" To this day...reading a libretto is a special
Donald Moreland, the music wasn't always there. Unlike his friend Myron
Fink, he came to classical music a bit later in his youth. In fact, he
vividly remembers the precise moment when he discovered opera -
I did not discover classical music and particularly opera until a much
later age, 14 to be exact. As a student at Concordia College in Milwaukee,
a prep school for Lutheran ministers, I turned on the radio one Saturday
afternoon and heard, to my intense pleasure and astonishment, singers
singing in a language I did not understand and singing with beauty and
powerful emotions. What were they saying? Why were they saying it - or
rather, - singing it? Who were they? What was the story? I had to know.
This was, of course a Saturday broadcast from the Metropolitan opera and
the beginning of my fascination with a story that is sung, not merely
told, with human feelings, expressed and enlarged through music. It was
a heady experience and still is.
I rushed to the library. I discovered the libretto, the actual written
words - Carmen, Rigoletto, La Boheme - like small plays I could
read quickly. The who, the what, the why... all became clear. I had found
the key that unlocked the drama.
After 7 well-spent years in the Lutheran seminary, Don Moreland found
his true calling. He entered the University of Illinois as a music student.
There, in 1954, he met Myron Fink when he sang one of the lead parts in
The Boor, Myron's first opera based on a Chekov short story. Their
professional lives were linked from then on, though treading somewhat
different paths. While Myron followed the music, Don went after the story...
and the drama, graduating from the Yale School of Drama a few years later.
In 1960 he went to Germany on a Fulbright opera grant to collaborate with
the famed composer Paul Hindemith on the American premier of his comic
opera, News of the Day (Neues vom Tage). And when it premiered
in 1961, he was commissioned by the Santa Fe Opera of New Mexico to stage
it. He has also directed Verdi's Macbeth and Rossini's Il Barbiere
Primarily a man of the theater, Moreland has produced and directed stage
plays. His works include the off-Broadway play The Chronicles of Bohikee
Creek with James Earl Jones and the late Moses Gunn, The Tenth
Man and Room Service with Jane Alexander, both at the Arena
Stage in Washington DC.
His collaboration with Myron Fink over the
years as librettist - storyteller or playwright of the opera if you will
- has produced the biblical story-based Judith and Holofernes,
Chinchilla, Fink's fifth opera set in 1920s Manhattan, The Conquistador
and Animalopera. They have just completed a new opera based on
the life of the famous novelist, Edith Wharton.
a VIDEO of Don and Myron in conversation
about the music and language of ANIMALOPERA.