Six Characters in Search of an Author
Composer: Hugo Weisgall
Librettist: Denis Johnston
Other Artistic Personnel: William Ball (Stage Director)
Sylvan Levin (Conductor)
Gary Smith (Set and Costume Designer)
Original Cast: Beverly Sills (coloratura soprano)
Grant Williams (tenore buffo)
John Macurdy (basso cantante)
Regina Sarfati (mezzo)
The Characters:
Paul Ukena (The Father)
Robert Trehey (The Son)
Adelaide Bishop (The Stepdaughter)
Patricia Neway (The Mother)
Ruth Kobart (Madame Pace)
Marc Sullivan (The Boy)
Barbara Becker (The Child)
Work Web Site: Full-Evening
Premiere Date: April 26, 1959
Producing Company: New York City Opera
Description: Based on the early 20th century Italian absurdist play by Pirandello: A play-within-a-play is transformed by Johnston into an opera-within-an-opera. The libretto sets reality against theatrical illusion, offers pointed commentary, and satirizes operatic conventions. An opera is being rehearsed on the stage of a small theater. Six fictional characters -- mother, father, their son, and the mother's three illegitimate children (the stepdaughter, boy, and girl) -- interrupt the rehearsal. Claiming to belong to an unfinished opera, they are in search of an author to finish the drama for them. The current opera being rehearsed holds little interest for the director or performers, so they are easily persuaded to begin work on the unfinished opera. The director and company try to take control of the work, but the family, a profoundly and spectacularly dysfunctional group, insist the drama can only be told truthfully if they perform it themselves. This creates a rift between the emotionally-scarred fictional characters and the director and performers. Issues of guilt, incest, prostitution, murder, violence, and suicide are all played out by the fictional characters who are forever trapped in their own world.
Character List (Major): The Accompanist (bar)
The Stage Manager (bar)
The Mezzo
The Tenore Buffo
The Prompter (s) The Basso Cantante
The Director (t)
The Wardrobe Mistress (contralto)
The Coloratura
The Father (bar)
The Stepdaughter (s)
The Mother (mz)
The Son (bar)
The Boy (actor)
The Child (actor)
Madame Pace (contralto)
Reviews: Los Angeles Times, Harold Blumenfeld; New York Times, Howard Taubman, 4/27/1959;Washington Post, Paul Hume; London Financial Times, Andrew Porter, 7-9-90; The New Yorker, Andrew Porter, 7-16-90; The Musical Quarterly, Richard Franko Goldman, Vol. XLV, No. 3, July, 1959; The New York Observer, Charles Michener, 12-11-95; The New York Times, Allan Kozinn, 12-9-95; Village Voice, Leighton Kerner, 1-2-96; New York Native, Bruce-Michael Gelbert, Issue 665, 1-15-96; New York Post, Shirley Fleming, 12-8-95; Opera, March 1996.
Length: 02:20
Total Acts: 3
Orchestration: 2(Alto, Picc.) 2(E.H.) 2(B.Cl.) 2(Cbsn.) - 2 2 2 1; Timp. Perc. Str. Upright Piano (on stage)
Musical Style: Weisgall's earlier style fused non-tonal neo-classicism with the plasticity and fluidity of Berg's mature works. His later music is closest in style to the Second Viennese School, although his works are rarely completely atonal. Melodically and harmonically, his constructions move within a narrow range, and he unfolds his twelve tone rows slowly, saving certain pitches for contrasting sections.
Contact: Theodore Presser Company
Address: 588 North Gulph Road
King of Prussia, PA 19406
E-mail Address:
Phone: 610-592-1222
Publisher Web Site:
Schedule of Performances Listings
Six Characters in Search of An Author (Weisgall)
Wednesday, December 6, 1995 - Manhattan School of Music Opera Theater
330 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001
Tel: 212.796.8620 • Fax: 212.796.8621 • Directions

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