Greg will be conductor and chorus-master for the workshop production of Act I from Eric Sawyer‘s opera in progress: The Scarlet Professor.
[the full press release follows]
Opening half of opera on Pioneer Valley’s 1960 ‘Scarlet Professor’ case in free preview staging
Amherst, Mass. A free workshop performance of the first half of The Scarlet Professor, a new opera based on the celebrated 1960 arrest and trial of Smith College professor Newton Arvin, will take place on Sunday, June 7 at 3:00 p.m. in Buckley Recital Hall at Amherst College. The semi-staged performance will be followed by a discussion with composer Eric Sawyer, librettist Harley Erdman, and author Barry Werth, on whose book the opera is based.
The Scarlet Professor recounts the story of Newton Arvin, a nationally renowned literary critic and English professor who was arrested in 1960 along with two younger colleagues for possessing ‘beefcake’ pornography. The opera blends the human drama of men caught in a national crusade against perceived indecency with fantasy based on scenes from the book Arvin wrote about most passionately: Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, with its depiction of sin, secrecy, and shame in small-town New England.
Today, this nationally famous case is seen as an historical fulcrum, perched between the cultural McCarthyism of the 1950s and the “new world” of personal liberation ushered in by the 1960s.
Sawyer, a music professor at Amherst College; and Erdman, a theater professor at UMass Amherst, collaborated previously on The Garden of Martyrs, an opera premiered in 2013 by the Springfield Symphony at Northampton’s Academy of Music.
Directing the stage will be Ron Bashford, a theater professor at Amherst College and a member of the Lincoln Center Theater Director’s lab, who brings his production of Shakespeare’s Pericles to Amherst next September. Conducting will be Gregory W. Brown, who has has led numerous choral performances in the region, including the massed festival choirs in the premiere of his choral work Five Women Bathing in Moonlight at the 2012 Five College Choral Festival.
The cast will include seven leading opera vocalists from New York and New England including Daniel Kamalic, whose performance in Cavalleria Rusticana was heard this month at the Academy of Music.