enjoyed this evening immensely. The actors have given us a charming rendering of a delightful play, and your appreciation has been most intelligent. I congratulate you on the great success of your performance, which persuades me that you think almost as highly of the play as I

Walt Whitman (1860-1865)


(Tallying Earth’s soil, trees, winds, tumultuous waves,) Ever with pleas’d smile I may keep on, Ever and ever yet the verses owning – as, first, I here and now, Signing for Soul and Body, Set to them my name, Walt Whitman Walt closes the book with a flourish and addresses the audience, speaking in lusty style. W a lt I died in the springtime of eighteen

and ninety-two, just after Oscar Wilde took London by storm with his first great comedy, Lady Windermere’s Fan. Oscar and I had met a decade before that when he was lecturing in America. I loved him immediately. He was so frank and outspoken and manly. After the lecture tour Oscar returned home to London, to his wife and children, and to a brilliant career as the outstanding comic playwright of the age. His supreme achievement was The Importance of Being Earnest, one of the greatest comedies of all time. It was during this time that Oscar began his intimacy with the twenty-two year old Lord Alfred Douglas, known as Bosie. Bosie’s father, the infamous and hotheaded Marquess of Queensberry, publicly accused Oscar of being a sodomite. Urged on by Bosie, who hated his father, Oscar brought Queensberry to court on a charge of libel. His case failed. Oscar himself was immediately prosecuted by the Crown for “gross indecency” and found guilty.

Walt leaves. Oscar Wilde appears as another of the great Immortals. He addresses his audience outside of time. O s c a r Sorrow is that mode of existence in

which Soul and Body are one and indivisible, in which the outward is expressive of the inward. Behind Joy and Laughter there may be a temperament, coarse, hard, and callous. But behind Sorrow there is always Sorrow. Pain, unlike Pleasure, wears no mask. For this reason there is no truth comparable to Sorrow. Out of Sorrow have the worlds been built, and 20

at the birth of a child or a star there is pain. Pleasure for the beautiful Body, and Pain for the beautiful Soul. My affectionate friends! Where there is Sorrow there is holy ground. What rises before you is my fall. Oscar remains in place as the scene changes around him.

A ct I S cene 1

In the streets of London

Seeking rooms on the eve of the verdict of his final trial, Oscar is seen walking through the looming, hostile city. He is overtaken by two detectives employed by the Marquess of Queensberry, Bosie’s father. The detectives enter a first-class hotel just ahead of Oscar and slander him to the manager at the reception desk. The Dancer (Bosie) enters as a porter to assist Oscar with his luggage. D e t e c t i v e s (singing together, abusively)

Manager! Manager! Watch out! Beware!

Ma n ag e r (fearful) Who are you? D e t e c t i v e s We represent Lord


Ma n ag e r (a little hard of hearing) Lord Rosebery? The Prime Minister? D e t e c t i v e s No! Are you deaf?


Ma n ag e r Of what do you warn me?

Oscar enters the lobby. D e t e c t i v e s (vicious) Here comes Oscar

Wilde. You’ll be sorry if you give him lodging!

O s c a r Good evening. Do you have any


Ma n ag e r (agitated) Your name, please, Sir? O s c a r (surprised at the tone of the manager) I

am Oscar Wilde.

D e t e c t i v e s Sodomite!

O s c a r (fighting back) Playwright!

D e t e c t i v e s Of Oscar Wilde! Bugger!

D e t e c t i v e s Sodomite!

O s c a r (defiant) Lover!

Ma n ag e r (a bit sheepish) I am sorry Mr Wilde; we are full.

Ma n ag e r (crudely) Lover of whom?

O s c a r (outraged) I have taken rooms here

D e t e c t i v e s Of young men, not pretty girls.

many times. Will you force me to go elsewhere?

Ma n ag e r Revolting!

D e t e c t i v e N o . 1 (quasi parlando - like a stage whisper) Watch out! Beware!

D e t e c t i v e s Disgusting!

Ma n ag e r (timidly) Elsewhere.

Oscar walks out showing frustration. The detectives follow. They arrive at a second hotel, not quite as fine as the first. Oscar enters, this time followed by the detectives. Ma n ag e r (rather pleasantly) Good evening,

Sir. May I help you?

O s c a r (somewhat agitated) Yes, please. I

should like rooms for at least tonight.

O s c a r (still fighting) Beautiful!

Oscar proudly strides from the hotel as the detectives and manager mock him. D e t e c t i v e s a n d t h e Ma n ag e r

There is no room at the inn for Oscar Wilde, and for his kind!

O s c a r (outside with the porter, who reveals

himself to be Bosie) For this love, for this love that dare not speak its name, I fear the road will be long, and red with monstrous martyrdoms.

D e t e c t i v e s Watch out! Beware! Ma n ag e r Beware of what? D e t e c t i v e s (pointing to Oscar) Of this old


O s c a r (biting) Seer! Ma n ag e r (rude) Your name? O s c a r (proud) Oscar Wilde. Ma n ag e r (harsh) Oscar Wilde! We’ve no

rooms for you!

D e t e c t i v e s (as harsh as possible) Queer!

Queer! Without another word Oscar leaves the hotel. The detectives follow Oscar to a third and rather shabby hotel. The detectives enter first.

D e t e c t i v e s Innkeeper! Innkeeper! Watch

out! Beware!

Ma n ag e r Beware of what?

The detectives point to Oscar as he arrives.

Oscar contemplates his fate, while Bosie remains a constant presence. Photo by Ken Howard, The Santa Fe Opera


Oscar turns and surveys the hostile city, shadowed by Bosie. A chorus of individuals and small groups cry out harsh words at Oscar from various positions. The effect should underscore the surreal atmosphere of the city. C h o r u s Queer! Bugger! Sodomite! Nancy-


O s c a r For this love, A s i n g l e c h o r u s v o i c e (sneering)


Oscar and Bosie come together for a moment of farewell. O s c a r For this love!

Bosie leaves with one of the suitcases. Oscar remains alone and motionless as the scene changes around him.

A ct I S cene 2

In the nursery at the home of the Leversons

THE NURSERY AS DESCRIBED BY ADA LEVERSON: “When we arrived I showed him to his rooms, the nursery floor, which was almost a flat in itself, two big rooms, one small one, and a bathroom. So in the presence of a rocking horse, dolls’ houses, golliwogs, a blue and white nursery dado with rabbits and other animals on it, the most serious and tragic matters were discussed.” - Ada Leverson, Letters to the Sphinx from Oscar Wilde (1930) Oscar has already arrived in the nursery at No. 2 Courtfield Gardens, South Kensington, and has removed his top-hat, having placed it mischievously on a large, quizzical teddy bear nearby. He is feeling happy finally, to be in a place he loves and feels safe. Ada arrives accompanied by the butler, Leggatt, who takes Oscar’s topcoat and suitcases to the bedroom. Oscar is very upbeat, glad to see Ada, and in total denial about his fate.

A d a Oscar, dear Oscar. It warms my heart to

see you.

O s c a r (self-mocking and full of fun) Beloved

Sphinx, these days especially, it warms my heart to be seen.

A d a (brightly) Our little Violet is in the

country for a few days with Ernest, so you can stay here in the nursery. (Oscar reacts incredulously.) We’ve put a bed for you in there. (pointing as she enjoys his disbelief) Exit Leggatt to the bedroom.

O s c a r (relieved) Thank you wonderful

Sphinx. Only you and Ernest could be so kind, so brave as to provide refuge for such a reprehensible character as I am now reputed to be.

A d a Little else is talked about in London but

Oscar Wilde. All the Continent has joined in the controversy, saying, “This is how you behave to your poets.” The Americans say, “This is how your poets behave.”

O s c a r Always, I have blown my trumpet

against the gates of dullness.

A d a (firmly) Oscar! It’s time to be serious.

Your life with Bosie has been all frivolity and danger. He was acting solely out of hatred for his dreadful father as he pressured you to remain for this final, farcical trial while he ran away to France to protect his own back.

O s c a r (strong) Bosie is nothing but beautiful.

Ada rings for Leggatt. A d a (agitated) Rumour has it that there is a

movement within the government to make you the scapegoat for Prime Minister Rosebery. He is also a lover of men, and will lose his office, and worse if he is exposed. You will almost certainly go to prison.

O s c a r (bitterly) I am fully aware of this. A d a Oscar! Frank Harris will join us soon. He


has the means to help you to escape. Re-enter Leggatt. O s c a r (admonishing) Now Sphinx, that is

enough! We shall speak only of matters that are agreeable, not about my tribulations.

A d a But Frank will force the point. O s c a r (dismissively) I know he will. A d a (resigned) Then, let’s have a drink! Hock

O s c a r Dear Sphinx, absinthe makes the

heart grow fonder.

A d a (shocked at his unworthy pun) Schoolboys

make such jokes!

O s c a r (ignoring Ada’s comment) After the

first glass, you see things as you wish they were. After the second, you see things as they are not. (still joking) Finally, you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in the world!

and seltzer?

A d a (lightly) How do you mean?

O s c a r Oh very well . . .

O s c a r I mean disassociated. (He reaches

to the bear for his top-hat.) Take a top-hat! You think you see it as it really is, but you don’t, because you associate it with other things and ideas. If you had never heard of one before, and suddenly saw it alone, you’d be frightened, or laugh. This is the effect absinthe has, and that is why it drives men mad. Three nights I sat up all night drinking absinthe …

A d a (laughing mirthlessly) You wicked boy. O s c a r (continuing his story) . . . thinking that

I was singularly clearheaded and sane.

There is a lighting change. In Oscar’s imagination the Dancer enters as a waiter carrying a broom and a watering can as the music produces a psychedelic impression. O s c a r (with romance) The waiter came in

Ada comforts Oscar after he cries out in grief for Bosie. Photo by Ken Howard, The Santa Fe Opera

and began watering the sawdust. The most wonderful flowers, tulips, roses, and lilies sprang up and made a garden of the café. “Don’t you see them?” I said to the waiter, “Don’t you see them?”

