American composer John Craton has composed a total of seven operas to date, ranging from the grand-scale Inanna to small chamber operas such as The Reconciliation, the children’s opera Vasya Whitefeet, and the humorous 60-second opera Defiance. Craton’s music has been performed by artists and ensembles throughout the United States and Europe and has been compared to the works of Holst and Vaughan Williams in texture and tonality. Both cerebral and emotionally accessible, his dramatic works reveal his ability to capture all aspects of the human condition and display tragedy and triumph, dolefulness and frivolity in equal degrees. Comfortably at home in comedy and tragedy, Craton’s seven operas offer something for every audience and venue. Below are brief descriptions of each work. More detailed information can be accessed by clicking on the “Details” button for each title. The operas are presented below from the largest to smallest in production size.
More About the ComposerGrand opera seria in 3 acts. For full orchestra, large cast with chorus, elaborate staging and costuming. Excerpts from the opera have been performed by the Townsend Opera Players of Modesto, California, in 2007 and 2008, but the full opera awaits its premiere. Performance time is approximately 3 hours. Production size is comparable to Verdi’s Nabucco.
Inanna: An Opera of Ancient Sumer
The Curious Affair of the Count of Monte Blotto
Chamber comic opera in 3 acts. For chamber orchestra, moderate cast with chorus (several characters may be borrowed from the chorus), borrowed staging and costuming from other operas. Approximately 2½ hours performance time. Designed to be a low-budget opera, it is arguably one of the funniest operas ever written. Production size is comparable to Britten’s Albert Herring.
Defiance: A One-Minute Opera
Essentially just a musical joke, the work uses as a libretto a series of short, prehistoric phrases constructed with ultraconserved words. The cast calls for a soprano and three to four non-singing roles with full orchestra. The opera can be performed in less than 60 seconds. In a way, the work is a response to several opera companies that did not wish to stage some of my other operas because they are too long.
The Fashionable Lady
A reconstruction of the first ballad opera by an American to be performed in England in 1730. Although requiring only a modest chamber orchestra, the opera calls for a large cast of singers/actors, including several mute roles. Similar in style, and comparable in production size, to Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera, The Fashionable Lady is a very humorous comic opera replete with acerbic wit and banter. Performance time is approximately 3¼ hours.
The Parliament of Fowls
A one-act comic chamber opera requiring a mid-sized cast. Based on the poem by Geoffrey Chaucer, it has a medieval flavor with later elements mixed in for good measure. Although calling for several countertenors, these roles may be sung by females if necessary; the small string orchestra may be substituted with a string quartet as well if need be. Performance time is approximately 45 minutes. Comparable in production size to Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors.
A comic ballad opera in two acts. The Reconciliation is a reconstruction of one of the first operas by an American and dates from 1790. Though accepted by a Philadelphia theater at the time, the opera was never produced. It requires a small cast of six singers and a small chamber ensemble. Performance time is approximately 1½ hours. Comparable in production size to Andrew Barton’s The Disappointment.
Tom Ojos Azules
An opera to be performed by children, it is the story of a young homeless boy (Tom), who has the ability to make his dreams come true. He dreams of a goat (Estrella) who becomes real, and both start traveling the world. But Estrella is no ordinary goat; she is magical, can talk, and has not two but only one horn in the center of her forehead which makes her something of a unicorn. She also is able to grant wishes, but in return neither she nor Tom will accept any gifts from those who are blessed by her magic. In the course of their travels they encounter a haughty Rich Man, a sad Princess with her Lady in Waiting, a Woodsman, a Good Witch, a Clown, a Goatherd, and a mighty King. Throughout their adventures Tom and Estrella speak of values that today are in danger of being eroded away especially values such as friendship, justice, harmony, and teamwork. The libretto by José Jiménez Lozano is entirely in Spanish; the music is accompanied by piano. Performance time is approximately 52 minutes.
A one-act children’s opera based on the Russian-Romany tale of the same name. Instrumentation requires only piano 4-hands, violin, and small percussion. The singers are expected to be children, and thus the parts are very easy with choruses singing mostly in unison. Most of the dialogue is spoken. Performance time is approximately 45 minutes.
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