Dinner At Eight
Composer: William Bolcom
Librettist: Mark Campbell
Premiere Date: Not available.
Description: Manhattan socialite Millicent Jordan plans a lavish dinner party for visiting English nobility, unaware that her guest list abounds with people linked by business intrigues and romantic entanglements. In adapting the witty and biting depression-era play by Kaufman and Ferber, Pulitzer Prize- and Grammy-Award winning composer William Bolcom (A View from the Bridge, A Wedding) and renowned librettist Mark Campbell (Silent Night, The Shining), have created a winning new opera that successfully weds American musical comedy and opera.

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Detailed Scene Breakdown
Setting: New York City, early 1930s

Act I

Scene one – The drawing room of the Jordan home – 9am, Friday

Millicent Jordan, a vapid socialite, is seated at her desk opening her mail while talking to her husband Oliver. She receives radiogram from Lord and Lady Ferncliffe, who are arriving from England on the Aquitania. They have accepted an invitation to dinner, and Millicent is jubilant. Immediately she starts to assemble a dinner party for the following Friday, discussing various potential guests with Oliver. Dr. Joseph and Lucy Talbot immediately spring to mind, as well as the celebrated actress Carlotta Vance and the Western entrepreneur Dan Packard and his wife Kitty. The Jordans’ daughter, Paula, enters wistfully – she doesn’t appear to be thrilled with her upcoming marriage and her fiancé, Ernest, and puts off a shopping trip with her mother scheduled for that afternoon. Millicent phones her prospects and they all accept. The details of the event are set.


Scene two – Oliver Jordan’s business office in lower Manhattan – 1pm, Friday

Carlotta Vance visits Oliver at his office. It is initially a social call, but it is soon revealed that Carlotta wishes to sell her shares of Jordan Shipping Lines stock – she has had some personal financial difficulties with her fledging career in harsh economic times. Jordan has his own financial concerns as his business is also having problems and other shareholders wish to liquidate as well. Dan Packard also stops by, and Oliver asks him for a loan. He will take some time to consider once he reviews the accounts.


Scene three – Kitty’s bedroom in the Packard penthouse – 4pm, Friday

Kitty is spending a pampered afternoon in her bedroom. She claims to be ill, but her husband, Dan, sees through her deception. He relays his plans for their moving to Washington DC, which does not thrill her. Dan also discloses his secret intention to take over Oliver’s business – as a result, dining with the Jordans on Friday will be uncomfortable, but Kitty still wants to go. Dr. Talbot makes a house call and it is revealed that he and Miss Kitty are having an affair.


Scene four – The drawing room of the Jordan home – 3pm, Wednesday

Meanwhile, Millicent and the doctor’s wife, Lucy, return from shopping. As she has now had a cancellation, Millicent decides to invite Larry Renault, an aging movie star whose career is nearly over, to even the numbers of her dinner party. As she makes the phone call, Paula enters the room, and it becomes clear that she and Larry are involved in a tryst, in spite of the vast difference in their ages.


Scene five – Larry Renault’s room in the Hotel Versailles – 2pm, Friday

Paula visits Larry at his hotel. She wants to break it off with Ernest and go public with their relationship, but Larry resists the idea. Max Kane, his agent, arrives and reveals that Larry did not get a leading role in an upcoming drama, and is only offering a supporting one. The actor orders another bottle of whiskey from room service, and now truly impoverished, pays with his cufflinks.


Scene six – The drawing room of the Jordan’s home – 4pm, Friday

A crash is heard from the kitchen, but Millicent urgently demands Gustave the butler to answer the door. Carlotta has unexpectedly dropped by to see Oliver. The bell rings again, and Gustave enters with roses from the Ferncliffes. At the same moment, Carlotta confesses to Oliver that she has sold her stock. He soon learns that others have fallen suit. Millicent has also received distressing news. The Ferncliffes have cancelled, instead going to Florida; rather than an entire string quartet, only a single viola is available to provide background music; and worse of all, Gustave has dropped the entire lobster dinner, ruining it completely. Her daughter reveals that she doesn’t want to marry and Oliver is having chest pains. Distraught, Millicent collapses in a chair.


Act II

Scene one – Dr. Talbot’s office – 5pm, Friday

Oliver visits the doctor to make an appointment for the next day. After he departs, Lucy stops by and confronts her husband about his philandering. After she leaves, it is revealed that Oliver has a coronary condition, with weeks to live.


Scene two – Kitty’s bedroom in the Packard penthouse

Kitty is at her vanity, preparing for the evening. Dan reiterates his intention to follow politics in Washington and Kitty protests once again. She confesses to the affair and will not leave New York. Dan interrogates the maid, Tina, and threatens to have Kitty followed by a private detective. Kitty, in turn, promises to reveal his shady trade practices – a public life will be disastrous.


Scene three – Larry Renault’s room in the Hotel Versailles – 8pm, Friday

Larry learns from Max that he didn’t get the part and is crushed. The hotel manager informs him that his room is needed for some special guests, and the actor discovers he cannot stay beyond Friday evening. Realizing he is dead broke, he goes to the oven and turns on the gas.


Scene four – The drawing room of the Jordan home – 8:15pm, Friday

Millicent welcomes her guests as they are announced. They all interact over small conversation. Millicent tries to cover for the absence of the Ferncliffes due to illness, but Carlotta eventually blurts out that they have gone to Florida for some good fishing. Larry’s conspicuous absence is observed by Paula. They all file into the dining room for a sumptuous meal.

1745.jpg is a photo of Dinner at Eight
Length: Length is not available.
Total Acts: Not Available
Contact: Not Available
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