O s c a r . . . unless you have any absinthe!

The waiter turns to Oscar with interest.

Aside, Leggatt reacts disdainfully, then exits.

O s c a r “Mais non, monsieur, il n’y a rien.”

A d a Absinthe! In the nursery? O s c a r (laughing) ‘twould be appropriate to

my present condition. (ecstatic) Absinthe!

A d a What would I know about absinthe?

(Oscar continues with a French accent.) “There is nothing!” Oscar suddenly lunges at the waiter and tears off his mask.

O s c a r Bosie! 23

Bosie takes Oscar by the hand and draws him into a dance. A waltz begins with intimacy in a gentle style. As the intensity of the music increases, Oscar stops dancing. Bosie continues to dance alone athletically as Oscar watches, dazzled. Bosie dances away. Returning to reality, Oscar cries out from the violence of his grief. O s c a r Bosie!

Ada goes to comfort him.

A d a Leave him to me. L e ggatt Mister Harris!

Frank arrives as Ada greets him cheerfully. A d a Frank. How good to see you. Oscar will

join us soon.

F r a n k (flirting) The pleasure is mine, my

dear. You look, as always, lovely.

A d a Oscar, dear Oscar!

A d a (as a barb) You look lovely yourself.

Leggatt enters with a drinks tray, three glasses, and serves Ada and Oscar. The concludes quietly.

F r a n k I suppose that we are both splendidly

A d a I’ve a friend of whom it was said, “It’s a

pity he drinks so much absinthe.”

O s c a r If he didn’t, he’d be somebody else. A d a Of course. O s c a r Personality must be accepted for what

it is. You mustn’t mind that a poet is drunk, rather that drunks are not always poets.

A ct I S cene 3 In the nursery

Leggatt coughs discreetly. A d a What is it, Leggatt? L e ggatt Madam, Mr Frank Harris has


Ada looks at Oscar and receives an affirmative nod. A d a (to Leggatt) Thank you. Please ask him to

join us, here.

lovely. Of course you know that modesty is the proper fig leaf of ugliness.

A d a (playfully) I must say that I have never tried to incorporate a fig leaf into my toilette. F r a n k (overdoing it) You are far too beautiful

to make such an attempt.

A d a (feisty) Then you must talk to my dressmaker! F r a n k But I’ve already met her -

(lasciviously) several times.

A d a Frank, you are impossible! (Frank helps

himself to a drink.) Oscar once told me he did not know what a football scrimmage was, but he imagined it must be very like a conversation with Frank Harris! (Frank takes a big gulp.) Do have a drink! Frank walks about the nursery examining the toys and dolls. He contemplates Oscar’s situation and sums up ironically.

F r a n k So Oscar is camped here in the

L e ggatt (a bit surprised by the location)

Certainly, Madam. (Leggatt leaves.)

nursery while he is on trial for “gross indecency.” (wryly) There is a sour-sweet incongruence about that.

O s c a r (rising nervously, leaving for the

A d a (proudly defending Oscar) His place in the

bedroom) Oh, please talk to Frank for a while. (He’s such a bully.) I need a moment to gird myself against the onslaught!


nursery is secure forever. Think of his delightful children’s stories, and how loving he always is with the little ones. Ada reaches for a book and turns the pages, sharing it with Frank.

A d a ‘Why is he weeping?’ asked a little Green

A ct I S cene 4

F r a n k ‘Why, indeed?’ said a Butterfly, who

F r a n k (aggressive, too distressed to be amused)

Lizard as he ran past with his tail in the air.

was fluttering about after a sunbeam.

B o t h ‘He is weeping for a red rose,’ said the

Nightingale, and she sat silent in the oak tree, and thought about the mystery of Love.” (Ada closes the book.) F r a n k Tell me, Ada, what was it that drew

you to him? Tell me your first impressions?

A d a Old legends heard in the schoolroom still

In the nursery

Oscar! I’ve a friend who owns a yacht. He agreed to rent it to me for a month. I can spirit you away to France before the verdict. The yacht is moored nearby at Erith with steam up at one hundred pounds per square inch. In one hour she would be free of the Thames and on the high seas!

O s c a r Did you tell your friend what you

intend to do with the boat?

hung like a mist over Oscar when I met him. I was half surprised not to see him wan and palely loitering in knee breeches, holding that lily on the scent of which he had been said to subsist. But he had long given up the aesthetic pose of the Eighties. Before I first met Oscar I had been told that he was rather like a giant with the wings of a Brazilian butterfly, and I was not disappointed. But I thought him far more like a Roman Emperor!

F r a n k On impulse, I told him exactly why I

Oh Frank! What will become of him now?

of support for you from Dublin literary men. Shaw says you must save yourself for your work if not for your own sake. You and I could travel together. We could have a high time!

F r a n k (angry) What became of Walt

Whitman, the noblest of all Americans. He was living in utter poverty, depending on English admirers for a sufficiency of food, or a change of clothes. But England will not save Oscar Wilde!

Hearing his name, Oscar returns, drink in hand. O s c a r Speak of the devil!

needed it. “In that case”, he said, “you can have it for nothing.”

O s c a r Oh Frank, dear Frank, I am touched

by your generosity, and your friend’s. But I cannot go. I shall stand it out and face the worst. I shall stay and do my sentence whatever it is.

F r a n k (exasperated) Yeats has gathered letters

O s c a r Frank, you are famous on every

continent for your rowdiness. Traveling with you would be like participating in an endless game of football! (Oscar refreshes their drinks.)

The two men greet each other. Oscar sets the rocking horse in motion to cover his nervousness. O s c a r Frank, how nice to see you. (He toasts

Frank.) Saddle up, Cowboy!

A d a (as she leaves with a flourish, nose in the

air, singing with a Southwestern American cowgirl dialect) I will leave you boys here at the ranch.

Frank pleads with Oscar to escape with him on his yacht. Photo by Ken Howard, The Santa Fe Opera


F r a n k (fervently) Oscar! It could be

continuous pleasure. You know that I have been invited to every great house in all of the capitals of Europe!

O s c a r (deliberately) But never more than

once, Frank!

Frank laughs loudly, no longer able to resist Oscar’s good humor. F r a n k Perhaps I should be offended! O s c a r (strong, but playful) Frank, you are

a man of dominant personality. You require response, or you annihilate. The pleasure of being with you is the clash of personality, the intellectual battle, the war of ideas. To survive you one must have a strong brain, an assertive ego, a dynamic character. In your luncheon parties in the old days, the remains of the guests were taken away with the debris of the feast! (Frank laughs heartily.)

A d a (near to tears) Oh Oscar, how sad, how

strange, how unlike a mother.

F r a n k We fear for you if you stay. A d a (firmly) You are the most generous man I

have ever known, unique in making people fond of you,

A d a a n d F r a n k (together) . . . but on this occasion you are trying our patience. O s c a r I would rather enjoy the time I

have left sitting here in your nursery. Nothing soothes a broken heart like the sweetness of childhood.

A d a (admonishing) Think of your children:


O s c a r (frightened) Cyril!

F r a n k Your robust compliment delights

me, dear friend. But your grave situation overwhelms my pleasure. Oscar, come with me now. You will be lost in the “rat pit” that men call the Courts of Justice. There they judge their fellows, mistaking indifference for impartiality as if anyone could judge his fellow man without love. And even with love how far short we all come of that perfect sympathy which is above forgiveness.

A ct I S cene 5 In the nursery

Ada enters with a bowl of sweets. O s c a r Ah! The beautiful Sphinx has

returned to mother us with sweets. (The men each take a sweet and sit briefly in silence, then Oscar comments acidly.) Let me tell you what my dear mother said of my predicament. In her grandest manner, these were her exact words: “If you stay, even if you go to prison, you will always be my son. It will make no difference to my affection. (Now with dreadful emphasis) But if you go, I will never speak to you again.” 26

Ada and Frank try to convince Oscar to leave the country. Photo by Ken Howard, The Santa Fe Opera

A d a Vyvyan! O s c a r Vyvyan! My lovely children! A d a (as persuasive as possible) They need their


F r a n k (forcefully) The weight of the court

will fall upon you like a stone. Hard labor in prison has broken men of great bodily strength.

A d a a n d F r a n k (together) I beg you,

go with Frank. (come to France.) I beg you go (come) tonight. Go with him (come with me) to France tonight. Now go! Now go! O s c a r (grief-stricken) Cyril! Vyvyan! My

lovely children! (For the moment he seems convinced.) You are right! Between my mother and my children, the choice is clear.

F r a n k The yacht is ready. I must send a

message at once.

A d a (continuing urgently) We can send Leggatt

O s c a r Thank you, Frank. I am moved by

your chivalry and nobility as a friend.

F r a n k (softly) Farewell, dear Oscar. I will

hold you in my heart.

Frank and Oscar embrace. A d a (sadly) I will see Frank to the door.

Ada and Frank move toward the door. She suddenly pauses and turns to Oscar to make one last impassioned gesture of appeal.

to the telegraph office. Come with me.

O s c a r Thank you Sphinx. Goodbye, Frank.

Ada and Frank go quickly, leaving Oscar alone to contemplate the situation.Bosie appears as a malign presence and dances seductively. His purpose is to undermine the influence of Ada and Frank, forcing Oscar to stay in London. Oscar’s fantasy dissolves as Ada and Frank return to fetch him. Bosie watches from the shadows.

Frank and Ada leave quickly.

O s c a r (firmly) My friends, it is decided. I

have my Cause. I will not go.

O s c a r Now I must gather up all the courage

I may command, for I know that it is nobler and more beautiful to stay. I do not want to be called a coward or a deserter. A false name, a disguise, a hunted life! All that is not for me, for I know that it is nobler and more beautiful to stay for this Cause . . . For this love.

