"Paul's Case"

April, 2013

Washington -- The world premier of "Paul's Case", an opera based on Willa Cather's short story of the same name, took place this week across the river at the Artisphere in Rosslyn, Virginia.

We think of Cather as a Nebraskan, but she was born in Virginia, so this was an appropriate venue. The opera is set in Pittsburgh and New York, both places in which Cather also lived.

The composer, Gregory Spears, took questions from the audience and individually after Saturday evening's performance. He told us privately that his style has most obviously been influenced by Britten, but he was also an admirer of Wagner. I thought he might mention Hanns Eisler, but did not. The music is infused with humming, whistling, and the use of voices eerily to represent train whistles.

Because the story is in the public domain, he explained, he did not have to seek permission from anyone in order to make it into an opera. Nevertheless, he said Cather scholars are much interested in the opera. He would like to see it performed someday in the Red Cloud Opera House in Nebraska. See you in Red Cloud?