The Crucible (opera)

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The Crucible
Opera by Robert Ward
The composer in 2011
Librettist Bernard Stambler
Language English
Based on The Crucible
by Arthur Miller
Premiere October 26, 1961 (1961-10-26)
New York City Opera

The Crucible is an English language opera written by Robert Ward based on the play The Crucible by Arthur Miller. It won both the 1962 Pulitzer Prize for Music and the New York Music Critics Circle Citation. The libretto was lightly adapted from Miller's text by Bernard Stambler.

Ward received a commission from the New York City Opera to write the opera. Arthur Miller was involved in selecting Ward. It is one of the most performed operas by an American composer.

Performance history[edit]

The Crucible premiered on 26 October 1961 at the New York City Opera (NYCO), with Chester Ludgin as John Proctor, and Norman Treigle as the Reverend John Hale. The production was staged by Allen Fletcher, used scenery designed by Paul Sylbert, and costumes designed by Ruth Morely. The work was next performed in student productions at the University of California, Los Angeles and The Hartt School in West Hartford, Connecticut in 1964. The opera was mounted by the San Francisco Opera for the first time on June 22, 1965 with much of the same cast as the NYCO production. In 1968 the NYCO revived the production, It has since been staged by the Lake George Opera (1966), the Seattle Opera (1968), the Pennsylvania Opera Theater (1989) and the Tulsa Opera (1995) and Glimmerglass Festival (2016).

The German premiere in 1963 at Staatstheater Wiesbaden was received with harsh criticism[1] In 2015 the film director Hugh Hudson gave his premiere as an opera director with The Crucible at Staatstheater Braunschweig.

The Crucible had its Australian premiere on 10 October 2008 at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, forty-seven years after its world premiere. It was performed by senior opera-students, conducted by Justin Bischof and directed by Leith Taylor.


Role Voice type Premiere Cast,[2]
October 26, 1961
(Conductor: – Emerson Buckley)
John Proctor baritone Chester Ludgin
Elizabeth Proctor mezzo-soprano Frances Bible
Abigail Williams soprano Patricia Brooks
Judge Danforth tenor Ken Neate
Reverend John Hale bass Norman Treigle
Reverend Samuel Parris tenor Norman Kelley
Tituba contralto Débria Brown
Rebecca Nurse contralto Eunice Alberts
Giles Corey tenor Maurice Stern
Mary Warren soprano Joy Clements
Ann Putnam soprano Mary LeSawyer
Thomas Putnam baritone Paul Ukena
Ezekiel Cheever tenor Harry Theyard
Sarah Good soprano Joan Kelm
Betty Parris mezzo-soprano Joyce Ebert
Mercy Lewis soprano Nancy Roy
Bridget Booth soprano Beverly Evans
Susanna Walcott contralto Helen Guile
Ruth Putnam soprano Lorna Ceniceros
Martha Sheldon soprano Elizabeth Schwering
Hathorne bass John Macurdy


The play takes place during the 1692 Salem witch trials. The Arthur Miller play on which it was based was written as an allegory for McCarthyism and the Red Scare, which occurred in the United States in the 1950s. Miller was himself questioned by the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1956.

Several women and men in the town are accused of witchcraft by a group of young girls led by Abigail Williams. Her jealousy of John Proctor's wife, Elizabeth, leads Abigail to accuse Elizabeth of witchcraft. John himself is eventually accused and hangs rather than recant, saying he can't dirty his name and stands up for what he believes.


  • Brooks, Bible, Ludgin, Macurdy; Buckley, 1962 (CRI)
  • D’Eramo, Weishoff, Rogers, Karkari, Collins, Kayaalp; Murray, Benevento, Whiteman, Capozzo, Downey, Jones; Purchase Symphony, State University of New York at Purchase Hugh Murphy. Albany Records Troy 1656/57 (2)


External links[edit]