Oscar sits at the table. Walt Whitman appears, carrying pen, ink and paper, and puts them on the table in front of Oscar.

A ct I S cene 6 In the nursery

W a lt (powerful, but sympathetic) Up to that

Bosie dances, urging Oscar to stay in London. Photo by Ken Howard, The Santa Fe Opera

Ada and Frank go aside and share their astonishment and frustration. Bosie celebrates his power over Oscar, then leaves. F r a n k Then goodbye for now, dear comrade.

I’ll attend the trial tomorrow and see it through with you. If you go to prison you can count on my support when you return to us.

point in his life, Oscar’s Muse had brought him brilliant and happy successes as an artist, as a man. Alas, it was not to continue. (Bosie appears in the background.) Nemesis had caught him in her net. (Bosie dances between the vocal phrases.) Why is it that a man runs to his own ruin? Why has destruction such a fascination? Why, when he stands on a pinnacle must he throw himself down? No one knows, but things are so. Can there be any heroes if the better angels of our nature always prevail? And can there be meaning to a life that feels no pain? Indeed, dear Oscar, pain, unlike pleasure, wears no mask. Oscar begins to write at the table. Walt remains and reads the immortal text as Bosie dances to the spoken word. 27

W a lt (speaking) Oh, my dearest Bosie. Now,

in anguish and pain, in grief and humiliation, I feel that my love for you, your love for me, are the two signs of my life, the divine sentiments which make all bitterness bearable. Let destiny, Nemesis, or the unjust gods alone receive the blame for everything that has happened. I love you. I love you. My heart is a rose which your love has brought to bloom. My life is a desert fanned by the delicious breeze of your breath, and whose cool springs are your eyes. Love me always, love me always. You have been the supreme, the perfect love of my life. There can be no other. Walt leaves. Bosie stops dancing, moves downstage of Oscar, and lies on the floor with his back to the audience.

all day long, and miss your grace, your boyish beauty, the bright swordplay of your wit, the delicate fancy of your genius, so surprising in its sudden swallow-flights towards north or south, towards sun and moon. You are the atmosphere through which I see life; you are the incarnation of all lovely things. My sweet rose, my delicate flower, my lily of lilies. My sweet rose! Oscar, exhausted, sleeps and dreams at the table. Queensberry’s detectives burst onto the stage and into Oscar’s nightmare, addressing Bosie with studied hit-man politeness - with the firm, icy respect due to a lord, but farcical, comically black. (Their lines should be seamlessly intertwined.) D e t e c t i v e 2 Lord Alfred D e t e c t i v e 1 Douglas, Ba s s Lord Alfred T e n o r Douglas: Ba s s yer father, T e n o r yer father, the Marquess, B o t h the Marquess of Queensberry, T e n o r advises yer imme-jit departure, Ba s s imme-jit departure from London. T e n o r From England!

Lord Alfred Douglas by George Charles Beresford (1903)

O s c a r My sweet rose, my delicate flower,

my lily of lilies, it is perhaps in prison that I am going to test the power of love. My sweet rose. Oh, to make the bitter wastes sweet by the intensity of the love I bear you. None of God’s created beings have been so wildly worshipped, so madly adored. You are the Morning Star to me. I think of you 28

The detectives move a bit too close for Bosie’s comfort. B o t h Or there might be a thrashing!

The detectives make eloquent rude gestures. Bosie stares wide-eyed for a moment, then rushes away. The detectives then call to Oscar in a torrent of abuse. Oscar, startled, jumps up from the table and joins the action in his nightmare. B o t h Hey, Sodomite! There goes yer nancyboyfriend!

Bosie peers back onto the stage, then flees for good.

A d a Oscar!

B o t h Wot a picture of loyalty!

F r a n k But alas, he was broken and numbed.

Ba s s A paragon B o t h of bravery! B o t h Queer! Bugger! Sodomite! T e n o r Now you’ll get

His letters to Bosie were brought out and used against him. There was no true evidence. In his summing up, the judge turned harmless action into guilt! Outrageous! Outrageous! What distinguishes Mr Justice Wills is that he is proud of his prejudice and eager to act on it, savagely, out of sheer bewigged stupidity!

Ba s s the thrashing! T e n o r You’ll get Ba s s the thrashing! B o t h Queer! Bugger! Sodomite!

The detectives move menacingly toward Oscar. O s c a r (raging) I don’t know what the

Queensberry rules are, but the Oscar Wilde rule is to shoot on sight! Oscar fiercely attacks the detectives! He drives them from his nightmare and from the stage. Oscar, now alone, reaches his lowest point and cries out for Bosie. He walks toward Bosie’s place of departure, then goes offstage. O s c a r Bosie! (silence) Bosie! (silence) Bosie!


A ct I S cene 7 In the nursery

Frank and Ada suddenly arrive. Frank’s narrative of the closing stages of the trial is enacted using the nursery’s contents to represent with mockery the characters and proceedings of Oscar’s sentencing.

Frank Harris in 1927

A d a Hatred masquerading as justice!

The nursery explodes into a mockery of the Old Bailey. Spectators and court personnel begin singing offstage and enter as an unruly mob. Oscar is the main character in another nightmare. Sp e c tat o r s a n d C o u r t P e r s o n n e l Justice for Oscar Wilde! And

for his kind!

F r a n k (to Ada, aside, furious) Outrageous!

The spectators and court personnel sit abruptly. A bailiff enters and bangs his staff.

A d a Oscar!

Ba i l i f f All rise! (The cast immediately stands again.) The Court is now in session. Mr Justice . . .

Outrageous! When the court convened I knew that the whole case depended on Oscar!

F r a n k . . . and the showing he would make

in the box. Dear Oscar!

Sp e c tat o r s a n d C o u r t P e r s o n n e l Justice! 29

Ba i l i f f Sir Alfred Wills presiding. Sp e c tat o r s a n d C o u r t P e r s o n n e l Justice presiding!

The judge suddenly pops up as a jack-in-the-box clown and is carried in his box to mock-solemn, hostile music as he examines his courtroom, then sits. Ba i l i f f Be seated! (All sit.) M r J u s t i c e W i l l s (ugly) Bailiff, summon

the jury!

The bailiff bangs his staff. The jury, costumed as toys, puppets and dolls, scamper onto the stage oneby-one then sit together. M r J u s t i c e W i l l s (sneering) Where’s the


M r J u s t i c e W i l l s (full voice, an sung

with patrician venom) Oscar Wilde, the crime of which you have been convicted is so bad that one has to put stern restraint upon one’s self to avoid one’s self describing in language which I would rather not use, the sentiments which must rise to the breast of every man of honour who has heard the details of this terrible, terrible trial. This is the worst case I have ever tried! The sentence of the Crown is delivered with terrifying intensity, but cold. In the midst of the farce, Ada and Frank react angrily. M r J u s t i c e W i l l s The sentence of the Court is that you be imprisoned . . . A d a a n d F r a n k Imprisoned! M r J u s t i c e W i l l s and kept to hard

labour . . .

The bailiff bangs his staff. Oscar is brought in. He stands tall and walks with dignity, stopping for a moment to regard his accusers, then moves on to the dock. The judge looks curiously at Oscar, then turns to address the jury. M r J u s t i c e W i l l s Gentlemen of the jury, have you agreed upon your verdict? J u r y F o r e m a n We have, mi-lord. M r J u s t i c e W i l l s Do you find the prisoner at the bar guilty or not guilty of acts of gross indecency? J u r y F o r e m a n We find him guilty, mi-


Sp e c tat o r s , J u r y a n d C o u r t P e r s o n n e l (as a triumphant fanfare)

Guilty, guilty! He’s guilty, mi-lord! Oscar Wilde is guilty! Guilty!

A Hat e f u l V o i c e f r o m t h e C r o w d ‘Ang the bugger! Sp e c tat o r s , J u r y a n d C o u r t P e r s o n n e l (sung once, sharply repeating the

final note of the fanfare) Guilty! 30

Sketch of the Closing Scene of Oscar Wilde’s Trial, from Illustrated Police News, 5/4/1895

A d a a n d F r a n k Hard labour! M r J u s t i c e W i l l s for two years. A d a a n d F r a n k (despairing) For two

W a lt The treadmill! The crank! A l l P r i s o n e r s Hard labour, hard fare,

and a hard, hard bed!


W a lt Enough to break both Body and Soul!

O s c a r (with righteous indignation) And I?

A l l P r i s o n e r s Soul . . . Soul!

May I say nothing, my lord?

M r J u s t i c e W i l l s (screaming) Take him


The music drives hard to blackout as Oscar is taken away. Sp e c tat o r s , J u r y a n d C o u r t P e r s o n n e l Justice for Oscar Wilde! And

for his kind!

A d a a n d F r a n k (above the chorus) Oscar!

Oh God!

A C T I I S cene 1 Inside Reading Gaol

Walt Whitman appears. The prisoners become visible. W a lt Reading Gaol! C h o r u s o f P r i s o n e r s Reading Gaol! W a lt Colonel Henry Isaacson, Governor! P r i s o n e r s Isaacson! Isaacson! Isaacson! W a lt Solitary confinement. S o l o P r i s o n e r N o . 1 Solitary!

W a lt Each of these is one of us, and each of

us is Oscar Wilde!

Oscar, still wearing his courtroom attire but carrying a small bundle of his possessions, his hands and feet in chains, is handed over to the prison authorities. Walt leaves. W a r d e r N o . 1 (harshly) Name? O s c a r (with flinty defiance) Oscar! Fingal!

O’Flahertie! Wills! Wilde!

W a r d e r N o . 1 “Oscar Wilde!” -- That’s

all yer gettin!

W a r d e r N o . 2 (slowly writing each answer

in the prison log) Oscar . . . Wilde.

W a r d e r N o . 1 Date of birth? O s c a r Sixteenth of October, Eighteen fifty-


W a r d e r N o 2 Sixteen . . . ten . . . fifty-


W a r d e r N o . 1 Religion? O s c a r Church of England . . . at the


S o l o P r i s o n e r N o . 2 Solitary!

