This fall, University Opera presents its first project of 2020-21 in video format as it turns to the music of Marc Blitzstein (1905-1964). I WISH IT SO: MARC BLITZSTEIN – THE MAN IN HIS MUSIC will be released on the Mead Witter School of Music YouTube channel on October 23 at 8 pm. Director of University Opera David Ronis will direct and Thomas Kasdorf will be the musical director.
Marc Blitzstein’s life story parallels some of the most important cultural currents in American history of the mid-20th-century. Known for his musicals (most notably The Cradle Will Rock – 1937), his opera Regina (1948), and his translation of Kurt Weill’s The Threepenny Opera, Blitzstein was an outspoken proponent of socially engaged art and, like many artists of his time, he joined the American Communist Party. But he also enthusiastically served in the US Army during World War II.
Nevertheless, in 1958, long after he had given up his Communist Party membership, Blitzstein was called before the House Committee on Un-American Activities where he “named no names.” An extremely gifted yet underappreciated composer, he was a close friend of and mentor to Leonard Bernstein and traveled in a close circle of composers including David Diamond and Aaron Copland. Although openly gay, he married Eva Goldbeck in 1933. Sadly, she died three years later from complications due to anorexia. Blitzstein’s own death was likewise tragic. In 1964, while in Martinique working on an opera about the anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti, a commission from the Metropolitan Opera, he was robbed and badly beaten by three Portuguese sailors who he had picked up at a bar. He died the next day of internal injuries.
Although throughout his life and afterwards, Blitzstein’s work was championed by Bernstein and others, many claim that neither the composer nor his stunning music and beautiful lyrics ever received quite the attention they deserved. Thus, University Opera is proud to present this show celebrating his life and his works.
I WISH IT SO: MARC BLITZSTEIN – THE MAN IN HIS MUSIC is a unique production put together by David Ronis. A biographical pastiche, it tells the story of Blitzstein’s life by recontextualizing 23 songs and ensembles from his shows, juxtaposing them with spoken excerpts from his working notes and letters, and tying it all together with a narration. The result is a dramatic, evocative, and enjoyable portrait of Blitzstein’s life and his art. Research on the project was completed at the Wisconsin Historical Society, where Blitzstein’s archives are housed. University Opera gratefully acknowledges the help of both Mary Huelsbeck of the Wisconsin Center for Film and Television Research, and the Kurt Weill Foundation for their assistance with this project.
The show features five accomplished UW-Madison graduate students: Sarah Brailey, Kenneth Hoversten, Justin Kroll, Lindsey Meekhof, and Steffen Silvis. The video design will be done by Dave Alcorn with costumes by Hyewon Park. Others on the production staff include Will Preston, rehearsal pianist; Elisheva Pront, research assistant and assistant director; Dylan Thoren, production stage manager; Alec Hansen, assistant stage manager; Teresa Sarkela, storyboard creator; and Greg Silver, technical director.
The video will be accessible for 23 hours starting at 8:00 pm on October 23, 2020. Although there will be no admission price for access, donations will be gratefully accepted. A link for donations will be posted with the video.
University Opera, a cultural service of the Mead Witter School of Music, provides comprehensive operatic training and performance opportunities for students and operatic programming to the community. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.