Thornton Wilder's 1938 play Our Town is quintessential Americana. The story is set in the fictional small town of Grover's Corners, N.H., and filled with all the stock characters you'd expect--a milkman, a newspaper editor, a local historian, teenage lovebirds, gossiping moms. With a deliberately sparse set and a narrator who breaks down the fourth wall, the play explores the trajectory of life, love and death in three acts.
Despite the play's success--it won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1938--Wilder turned down offers by both Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein to turn it into an opera during his lifetime. But in 2006, 68 years after it was written, the Wilder estate finally authorized Ned Rorem to write a chamber opera for Our Town. According to a New York Times review of the piece, Rorem was an excellent fit for the adaptation:
"Our Town opens with a hymn, and Mr. Rorem retained and refracted the familiar melody, turning pat modulations slightly bitter, as if the music were heard through a lens of nostalgia that turned it sepia. This nostalgia proved a hallmark of the score," wrote reviewer Anne Midgette.
As a part of its "Made in the USA" series, which will bring one American opera to Boise each year for the next five years, Opera Idaho will present Rorem's Our Town at the Egyptian Theatre on Friday, Oct. 8, and Sunday, Oct. 10. The opera will be directed by David Cox and feature Sara Jobin as conductor, with local soprano Megan Starr-Levitt performing the lead female role.