The warders look at each other quizzically.

W a lt Endless hours of useless labour.

B o t h W a r d e r s (emphatically) C of E!

S o l o P r i s o n e r N o . 3 Endless!

W a r d e r N o . 1 All possessions in this

S o l o P r i s o n e r N o . 4 Endless! S o l o P r i s o n e r N o . 5 Useless! A l l P r i s o n e r s Endless . . . Endless . . .


W a r d e r N o . 2 All possessions in that


As the warders identify and list Oscar’s possessions 31

in the logbook, Isaacson is heard approaching from the distance, boots striking the floor. B o t h W a r d e r s (back-and-forth) ‘E’re

comes the Guv’ner! ‘E don’t eat no breakfast ‘til ‘e’s punished somebody! (demonic) ‘E’ll love you, Oscar! Isaacson marches in, followed by Dr Quinton (the Dancer). He strides directly to Oscar.

B o t h W a r d e r s Attention fer the Guv’ner! (The warders snap to attention.)

Isaacson stands face-to-face with Oscar. I s aa c s o n I am Colonel Isaacson. . . (now

softly malignant) And you are Oscar Wilde!

I s aa c s o n (ice cold and full of contempt) Let it be clear that you will receive no special treatment because of your fame. You will have nothing to read, no paper on which to write. You will never, never speak to the other prisoners. You will be allowed two visitors every three months. And you may - if you wish - write one letter and receive one letter every three months. Break the rules and you will be punished. Punished! . . . (softly malevolent) Any questions? O s c a r Won’t you please give me the

opportunity to comfort my soul with books?

I s aa c s o n (raging) A man with your

proclivities has no soul! (To the warders) Unchain him! Undress him! Fumigate him! And take him to his cell! (Now to Quinton) He’s yours, Doctor! Isaacson turns and marches off as his orders are obeyed. Quinton remains and silently oversees the admission procedure. The warders unchain Oscar, strip off his fine clothes and fumigate him. Quinton examines Oscar, who is then forced to dress in his prison uniform, bearing his cell number: C.3.3. He says nothing, but his demeanor reveals his wretchedness. As Oscar receives this humiliating treatment, the prisoners from their cells sing a sorrowful chorale (consisting of stanzas from The Ballad of Reading Gaol.) 32

Reading Prison, where Wilde was imprisoned, from the Illustrated London News (1844)


Each narrow cell in which we dwell Is a foul and dark latrine, And the fetid breath of living Death Chokes up each grated screen, And all but Lust, is turned to dust In humanity’s machine. The brackish water that we drink Creeps with a loathsome slime, And the bitter bread they weigh in scales Is full of chalk and lime. And sleep will not lie down, but walks Wild-eyed, and cries to Time.

At the end of the admission procedure the cell materializes around Oscar at center stage. W a r d e r N o . 2 (as the plank bed is carried

in) ‘Ere comes yer fevver-bed, Mr Wilde!

W a r d e r N o . 1 (as the slop pail arrives)

‘Ere’s yer water closet, Mr Crapper’s latest model!

W a r d e r N o . 2 (as the crank is brought)

Now this ‘ere’s yer very own crank,

W a r d e r N o . 1 (to humiliate) Oscar! W a r d e r N o . 2 Oscar! B o t h wa r d e r s (demonstrating) You

will turn it, turn it, turn it, turn it, turn it ten thousand times each day. (with mock delight) And look! There’s a dial ‘ere that records each turn so we can be sure yer doin yer work. Grab

this ‘ere ‘andle and turn . . . turn . . . turn! Oscar hesitates. W a r d e r N o . 1 It’ll take only six hours

Oscar collapses. Quinton dances around Oscar’s prostrate form. The dance ends as Quinton’s mask comes off, under which is Bosie’s face, but coldly expressionless.

each day.

O s c a r Bosie!

W a r d e r N o . 2 Once you get used to it.

Bosie vanishes.

B o t h wa r d e r s You better get started!

A ct I I S cene 2

The warders leave as Quinton withdraws into the shadows. Oscar begins to turn the crank with difficulty. The crank’s sound becomes incorporated into the music of the prisoner’s chorale. Then, sensing someone watching, Oscar breaks his rhythmic pattern and stops, then turns to look as Quinton hides. Oscar rests during the last two lines. Prisoners

And never a human voice comes near To speak a gentle word: And the eye that watches through the door Is pitiless and hard: And by all forgot, we rot and rot, With soul and body marred.

Oscar returns to the crank, now with more sense of purpose: to allay his fears. Oscar stops suddenly and pants with exhaustion. He looks around, wide-eyed with terror.

In the prison chapel

Months later, as Warder Martin or a prisoner rings a hand-bell, the prisoners file into the chapel under the direction of the warders. Isaacson and Quinton also attend. Oscar stands in the front row. An on-stage, military style, pedal-pumped reed organ is played. The organist is costumed as a prisoner. The Chaplain arrives and sings an invitatory antiphon. C h ap l a i n (strong, but with shallow piety)

The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship him. (Now in traditional Anglican plainchant) Oh Lord, open thou our lips. P r i s o n e r s (chanting crudely) And our mouth shall show forth thy praise.

O s c a r What hideous things may crawl out

to cry against me I don’t know. I am dazed with horror. This terrifying isolation from all that could save a wretched soul hands me over to be possessed and polluted by the thoughts I most loathe and cannot escape from. (crying out bitterly) In this tomb for those who are not yet dead, life has at last become to me as real as a dream. Oh Bosie! The gods are strange. (Quinton begins to move in the background.) It is not of our vices only they make instruments to scourge us. (Oscar briefly returns to the crank.) They bring us to ruin through what in us is good, gentle, humane, loving. (Quinton gradually moves closer to Oscar.) But for my pity and affection for you, I would not now be weeping in this terrible place.

Oscar faces bitter isolation and misery in prison. Photo by Ken Howard, The Santa Fe Opera


During the opening hymn the prisoners let out their pent-up voices, being used to continuous forced silence. The prison officials also sing. Prisoners

Nearer, my God, to thee, Nearer to thee! E’en though it be a cross That raiseth me; Still all my song would be, Nearer, my God, to thee, Nearer to thee!

Oscar struggles to remain standing, but sits midway through the first stanza. The Chaplain, noticing this, at the end of the stanza stops the hymn and confronts Oscar. C h ap l a i n Who do you think you are sitting there, the Bishop of London? Get up!

Oscar struggles to his feet. C h ap l a i n Did you have morning prayers at


O s c a r (incredulous) I am sorry, I fear not. C h ap l a i n (as Oscar drops back down into his

seat) Indeed! So you see where that has brought you. I s aa c s o n (coming forward, furious) This man giving you trouble, Chaplain? Stand up, Wilde, in the presence of God!

The prisoners begin to show concern for Oscar as he rises again with difficulty. The Chaplain and Isaacson, agitated, begin the second stanza. C h ap l a i n a n d I s aa c s o n

Though like the wanderer, (unaccompanied) The sun gone down, (the reed organ joins in) Darkness be over me, (a few prisoners join in) My rest a stone . . . (plus the other prisoners and the warders)

Oscar begins to sway, then falls, bashing his head and ear. Everyone stops singing, causing a crisis in the service. Quinton comes forward, concerned, but 34

Isaacson follows close behind, menacingly. O s c a r (wincing as Quinton examines him)

Thank you, Doctor. I’m afraid I’ve hurt my ear.

I s aa c s o n (fiercely) Get up. No malingering. (sneering) Your months in prison have proven that you are just a weakling. You’ll be punished if you don’t get up! O s c a r (angry) I cannot get up! Do with me

what you will.

Quinton intervenes and makes it clear to Isaacson that Oscar is indeed hurt. I s aa c s o n (to Quinton) All right. Take him to the infirmary. Just get him out of here!

The prisoners are troubled and agitated by Isaacson’s treatment of Oscar and begin to express their anger in speech. Isaacson directs the warders to restore order. Quinton leaves with Oscar and Martin. Isaacson, attempting to regain control, restarts the hymn. I s aa c s o n

Though like the wanderer, (unaccompanied) The sun gone down, (the organ joins in)

S o l o P r i s o n e r 1 You will rot in ‘ell,


S o l o P r i s o n e r 2 You son of a bitch! S o l o P r i s o n e r 3 Bastard!

Offended by the outburst, Isaacson stops singing, then works with the warders as the prisoners become more assertive. The Chaplain takes over the hymnsinging. C h ap l a i n

Darkness be over me, My rest a stone.

S o l o P r i s o n e r 4 Damn you, Isaacson! I s aa c s o n (raging) This service is over,


Isaacson and the Chaplain are quickly escorted away by warders, while others subdue the prisoners.

A l l P r i s o n e r s God damn you, Isaacson! I s aa c s o n (furious - singing over the prisoners) There will be punishments!

The prisoners fight back as they are forced out of the chapel and off the stage. The stage director may choose spoken words or inarticulate sounds for the prisoners and warders for improvised portions of the fight.

A ct I I S cene 3

In the prison infirmary

Walt Whitman appears. W a lt How dreadful is this prison, so terrible

that it hardens their hearts whose hearts it does not break. The lights fade up in the infirmary. Walt observes the quiet scene. Oscar and two other prisoners are lying in beds separated from each other by empty beds.

W a lt To survive, Oscar, you must learn to

dismiss whatever insults your Body. And your Soul shall be a great poem. Walt leaves. This scene initiates a turning point for Oscar as he begins to look away from his own suffering and turns toward the pain and courage of others.

P r i s o n e r N o . 1 (from the bed closer to

crying out deliriously in a nightmare, punctuated by gasps) No! No! No! No! He sobs quietly. P r i s o n e r N o . 1 (still angry) The warders flogged ‘im ‘til ‘e passed out. Guv’ner’s orders! O s c a r For what? P r i s o n e r N o . 1 (quasi sotto voce, bitter) Fer talkin’ in the exercise circle. (calling across the room) You alright Mate? P r i s o n e r N o . 2 (still overwrought)Yeah!

