When famed playwright Arthur Miller was approached about the possibility of making an opera out of The Crucible, he not only endorsed it, he initially wanted to try to write the music himself. According to Buck Ross, director of Moores Opera Center at the University of Houston, wiser minds prevailed and the assignment was given to Robert Ward.
Which turned out to be a good idea because the result was a Pulitzer Prize-winning opera. Now University of Houston voice students are readying themselves to perform the two-act work about the Salem witch trials and according to Ross, it enables him to get a sizable number of singers onstage.
The opera differs from the play in some respects. “The opera has to be shorter,” Ross says. “The parts of the play which tend to get talky and a little preachy, vanish. We go right to the emotional heart of the piece.”
The trial scene in which John Proctor is finally accused along with so many others of consorting with Satan “is the most thrilling,” says Ross. Yet somehow it is the last act, in which the hero of the piece is in prison himself, “that tops it,” Ross says.
This will be the first time for UH to perform this. “I kept putting it off for some reason and it’s turned out to be a perfect match for us,” Ross says.
"It is sad, but it’s really uplifting and somewhat terrifying as well," Ross says. "I think ultimately that’s what makes the piece such a classic. We're never really far from the kind of mob hysteria the Salem Witch Trials demonstrated."
Performances are scheduled for October 21-24 at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Monday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the University of Houston - main campus, 120 School of Music Building. For information call 713- 743-3313 or visit uh.edu/cota/music/opera. $12 students and seniors, $20 adults.
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