The Second Hurricane

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The Second Hurricane
Opera by Aaron Copland
Librettist Edwin Denbguage
Language English
Premiere April 21, 1937 (1937-04-21)
Henry Street Settlement, New York City, New York

The Second Hurricane is an opera in two acts by Aaron Copland to a libretto by Edwin Denby. Specifically written for school performances, it lasts just under an hour and premiered on April 21, 1937, at the Henry Street Settlement playhouse in New York City. Set in the United States in the 1930s, the opera tells the story of a group of high school students who become trapped on an island while working to rescue the victims of a hurricane.

Background and performance history[edit]

The Second Hurricane was Copland's first attempt at composing opera and was commissioned by the Henry Street Settlement in New York City where it premiered on April 21, 1937, at the settlement's playhouse performed by students at its music school. The premiere production was designed by Orson Welles and conducted by Lehman Engel. The young Joseph Cotten played the small speaking role of Mr. Maclenahan.

The work was performed on CBS Radio May 9, 1937, in a one-hour broadcast directed by Earle McGill.[1][2]

The work has only been sporadically performed since its premiere. In honor of Copland's 85th birthday, it was revived at the Henry Street Settlement in November 1985 in a production by Tazewell Thompson which restored an aria and a ballet which had been cut from the work at its premiere.[3] On the 100th anniversary of his birth, a new version was premiered at the 11th Chicago Humanities Festival. For the Chicago production the producer and musical director Michael Barrett and Jamie Bernstein Thomas (the daughter of Leonard Bernstein) wrote a new libretto updating the story from the 1930s to 2000 with the action taking place in a television studio where the protagonists describe their adventures for a cable-television show called Teen Heroes.[4] In 2014, the opera was revived in Columbia, South Carolina as a co-production between the University of South Carolina's Magellan scholar program, Opera at USC, FBN Productions, Inc., and Columbia Music Festival Association. The cast was composed of community students from across the Midlands region of South Carolina and was directed by University of South Carolina senior Kate McKinney.

Roles[edit]

Role Voice type [5] Premiere cast [6]
April 21, 1937
(Conductor: Lehman Engel)
Butch, a new kid tenor John Doepper
Fat, a bully bass Harry Olive
Gyp, Fat's younger brother baritone Arthur Anderson
Lowrie, the school "brain" tenor Buddy Mangan
Gwen, a resolute girl contralto Estelle Levy
Queenie, head of the class soprano Vivian Block
Jeff, a black country boy boy soprano Carl Crawford
Mr. Maclenahan, an airline pilot [7] (speaking role) Joseph Cotten
Mr. Lester, school principal (speaking role) Clifford Mack
Radio operator [8] (speaking role) Charles Pettinger
Chorus of high school pupils; Chorus of parents; Chorus of elementary school pupils

Recording[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Anderson, Arthur (2010). An Actor's Odyssey. Albany, Georgia: BearManor Media. p. 34. ISBN 9781593935221. 
  2. ^ Crist, Elizabeth B. (2005). Music for the Common Man: Aaron Copland during the Depression and War. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 91. ISBN 9780199724291. 
  3. ^ Rockwell (15 November 1985)
  4. ^ Von Rhein (12 November 2000)
  5. ^ Voice types and role descriptions from Boosey & Hawkes
  6. ^ Premiere cast from New York Times (8 April 1937) and France (1977) p. 184
  7. ^ In later versions of the libretto character also described Butch's father. See Boosey & Hawkes
  8. ^ In later versions of the libretto character changed to Miss Eulalie, the central telephone operator. See Boosey & Hawkes

Sources[edit]