But me back won’t stop bleedin’, and me ‘ead keeps poundin’. Never knew why I was sent ‘ere in the first place. O s c a r (incredulously) As I was going out

to exercise yesterday, I saw in the cell opposite mine a small boy!

P r i s o n e r N o . 1 I’ve seen ‘em young as ten

‘ere on remand.

O s c a r (with growing anger) I heard that he

had been arrested for stealing a rabbit. His little face was like a white wedge of sheer terror! This morning at breakfast-time I heard him crying for his mother.

P r i s o n e r N o . 1 (softly encouraging)

Oscar Wilde, Mister Martin’s comin’ soon.

P r i s o n e r N o . 2 ‘E give a biscuit to some

poor little blighter. Got a reprimand.

Oscar) Oscar Wilde, it must be ‘arder fer ya ‘ere than it is fer the likes of us. I’m sorry fer you.”

‘oo’s ‘uman.

O s c a r (touched by the kindly human sound) No,

P r i s o n e r N o . 2 (sotto voce) ‘Ere ‘e comes.

my friend, we are all suffering equally. It occurs to me that men have gone to heaven for uttering words as kind as yours. Please tell me: what has brought you to this hideous place?

P r i s o n e r N o . 1 (angry) I’m a thief and

deserves me punishment, I suppose. The judge give me six month fer stealin’ two quid out’a me sister’s purse. ‘Ad no work. The children was cold and ‘ad no food. Still don’t, far as I know. P r i s o n e r N o . 2 (from the farthest bed,

P r i s o n e r N o . 1 ‘E’s the only warder

W a r d e r Ma r t i n (entering with a ward

orderly) Ready for your treatment, gentlemen? He visits the other two prisoners before arriving at Oscar’s bedside, where he begins to ask Oscar questions about literature. Ma r t i n (with sincerity) Excuse me, Mr Wilde, but Charles Dickens, sir, would ‘e be considered a great writer now, sir? 35

O s c a r O yes, Mr Martin, a great writer

A l l o f t h e m e n e x c e pt O s c a r

Ma r t i n Yes, I understand, sir. ‘E would be a great writer, sir, being dead! (Both men laugh.) Now John Strange Winter, sir, would you tell me what you think of ‘im, sir?

O s c a r (posh, as an act of self-inflicted irony,

indeed. You see he is no longer alive.

O s c a r A charming person, but a lady, you

know, not a man. (Martin stares wide-eyed.) Her actual name is Henrietta Stannard. (somewhat aside) Not a great stylist, perhaps, (to Martin, brightly) but a good simple storyteller.

Ma r t i n Thank you, sir. I didn’t know ‘e was

a lady, sir.

P r i s o n e r N o . 1 Sounds like that bloke in C.3.9. (more laughter) Finks ‘e’s Vesta Tilley! Some nights you can ‘ear ‘im singin’.

Prisoner No. 2 immediately begins to sing “Burlington Bertie,” the late 19th century music hall song made famous by the male impersonator, Vesta Tilley. The singing is plucky and subversive, reminiscent of freedom and happier times. The performance should be a bit raw. Prison er No. 2

I’m Burlington Bertie, I rise at ten-thirty And saunter along like a toff,

P r i s o n e r N o . 1 Like a toff. Prison er No. 2

I walk down the Strand with me gloves on me ‘and, Then I walk down again with them off,

P r i s o n e r N o . 1 With them off.

They cannot recall the next lines, so there is a bit of an improvised rhubarb until Martin surprises them by singing confidently. Ma r t i n (coming to the rescue):

I’m all airs and graces, correct easy paces, Without food so long I’ve forgot where my face is -

I’m Bert, Bert, I ‘aven’t a shirt,

which the others “get”): But my people are well off, you know! Nearly everyone knows me, From Smith to Lord Rosebr’y, I’m Burlington Bertie,

P r i s o n e r N o . 1 (crying out in rhythmic speech) ‘E’s Burlington Bertie! Ev e r y o n e ‘E’s Burlington Bertie from Bow!

All of the men laugh and cheer loudly. Martin signals that they should quiet down, which they do as their momentary joy subsides. O s c a r Wonderful lines! I wish I had written


Ma r t i n Excuse me, sir, but Marie Corelli, as she is Queen Victoria’s fav’rit novelist, would she be considered a great writer, sir?

Before Oscar can answer, Martin gives him some foul tasting medicine, after which Oscar grimaces. O s c a r Now don’t think I have anything

against her moral character, but from the way she writes she ought to be here! Everyone laughs.

Ma r t i n (still laughing) You say so, sir! You

say so!

Martin begins to turn out the lights. Ma r t i n Goodnight, gentlemen, goodnight P r i s o n e r N o . 2 Thank you. O s c a r Thank you.

Martin and the ward orderly leave. The music gradually turns sour as the men lie still. P r i s o n e r N o . 2 (dark) There’s gonna be

an ‘angin soon. 36

P r i s o n e r N o . 1 That fella from the ‘orse

Guards ‘oo slit ‘is wife’s froat.

P r i s o n e r N o . 2 ‘E loved ‘er, they say. P r i s o n e r N o . 1 ‘E killed wot ‘e loved. P r i s o n e r N o . 2 This place’ll be full o’

demons that night!

O s c a r Dear God, at least he’ll be at peace. P r i s o n e r N o 1 Oscar Wilde, now try to

get some sleep while you ‘as a proper bed.

A ct I I S cene 4 In the prison

Night. The execution of Charles Thomas Wooldridge will occur at dawn. This is principally a stylized ensemble scene with the prisoner Oscar Wilde as witness and Walt Whitman as commentator. The men slowly await the hideous reality of the morning. Stanzas from Wilde’s The Ballad of Reading Gaol serve as the entire text. The prisoners sing an introductory elegy as Oscar and Walt observe from downstage. The Dancer as Death, stands in center stage, still and ominous, with his back to the audience. Prisoners

There is no sleep when men must weep Who never yet have wept: So we – the fool, the fraud, the knave – That endless vigil kept, And through each brain on hands of pain Another’s terror crept. The grey cock crew, the red cock crew, But never came the day: And crooked shapes of Terror crouched, In the corners where we lay: And each evil sprite that walks by night Before us seemed to play.

Death turns, drops his cape and begins to move. He dances mockingly, playfully, inviting the spirits of the prisoners to join him in imagined freedom. He then leads them in a Totentanz.

W a lt

They glided past, they glided fast, Like travelers through a mist: They mocked the moon in a rigadoon Of delicate turn and twist, And with formal pace and loathsome grace The phantoms kept their tryst.

O s c a r a n d Wa lt

With mop and mow, we saw them go, Slim shadows hand in hand: About, about, in ghostly rout They trod a saraband: And the damned grotesques made barb, Like wind upon the sand!


At last I saw the shadowed bars, Like a lattice wrought in lead, (the dance pauses) Move right across the whitewashed wall That faced my three-plank bed, And I knew that somewhere in the world God’s dreadful dawn was red.

The prisoners, moving again in dance/trance mode, take new positions. Death observes. Prisoners

At six o’clock we cleaned our cells, At seven all was still, But the sough and swing of a mighty wing The prison seemed to fill.

Bosie, as Death, invites the prisoners to a dance. Photo by Ken Howard, The Santa Fe Opera


Death dances alone as the prisoners watch, terrified. Oscar cries out with utmost power. Oscar

For the Lord of Death with icy breath Had entered in to kill.

Death gestures. The prisoners collapse. Wooldridge is brought in. The prisoners recover their prior-totrance attitude as Death leads the procession to the gallows. W a lt

For Man’s grim Justice goes its way, And will not swerve aside: It slays the weak, it slays the strong, It has a deadly stride:

Wa lt a n d P r i s o n e r s

With iron heel it slays the strong, The monstrous parricide!

The procession reaches the gallows. Isaacson impatiently looks at his watch as the prison tower bell strikes eight. Death prepares the condemned man as the others move away to watch. Wooldridge falls through the trap. The stage goes black. Oscar remains in spot. Oscar

And all the woe that moved him so That he gave that bitter cry, And the wild regrets, and the bloody sweats, None knew so well as I: For he who lives more lives than one, More deaths than one must die.

A ct I I S cene 5

In a prison visiting room

Frank Harris’s visit to the prison occurs not long after the execution. Frank is waiting in a small private room. Warder Martin brings in Oscar. F r a n k Oscar, Oscar, how glad I am to see

you. Heart glad!

Ma r t i n My instructions are to leave you alone, gentlemen. O s c a r (perplexed as Martin leaves) Frank…? 38

F r a n k I have spoken with the Prison

Commissioner in London, Oscar. He has ordered it. He is deeply concerned about your wellbeing, and I . . .

O s c a r (interrupting) Your newspaper, Frank,

is a great force in London. When you speak, men listen.

F r a n k The best news is that Isaacson is to be


O s c a r (in quiet amazement) Oh, Frank.

Maybe there is a God!

F r a n k You will work in the prison garden,

have more books, and better yet, writing materials! You must give record of this life and declare your mission.

O s c a r Prison life, dear Frank, is an existence

composed of foul degradations, terrible hardships, recurring monotony, sickening privations. Regarding my own punishment I have no bitterness, but I have learnt pity. And that is worth learning. The thing I have to do is to absorb all that has been done to me and to my companions, to make it part of me. Having accepted it, and perhaps grown wise from it, I will fight with my pen to change it for the future victims of society’s unjust laws. Perhaps I may be a better fellow after it all. The two men sit in silence for a moment. Isaacson enters suddenly and unexpectedly, followed by a concerned Martin. Oscar rises, but Frank, affronted, remains seated.

