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From "Spoon River Anthology"
I've found a great deal of inspiration in the Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters, a collection of monologues or short poems in which recently-departed residents of the imaginary Midwestern town of Spoon River reflect from beyond the grave. So far, this inspiration has manifested itself in a setting of one poem for mezzo and orchestra, and a set of two poems for baritone and soprano with piano.
“Sarah Brown” (2014)
soprano, orchestra (126.96.36.199/188.8.131.52/3 perc/str)
“MAURICE, weep not, I am not here under this pine tree.
The balmy air of spring whispers through the sweet grass,
The stars sparkle, the whippoorwill calls,
But thou grievest, while my soul lies rapturous
In the blest Nirvana of eternal light!
Go to the good heart that is my husband,
Who broods upon what he calls our guilty love:—
Tell him that my love for you, no less than my love for him
Wrought out my destiny—that through the flesh
I won spirit, and through spirit, peace.
There is no marriage in heaven,
But there is love.”
“Reuben Pantier & Emily Sparks” (2015)
baritone, soprano, pno
“WELL, Emily Sparks, your prayers were not wasted,
Your love was not all in vain.
I owe whatever I was in life
To your hope that would not give me up,
To your love that saw me still as good.
Dear Emily Sparks, let me tell you the story.
I pass the effect of my father and mother;
The milliner’s daughter made me trouble
And out I went in the world,
Where I passed through every peril known
Of wine and women and joy of life.
One night, in a room in the Rue de Rivoli,
I was drinking wine with a black-eyed cocotte,
And the tears swam into my eyes.
She thought they were amorous tears and smiled
For thought of her conquest over me.
But my soul was three thousand miles away,
In the days when you taught me in Spoon River.
And just because you no more could love me,
Nor pray for me, nor write me letters,
The eternal silence of you spoke instead.
And the black-eyed cocotte took the tears for hers,
As well as the deceiving kisses I gave her.
Somehow, from that hour, I had a new vision—
Dear Emily Sparks!”
“WHERE is my boy, my boy—
In what far part of the world?
The boy I loved best of all in the school?—
I, the teacher, the old maid, the virgin heart,
Who made them all my children.
Did I know my boy aright,
Thinking of him as spirit aflame,
Active, ever aspiring?
Oh, boy, boy, for whom I prayed and prayed
In many a watchful hour at night,
Do you remember the letter I wrote you
Of the beautiful love of Christ?
And whether you ever took it or not,
My boy, wherever you are,
Work for your soul’s sake,
That all the clay of you, all of the dross of you,
May yield to the fire of you,
Till the fire is nothing but light!...
Nothing but light!”
Macbeth - Act I, sc. ii (2012)
soprano, tenor or baritone, pno
or 1st half: 5’30”
An opera scene written for WWU Opera Club's annual Opera Scenes show in spring of 2012.
Text adapted from Shakespeare's Macbeth, Act I, sc. ii, a scene I'd been familiar with since high school drama and English.
Shelby Gottberg, soprano
Patrick Kennedy, baritone
Evan Ingalls, piano