The Voyage of Edgar Allen Poe
Composer: Dominick Argento
Librettist: Charles Nolte
Other Artistic Personnel: H. Wesley Balk (Director)
Philip Brunelle (Conductor)
Original Cast: Vern Sutton (Doctor)
George Livings (Edgar Allan Poe)
John Brandstetter (Griswold)
Barbara Brandt (Mrs. Poe)
Kathryn Asman (Mrs. Clemm)
Rose Taylor (Mrs. Allan)
Peter Strummer (Theatre Director)
Karen Hunt (Virginia Poe)
Philip Jore (Willie)
Linda Smith-Collins (Rosy)
Work Web Site:
Premiere Date: April 24, 1976
Producing Company: The Minnesota Opera
Description: Ill and feverish due to a slump in his creative writing, Poe, whose wife Virginia died two years earlier, decides to embark on a "voyage of discovery" on a ship bound for Baltimore. His literary executor, Griswold, assures him of a scheduled voyage, but his friend, the doctor, expresses his doubts. Alone on the dock, Poe awaits the ship. A ghostly vessel materializes out of the darkness with phantoms drifting across its decks. They draw Poe onto the vessel, which disappears into the mist. During his "voyage," Poe reenacts his mother's death and his own wedding ceremony. Throughout these hallucinations, Griswold appears in various menacing roles. Griswold, disguised as a priest, accuses Poe of longing for his wife's death in order to inspire his creative thinking. Poe vehemently denies the charges. While he kneels at Virginia's bed on the day of her death, Virginia comes to life in Poe's embrace. Despite warnings not to inquire about the land beyond the grave, Poe demands a description. Virginia begs him not to ask. He persists. Her voice rises in ecstasy at her description and then she abruptly dies. Poe realizes his guilt. A trial convenes, with Griswold disguised in a scarlet robe and judicial wig. Driven to rage, Poe seizes a sword and lunges toward Griswold, who is depicted as an image in a mirror. Griswold declares that it is Poe's soul-Poe's secret self-that has judged him. Poe stabs at the image in the mirror, but his nemesis has disappeared and in his place stands an image of Poe himself. With a welcoming gesture, Poe's image stretches out his arm to receive the blows. Epilogue: The dock at dawn. Poe stands alone, hearing the voice of Virginia singing to him. Poe dies. The doctor enters and discovers Griswold standing over the body. The doctor explains that Poe had wished to take a ship the previous evening. Griswold assures him that no vessel departed.
Character List (Major): Doctor(t)
Edgar Allen Poe(t)
Mrs. Poe(s)
Mrs. Clemm(mz)
Mrs. Allan(cont)
Theatre Director(b)
Virginia Poe(lyr s)
Reviews: Musical America, John H. Harvey, 8-76; The New Yorker, Andrew Porter, 5-17-76; Time, William Bender, 5-10-76; Newsweek, Hubert Saal, 5-10-76; The New York Times, Raymond Ericson, 4-26-76
Length: 02:05
Total Acts: 2
Chorus: SSAATTBB Chorus(min 24)
Orchestration: 2 fl(picc), 2 ob(Eng Hrn), 2 cl(bcl), 2 bsn - 3 hrn, 2 tpt, 2 tbn, 1 tba - timp, 2 perc(BD, SD, brake dr, bamboo wind chimes, wdbl, tpl bl, large bell in A, tgl, glsp, chimes, cast, tam-t, tom-t, anvil, claves, tamb, cyms, susp cyms, ratchet, large and small maracas, bell tree, TD, t bells, 4 gongs) - hp, pf(cel) - str
Musical Style: Tonal, melodious vocal lines; through-composed; some dialogue; occasional arias, duets, and trios; some thick ensemble writing
Contact: Boosey & Hawkes, Inc.
Address: 229 W 28th Street, Floor 11
New York, NY 10001
E-mail Address:
Phone: 212-358-5300
Publisher Web Site:
330 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001
Tel: 212.796.8620 • Fax: 212.796.8621

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