I s aa c s o n Good day to you, Mr Harris. Martin, you’ll return prisoner C.3.3. to his cell. Martin and Oscar leave. F r a n k (as Oscar looks back) For God’s sake,

keep your heart up, my friend.

I s aa c s o n Well, Mr Harris, I’ve been knocking the nonsense out of Wilde. F r a n k (rising in anger) Outrageous!

Outrageous! You, sir, are nothing but a brute.

I s aa c s o n (fierce) I’ve been knocking the

nonsense out of Oscar Wilde!

F r a n k Inhuman! Man’s cruelty to man


I s aa c s o n (cold) I regret nothing but that I

shall not be able to complete the task. I would break him! Break him completely and forever! Isaacson leaves in malignant fury. F r a n k (to Isaacson’s departing form) His

treatment impeaches his tormentor!

F r a n k (now alone, powerfully) Oh Oscar! You

will conquer! You will write the name of that inhuman brute on his forehead in vitriol, as Dante did, for all time! Martin returns.

Ma r t i n Mr ‘Arris, may I show you the way


F r a n k -of this hell-hole, yes! . . . Mr

Martin, thank you for being good to my friend. There is my card, if you ever need help yourself.

Ma r t i n Thank you, sir. I like Mr Wilde.

Imprint left by prisoners walking in a circle for exercise.

She attempts to conceal her shock at his prison garb and physical appearance. She goes to embrace him, but he will not permit this. He kisses her hand. O s c a r There is no prison in any world into

which love cannot force an entrance. I often thought of you in the long black days and nights of my sad life, and to find you now just as wonderful and dear as ever is no surprise. The beautiful are always beautiful.

A d a (controlling her emotion) We have

And ‘e do talk beautiful, sir, don’t ‘e!

missed you terribly. Violet, who is now seven, frequently asks where is her “Happy Prince?”

F r a n k Indeed he does. Indeed he does. The

O s c a r I read it to her once in the nursery.

best talker in the world.

T o g e t h e r (as they leave) The best talker in

the world.

They leave the stage as the lights fade.

A ct I I S cene 6 In the prison garden

Oscar is working in the sunlit garden as Martin enters with Ada. Ma r t i n A visitor, Mr Wilde. (Martin remains discreetly in the background.) A d a Oscar, dear Oscar.

God knows, her rooms were my sanctuary two years ago. What do you tell her?

A d a I say, “He has flown with the Swallow to

a distant land.”

O s c a r (ruefully quoting The Happy Prince)

“‘In fact, he is little better than a beggar,’ said the Town Councillors.”

A d a Whereas you, dear friend, were always a

legend, and you always will be. You were born to sing the joy and pride of life, the pleasure of living, the delight in everything beautiful in this most beautiful world. You will always be among us to fascinate the aristocrat, to frighten the burgess, to amuse the mob. You depict the mortal so that he takes on Immortality. What 39

wonder if we take you, Oscar Wilde, for a world’s miracle, one of the Immortals! In three days you will be free, but we must be practical. Even this Immortal needs a roof over his head. O s c a r Sphinx, you are so wise. The cruelty

of a prison sentence starts when you come out. (now optimistic) But Frank is arranging for me to stay with the Jesuits at Farm Street for a while to secure my spiritual recovery.

A d a (reluctant to spoil his positive mood) Oscar,

they have refused you.

Truly upset by this, Oscar takes a moment to recover. O s c a r No matter Sphinx. Nature, whose

sweet rains fall on unjust and just alike, will have clefts in the rocks where I may hide, and secret valleys in whose silence I may weep undisturbed.

A d a Oscar, Oscar! We will.... Ma r t i n (approaching tactfully) Madam, I regret it is time for you to leave. A d a (cheerfully) Au revoir in three days. I’ve bought a new hat for the occasion!

This time he permits a kiss on the cheek. Ada leaves with Martin. Oscar watches them go, then leaves. Walt enters near the end of an orchestral postlude and narrates in speech. W a lt Oscar Wilde was released from

prison on the nineteenth day of May, eighteen hundred and ninety-seven, having served his full sentence without remission. But his punishments continued. That very night he took refuge in France, not knowing that he would never again set foot on English soil, and never again see his wife and children. His attempt to set up a home with Bosie near Naples was wrecked by their two families refusing them financial assistance unless they 40

separated. After three years in exile Oscar died practically penniless in a run-down Paris hotel. It was the thirtieth day of November in the year nineteen hundred. Oscar Wilde was just fortysix. Walt leaves as transitional orchestral music begins.

A ct I I S cene 7

Threnody: “Bittersweet Love”

Oscar and Bosie enter from opposite sides of the stage. O s c a r (text from Glukupikros Eros, 1881)

Sweet, I blame you not, for mine the fault was, had I not been made of common clay I had climbed the higher heights unclimbed yet, seen the fuller air, the larger day. Bosie dances during brief orchestral interludes. From the wildness of my wasted passion I had struck a better, clearer song, Lit some lighter light of freer freedom, battled with some Hydraheaded wrong. Bosie dances. And the mighty nations would have crowned me, who am crownless now and without name, And some orient dawn had found me kneeling on the threshold of the House of Fame. Bosie moves closer to Oscar. Ah! what else had I to do but love you, God’s own mother was less dear to me, And less dear the Cytheraean rising like an argent lily from the sea. Bosie leaves Oscar, who completes his reflections alone, firmly and stoically. I have made my choice, have lived my poems, and, though youth is gone in wasted days, I have found the lover’s crown of myrtle better than the poet’s crown of bays. The stage resumes its original state as a splendid library, which acts as a literary pantheon. Oscar remains on stage as the scene is transformed around him.

E pilogue Immortality

Walt enters and sings directly to Oscar to repair his spiritual desolation, just the two of them, friends, in profound sympathy. W a lt Oscar, be patient. Yours is the

poet’s crown. There is nothing for you but

I m m o r ta l s Oscar! Fingal! O’Flahertie!

Wills! Wilde! Oscar turns and walks downstage.

O s c a r (after a brief silence - mischievously,

confidentially - directly to the audience) The only immortality I ever desired was to invent a new sauce. But this, . . . this will do nicely thank you. Oscar turns upstage and begins to greet his fellow Immortals.

Oscar relinquishes his love for Bosie. Photo by Ken Howard, The Santa Fe Opera

Immortality. (Other Immortals begin to enter the stage gradually.) Jupiter shall emerge with all his moons. The Pleiades and all their radiant sisters shall shine out. All the stars both silvery and golden shall shine out again and again. They too are Immortal! Meanwhile, a throng of Immortals (all authors, ancient and modern - Oscar’s friends throughout his life) has arrived with expressions of joy to greet the newcomer. They carry books as personal emblems, and lights on the tops of tall staffs. The stage is lit dimly so that chorus characters appear star-like in an evening sky. Walt concludes with a celebratory introduction. W a lt Oscar! Fingal! O’Flahertie! Wills!


The Immortals quietly, but playfully begin chanting Oscar’s five formal names welcoming his arrival; then they continue singing just his first name in an extended crescendo ending in a powerful climax, but without a sense of finality, leaving the audience wanting more.




osca r

Did you grow up in a musical family?

Yes I did. My parents were both singers and teachers, my father a baritone and my mother a soprano. My brother is also a musician; he is the Principal Cellist in the Virginia Symphony. He didn't get the vocal gift to say the least! If you couldn’t have been a singer, what career would you have pursued?

I would have done something in the sports world. As passionate I am about singing, I'm equally about sports. I would have loved to be a baseball umpire or basketball referee. Or a play by play announcer. Who knows, maybe one day I will! What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?


a d a le v e rs o n

Why do you like to sing?

Singing makes my heart feel free! Did you always know that you wanted to be a singer?

Definitely not. I went to college and started out in a double degree program -- choral education and environmental science. However, within my first couple years of studying voice at my undergrad I knew I would LOVE to sing professionally and would be incredibly lucky to be able to do so. What is the most difficult aspect of your job?

The travel can be tiring at times (especially with a little one in tow) -- and yet also exhilarating!

University of Michigan sports! Atlanta Braves baseball (I'll be booed by Phillies fans) and Washington Redskins fan (and I'll be booed by the Eagles fans).

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?



Spartanburg, South Carolina Siblings One brother Education Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, University of Michigan #GOBLUE Role Models My parents, Billie Jean King, and Oscar Wilde Favorite Book The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan Favorite Movie The Color Purple Favorite Food Popcorn Hometown


Making music every day. Acting. Meeting amazing people. Seeing the world.

Waukesha, Wisconsin Two brothers and one sister Education Lawrence University, New England Conservatory Hobbies Playing with my son, fishing, running, reading, movies with my husband, writing letters, and baking. Favorite Foods Chocolate chip cookies Favorite Quote "Don't change who you are or I will stop talking to you" - my dad. Hometown Siblings


fra nk h a rri s


w a lt w h i tm a n

Why do you like to sing?

Why do you like to sing?

If you couldn’t have been a singer, what career would you have pursued?

Has anything funny ever happened to you onstage where something went wrong?

Singing is expression. I don't always feel completely comfortable expressing myself by talking, but I find that singing lets me pour out emotions that I can't keep bottled up inside.

I thought I might be a journalist at one point, but now I think I might have gone to culinary school and learned to be a chef. Has anything funny ever happened to you onstage where something went wrong?

Oh more times than I can count, but twice I have had my pants split, on stage, in the middle of a show. Those are long stories, but can still make me laugh thinking about them! What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I'm a pizza junkie but New Jersey pizza is the very best! I read mystery novels. I also love to sail and scuba dive. I mostly have country music on in the car, and I do love a good horror movie! FAST FACTS

Princeton, New Jersey Siblings Twin brother Jack and older sister Betsy Education Middlebury College, Indiana University Hobbies Sailing, diving, and fly-fishing Favorite Book A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle Favorite Singer Ella Fitzgerald Favorite Foods Ice cream and chocolate chip cookies Hometown

I could always do it, and it seemed a very natural thing for me to do. Not everyone can sing opera and [it] feels like a privilege to be able to.

