Peabody Opera Workshop presents

Operas in English

Riders to the Sea

by Ralph Vaughan Williams

after the play by J. M. Synge

arranged for chamber ensemble by Aaron Sherber

Simeone Tartaglione, conductor

Roger Brunyate, stage director


A Game of Chance

by Seymour Barab

libretto by Evelyn Manacher Draper

Dana Scott, music director

Stephanie Miller, stage director


Marriage by Lanternlight

by Jacques Offenbach

in a translation by Veronica Reed

Roger Brunyate, music director

Caitlin Vincent, stage director

Miriam A. Friedberg Concert Hall
Monday, October 20, 2008, at 7:30 PM
Admission free
Peabody Opera home

The Peabody Opera Workshop presents one of the masterpieces of English twentieth-century one-act opera, Riders to the Sea, in a staged performance with chamber ensemble. Some lighter fare will round out the program: Seymour Barab’s witty parable A Game of Chance, and Jacques Offenbach’s charming pastoral romance Marriage by Lanternlight, sung in English translation.

J. M. Synge Synge cottage on Inishmaan
J. M. Synge and his cottage on Inishmaan, Aran Islands

Riders to the Sea, which premiered in 1937, is a faithful setting of the short play written by John Millington Synge in 1904. Synge lived for part of each year on the barren Aran Islands, off the west coast of his native Ireland, and many of his works are based on the lives of the people there. Riders to the Sea is set in a farmhouse kitchen. While their mother Maurya is sleeping in the next room, her daughters Cathleen and Nora examine a sweater taken off a body washed ashore further up the coast and recognize it as belonging to their brother Michael, drowned like all the sons before him. When Bartley, their last remaining brother, comes to bid them farewell before taking a horse over to the mainland, they try to persuade him to stay, but in vain. Maurya, who has gone out after him, returns terrified by a vision of his ghost rising from the water. One by one, the village women enter with shawls over their heads and begin to keen. Bartley has been kicked by his horse into the ocean and drowned. Now Maurya can at last find peace, having no more sons left to lose to the sea.

Ralph Vaughan-Williams A scene from the play
Ralph Vaughan-WilliamsA scene from the Synge play

A Game of Chance was written by Seymour Barab in 1956. The text, by Evelyn Manacher Draper, is based on the play All on a Summer’s Day by Florence Ryerson and Colin Clements. As is typical of Barab, who was something of a comic-opera genius, the tone is light but musically varied. The publishers describe the action as follows: “In a garden with a bench, a Representative, the eternal messenger of fate, brings to each of three young women her dearest wish: One would like to be wealthy; one would like to be famous; and one would like to have a lover in her life. Each discovers she has not asked for enough: The rich woman misses real friends; the famous author yearns for love; and the third young woman finds marriage a tedious chore. Even the Representative is dissatisfied with his life: He needs an assistant to help him with his tough job. The moral of this comic opera: We all want too much or too little.”

Seymour Barab   Offenbach caricatureJacques Offenbach
Seymour Barab   Jacques Offenbach, caricature and portrait

Marriage by Lanternlight (Le mariage aux lanternes), first performed in 1853, was one of Jacques Offenbach’s earliest successes. It has none of the zany satire of the composer’s later work such as Orpheus in the Underworld; its pastoral charm is closer to the mood of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore. Indeed, the situation might almost be taken from the second act of that opera: a simple but attractive young man, the girl he loves from a distance, a letter from a rich uncle telling him of a treasure that will await him in the village square at nightfall, two rich widows eager to get a part of the young man and his treasure, and of course the romantic happy ending. The seven musical numbers include duets, trios, and a haunting quartet as the church bell rings the Angelus and the characters gather to claim the promised treasure.

Riders to the Sea

Cathleen Laura Beasley
Nora Ashley St. Martin
Maurya Jennifer Hamilton
Bartley Jorge Ramirez-Sanchez

A Game of Chance

1st Knitter Sarah Mahon
2nd Knitter Kate Krueger
3rd Knitter Laura Reaper
The Representative Jeremy Osborne

Marriage by Lanternlight

Fanny Stephanie Miller
Catherine Solen Mainguené
Denise Marisa Del Campo
Leroy Peter Drackley