Once I had to kick a stool out of my way in anger onstage with Renée Fleming in Il pirata. My boot got caught in it and I came down with the stool stuck to my foot. When it landed I sprained my ankle and I could hear 4000 people gasp! I finished the performance basically hopping on one foot. Not so funny but painful! I'll never forget it. What do you do in your “downtime”?

I love Baseball and am from Cooperstown, New York where the Baseball Hall of Fame is. Also, I never listen to opera when I'm not working; I prefer The Beatles and Rock and Roll.


Cooperstown, New York Two brothers and one sister Education State University of New York at Purchase Favorite Singer John Lennon and Paul McCartney Favorite Quote ‘One day at a time’, although in this business, that's difficult to stick to. Hometown Siblings


B U L LY I N G A N D A N T I - G AY A T T I T U D E S Have you ever been teased by another student at school to the point where you felt threatened and really bad about yourself? Have you seen someone being pushed around and made fun of until they no longer want to come to school anymore? This is called bullying and it is a very real problem that needs to be addressed so that all students can feel safe in their own schools. What do you think you can do to help stop bullying?

Student bullying is one of the most frequently reported problems at school. Bullying is the number one discipline problem in middle schools. Up to 25% of U.S. students are bullied each year. As many as 160,000 may stay home from school on any given day because they are afraid of being bullied, at least 1 out of 3 teens say they have been seriously threatened online and 60% of teens say they have participated in online bullying. Bullying is defined as the use of one’s strength or popularity to injure, threaten, or embarrass another person. Bullying can be physical, verbal, or social. Not only is bullying a huge problem in school, but antigay bullying specifically is on the rise, and the most tragic consequence of this kind of bullying has been a rash of teen suicides in the last few years. Statistics suggest that students hear antigay remarks about once every 14 minutes during the school day on average. Antigay bullying is something everyone should be concerned about; the victims are not just students who are actually gay. The abuse is also directed at straight kids who don't quite fit gender norms. Tomboyish girls and guys who show interest in activities like gymnastics or dance are often called the same names as their gay and lesbian classmates. It’s not only verbal attacks that these students are enduring, but physical ones too. Sixty-one percent of gay youth report feeling unsafe in their school environment and 1 in 6 gay teens will be physically assaulted so badly that medical attention is needed. Compared to 44

kids bullied for other reasons or not bullied at all, those targeted because they were thought to be gay were much more likely to have considered suicide in the past year, to have been depressed in the past year and to say they don't feel good about themselves. In opposition to the rise of antigay bullying, homosexuality in America appears to be more widely tolerated than ever. Fifty-two percent of Americans consider it acceptable, according to a recent Gallup poll. Kids can join gay-straight alliance groups at more than 4,000 high schools and more than 150 middle schools nationwide and find advice and support online. Yet according to the Journal of Adolescent Health, about onethird of gay, lesbian, and bisexual teens (LGBT) report an attempt at suicide. Why are so many still driven to try to take their own life? "Despite recent cultural shifts, kids still get the overwhelming message from society that homosexuality is not acceptable," says Scott Quasha, PsyD, a professor of school psychology at Brooklyn College. It's not uncommon to hear politicians and preachers talk down about LGBT people as they debate gay civil rights. Homosexuality is compared to incest, brutality, even violent crime. "This trickles down into the schools, where bullying occurs," says Dr. Quasha. "A gay child is an easy target for classmates looking to make trouble." Oscar Wilde, the subject of the opera, Oscar, was tried and convicted for “gross indecency”. He spent two years in hard labor camp

prison for essentially being gay. This kind of discrimination still exists today and even though homosexuality in America in general is more tolerated, students are being threatened and bullied every day in their schools because of their sexual orientation. According to research, teachers and school leaders need to promote comfortable and safe environments. "While family and peer support have important positive effects for gay youth and reduce feelings of suicide and depression, you cannot 'support away' these toxic effects of bullying," said Brian Mustanski. "Schools and communities need to put in place policies and practices that make schools and neighborhoods safe for all kids." Sources -ed.psu.edu/educ/epcse/counselor-education/newsletters/ CounseLion_030211.pdf -lhj.com/relationships/family/raising-kids/gay-teens-bullied-tosuicide/ -health.usnews.com/health-news/news/articles/2013/05/16/antigay-bullying-tied-to-teen-depression-suicide -itgetsbetter.org/ -nepc.colorado.edu/files/Biegel_ LGBT.pdf

The Trevor Project is the leading national organization focused on crisis and suicide prevention efforts among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth. The lifeline is available anytime, day or night, at: 866-4U-TREVOR or 866-488-7386. The Trevor Project is determined to end suicide among LGBTQ youth by providing life-saving and life-affirming resources including our nationwide, 24/7 crisis intervention lifeline, digital community and advocacy/educational programs that create a safe, supportive and positive environment for everyone.

Active Learning

1. After the high number of suicides of bullied gay youth in the recent years, syndicated columnist and author, Dan Savage created a YouTube video with his partner to inspire hope for youth facing harassment in 2010. He created ItGetsBetter.org and the website became a place for people to submit videos so that young people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) can see how love and happiness can be a reality in their future. Watch a few of these videos on YouTube (itgetsbetter.org) and discuss with your classmates how they make you feel. Does your opinion about students who may be gay or lesbian change after seeing the videos? Do the videos help you to understand what they (or you) are going through? 2. What is something that you can do to help prevent antigay bullying? What can your school do? What is your school already doing to help LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) students? Do they have a school policy against LGBT bullying? Talk to your school counselor about making a policy to fight LGBT bullying. For an example of how to make a policy or ideas on how to make your school safe, see the article Safe at School: Addressing the School Environment and LGBT Safety through Policy and Legislation: nepc.colorado.edu/files/Biegel_LGBT.pdf. 3. Talk to your classmates about creating a gay-straight alliance groups or a support group for these students. Create more awareness of LGBT students’ plight by making anti-bullying posters, or talking to your friends about why it’s not OK to bully LGBT students.

More information at thetrevorproject.org


PLOT THE ACTION IN OSCAR Directions: Fill in the required information for each section below in numerical order. Use the information that appears with each section to help you proceed. It’s okay to write through the gray diagonal line in two of the sections.

2. As the story continues, the Rising Actions introduce complications and problems for the main characters. These difficulties create suspense!

3. The Climax of the story is when the reader is most interested in how the story will end. The suspense is at its peak, but the outcome is not yet known.

3. Climax

2. Rising Actions

4. Falling Actions appears at the ending of the story. Suspense has been eliminated and these events show characters’ lives returning to normal. 1. The Exposition

1. The Exposition appears at the beginning of the story. It introduces us to the setting, characters, and background information.


4. Falling Actions

5. Resolution

5. The Resolution is the final solution to the problem or conflict. In stories with happy endings it’s called the denouement. Tragic endings are called catastrophe.

C H A R A C T E R A N A LY S I S PYRAMID Using the character descriptions from the Oscar teacher guide, fill out this graphic organizer for one of the opera’s characters, either individually or in groups. After filling out the form, take 10 minutes to discuss the characters and how they would interact.


p h y s i c a l app e a r a n c e

character’s role

character’s problems/challenges

m aj o r a c c o m p l i s h m e n t s


GLOSSARY OF TERMS a b s c o n d (ab-sk o n d ) v. to depart in a

sudden and secret manner, especially to avoid capture and legal prosecution.

a b s i n t h e (a b -sinth) n . a green, aromatic

liqueur that is 68 percent alcohol, is made with wormwood and other herbs, and has a bitter, licorice flavor; now banned in most Western countries.

a c i d l y (a s -id) adv. with bitterness or sarcasm.

a d m o n i s h (ad-mo n -ish) v. to caution, advise,

or counsel against something.

a e s t h e t i c (es-t h e t -ik) adj . pertaining

to, involving, or concerned with pure emotion and sensation as opposed to pure intellectuality.

a l l ay (uh-le y ) v. to put (fear, doubt, suspicion,

anger, etc.) to rest; calm; quiet.

a n t i p h o n (a n -tuh-fon) n . a verse or song to

be chanted or sung in response.

a r a b e s q u e s (ar-uh-b e sk ) n . a pose in

d e pa r t e e (dih-pahr-te e ) n . a person who leaves an area, country.

d i s a s s o c i at e d (dih-s oh -shee-eytd) v. to withdraw from association.

d i s d a i n f u l l y (dis-d e y n -fuhlee) adv. looked upon or treated with contempt; despise; scorn. e l e g y (e l -i-jee) n . a mournful, melancholy, or plaintive poem, especially a funeral song or a lament for the dead. f a r c i c a l (fah r -si-kuhl) adj. of or pertaining to a light, humorous play in which the plot depends upon a skillfully exploited situation rather than upon the development of character.

f e r v e n t l y (f ur -vuhnt-lee) adv. having or showing great warmth or intensity of spirit, feeling, enthusiasm; ardent.

f r i v o l i t y (fri-vol -i-tee) n . the state of being characterized by lack of seriousness or sense.

ballet in which the dancer stands on one leg with one arm extended in front and the other leg and arm extended behind.

f u m i gat e (f y oo -mi-geyt) v. to expose to smoke or fumes, as in disinfecting or exterminating roaches, ants, etc.

b e w i gg e d (bih-w i g d ) adj . wearing a wig.

g r o t e s q u e s (groh-te s k ) adj. odd or unnatural in shape, appearance, or character; fantastically ugly or absurd; bizarre.

b a r b (bahrb) n . an obviously or openly unpleasant or carping remark.

b r e e c h e s (b r i c h -iz) n . knee-length trousers, often having ornamental buckles or elaborate decoration at or near the bottoms, commonly worn by men and boys in the 17th, 18th, and early 19th centuries.

b u gg e r (b uh g -er) n . a person who engages in sexual intercourse with the same sex.

b u r g e s s (b ur -jis) n . a representative of a borough in the British Parliament.

c a l l o u s (k a l -uhs) adj . made hard; hardened.

c h i va l r y (sh i v -uhl-ree) n . the sum of the ideal qualifications of a knight, including courtesy, generosity, valor, and dexterity in arms.

d e g r a d at i o n s (deg-ruh-d e y -shuh) n . the

act of lowering in dignity or estimation; bring into contempt.

d e m o n i c (dih-mo n -ik) adj . inspired as if by

a demon, indwelling spirit, or genius. 48

G a o l (jeyl) n . jail. British

h o c k (hok) n . any white Rhine wine. Chiefly


h y d r a h e a d e d (h ah y -druh-hed-id) n . containing many problems, difficulties, or obstacles.

i m pa r t i a l (im-pah r -shuhl) adj. not biased;

fair; just.

i m p e a c h (im-pe e ch ) v. to accuse (a public official) before an appropriate tribunal of misconduct in office.

i n c o n g r u e n c e (in-kong-groo -uhnt) adj. not agreeing; accordant; congruous.

i n c r e d u l o u s l y (in-kre j -uh-luhs) adj. not credulous; disinclined or indisposed to believe; skeptical.

i n d e c e n c y (in-d e e -suh n-see) n . the quality of offending against generally accepted standards of propriety or good taste; improper; vulgar.

k n av e (neyv) n . an unprincipled, untrustworthy, or dishonest person. l a s c i v i o u s (luh-si v -ee-uhs) adj . inclined to lustfulness; wanton; lewd.

l i b e l (l a h y -buhl) n . defamation by written or

printed words, pictures, or in any form other than by spoken words or gestures.

l o i t e r (l o i -ter) v. to linger aimlessly or as if aimless in or about a place. m a l i g n (muh-la h y n ) adj . evil in effect; pernicious; baleful; injurious.

m a l i n g e r (muh-li n g -ger) v. to pretend illness, especially in order to shirk one’s duty, avoid work, etc.

Ma r q u e s s (ma h r -kwis) n . spelling variant of marquis, a nobleman ranking next below a duke and above an earl or count. British

m a r t y r d o m (ma h r -ter-duhm) n . extreme

suffering; torment.

m o n o t o n y (muh-n o t -n-ee) n . wearisome

uniformity or lack of variety, as in occupation or scenery.

m o o r (moor) v. to secure (a ship, boat, dirigible,

etc.) in a particular place, as by cables and anchors or by lines.

m y r t l e (m ur -tl) n . a shrub of southern Europe having evergreen leaves, fragrant white flowers, and aromatic berries: anciently held sacred to Venus and used as an emblem of love. n e m e s i s (n e m -uh-sis) n . something that a

person cannot conquer, achieve.

pa n t h e o n (pa n -thee-uhn) n . the place of the heroes or idols of any group, individual, movement, party, etc., or the heroes or idols themselves.

pa r r i c i d e (pa r -uh-sahyd) n . the act of killing one’s father, mother, or other close relative.

p e r s o n i f i e d (per-so n -uh-fahyd) v. to attribute human nature or character to (an inanimate object or an abstraction), as in speech or writing. p i n n a c l e (p i n -uh-kuhl) n . the highest or

culminating point, as of success, power, fame, etc.

p l a c a r d s (p la k -ahrd) n . a paperboard sign or notice, as one posted in a public place or carried by a demonstrator or picketer. p l a i n c h a n t (p le y n -chant) n . the unisonous vocal music used in the Christian church from the earliest times.

P l e i a d e s (plee-uh -deez) n . Astronomy. a conspicuous group or cluster of stars in the constellation Taurus, commonly spoken of as seven, though only six are visible. p l u c k y (pl uh k -ee) adj. having or showing courage; brave.

p o r t e r (pawr -ter) n . a person hired to carry burdens or baggage, as at a railroad station or a hotel. p r i vat i o n (prahy-ve y -shuhn) n . lack of the usual comforts or necessaries of life.

p r o c l i v i t i e s (proh-kl iv -i-tee) n . natural or habitual inclination or tendency; propensity; predisposition. p s y c h e d e l i c (s ah y -ki-del-ik) adj. of or noting a mental state characterized by a profound sense of intensified sensory perception, sometimes accompanied by severe perceptual distortion and hallucinations and by extreme feelings of either euphoria or despair. q u e e r (kweer) n . homosexual.

r apt u r o u s (rap -cher-uhs) adj. full of, feeling, or manifesting ecstatic joy or delight.

r e p r e h e n s i b l e (rep-ri-h e n -suh-buhl) adj. deserving of reproof, rebuke, or censure; blameworthy.

r h ap s o d i c (rap-sod-ik) adj. extravagantly enthusiastic; ecstatic. rh ubarb (roo -bahrb) n . Slang. a quarrel or


r i ga d o o n (rig-uh-d oon ) n . a lively dance, formerly popular, for one couple, characterized by a jumping step and usually in quick duple meter. r o b u s t (roh-buh s t ) adj. rich and full-


s a d i s t i c (suh-d is -tik) adj. deriving pleasure or sexual gratification from extreme cruelty.

s a r a b a n d (s ar -uh-band) n . a slow, stately Spanish dance, especially of the 17th and 18th centuries, in triple meter, derived from a vigorous castanet dance. s e e r (s e e -er) n . a person who sees; observer.

s h e e p i s h (s h e e -pish) adj. embarrassed or bashful, as by having done something wrong or foolish.

s l a n d e r (s l an -der) Law. n . defamation by oral utterance rather than by writing, pictures, etc. s n e e r (sneer) v. to smile, laugh, or contort the face in a manner that shows scorn or contempt.


s o d o m i t e (s o d -uh-mahyt) n . a person who engages in anal or oral copulation with a member of the same sex.

s u b s i s t (suhb-si st ) v. to remain alive; live, as on food, resources, etc.

s u b v e r s i v e (suhb-v ur -siv) adj . tending to overthrow (something established or existing).

ta c t f u l (tak t -fuhl) adj . having a keen sense

of what to say or do to avoid giving offense; skill in dealing with difficult or delicate situations.

ta l l y (tal-ee) n . an account or reckoning; a

record of debit and credit, of the score of a game, or the like.

t o f f (tof ) n . British Informal. a stylishly dressed,

fashionable person, especially one who is or wants to be considered a member of the upper class.

t o r m e n t o r (tawr -men-ter) n . a person or

thing that afflicts great bodily or mental suffering; pain.

T o t e n ta n z (t o -ten-tants) German. n . Dance

of the Dead.

t r i b u l at i o n s (trib-yuh-le y -shuhn) n .

grievous trouble; severe trial or suffering.

t r y s t (trist) n . an appointment to meet at

a certain time and place, especially one made somewhat secretly by lovers.

t u m u l t u o u s (too-muh l -choo-uhs) adj.

raising a great clatter and commotion; disorderly or noisy.

v i g i l (v i j -uhl) n . a devotional watching, or

keeping awake, during the customary hours of sleep.

v i t r i o l (v i -tree-uhl) n . sulfuric acid.

wa n (won) adj . of an unnatural or sickly pallor;

pallid; lacking color.

w h i t e wa s h (h wa h y t -wosh) n . a

composition, as of lime and water or of whiting, size, and water, used for whitening walls, woodwork.

w r y (rahy) adj . produced by a distortion or

lopsidedness of the facial features.


THE S CH O O L DI S TRICT O F PHIL A DELPHI A S CH O O L REF O RM C O MMI S S I O N William J. Green, chairman Feather Houstoun, member Farah Jimenez, member

Sounds of Learning™ was established by a

generous grant from The Annenberg Foundation. Dedicated funding for the Sounds of Learning™ program has been provided by:

Marjorie Neff, member


William R. Hite, Jr., Ed.D Superintendent of Schools

Wells Fargo Hamilton Family Foundation Universal Health Services Anonymous Eugene Garfield Foundation GlaxoSmithKline

O PER A PHIL A DELPHI A David B. Devan General Director & President

Corrado Rovaris Jack Mulroney Music Director

Michael Bolton Vice President of Community Programs

Opera Philadelphia Community Programs Department © 2015

1420 Locust Street, Suite 210 Philadelphia, PA, 19102

Tel: 215.893.5927

Fax: 215.893.7801


Sylvia P. Simms, member

Dennis W. Creedon, Ed.D. Deputy Chief, Academic Enrichment & Support

Written and produced by:

Ethel Sergeant Clark Smith Memorial Fund The Hirsig Family Fund of the Philadelphia Foundation Morgan Stanley Foundation Alpin J. & Alpin W. Cameron Memorial Fund Deluxe Corporation Foundation The McLean Contributionship Mutual Fire Foundation Louis N. Cassett Foundation

Michael Bolton Vice President of Community Programs bolton@operaphila.org Adrienne Bishop Community Programs Assistant bishop@operaphila.org Katie Dune Multimedia Communications Coordinator dune@operaphila.org Special thanks to: Dr. Dennis W. Creedon Creator, Sounds of Learning™ Curriculum Consultant Dr. Dan Darigan Joann Neufeld Vincent Renou Salvatore Sermania Theodore T. Smith Nancy Werner-Kaiser Katherine Young Curriculum Consultants Dr. Bettie Joyner Kleckley Dr. Nanci Ritter Program Evaluators Maureen Lynch Operations Manager, Academy of Music

Opera Philadelphia is supported by major grants from The William Penn Foundation, the Wyncote Foundation, and The Pew Charitable Trusts. Additional support is provided by the Independence Foundation and the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation. Opera Philadelphia receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Support provided in part by the Philadelphia Cultural Fund.

Cornell Wood Head Usher, Academy of Music Academy of Music Ushers Karma Agency Design Concept and Cover Artwork Kalnin Graphics Printing


o p e r ap h i l a . o r g

Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.