The Age of Innocence is an opera in two acts based on the 1920 novel by Edith Wharton (1862-1937). I first became acquainted with this story in 1995, having seen Martin Scorcese’s excellent film adaptation from 1993; soon thereafter I read the novel, and was immediately struck by Wharton’s tremendous powers in probing the psychology of the characters caught in this tale of thwarted love. It was in the late 1990s that I first thought that this story would be a wonderful subject for an opera. It was only until the end of my doctoral studies in music composition at the Boyer College of Music at Temple University, in 2009, however, that I felt I was ready to tackle the daunting task of adapting Wharton’s masterpiece for the operatic stage, writing both the libretto and music myself (the opera was my dissertation project). Throughout the composition of this work, I felt that the music must be paramount in conveying suppressed emotions of three main characters: Newland Archer, his fiancée May Welland, and her cousin, the Countess Ellen Olenska. I wanted, in essence, to convey through the music the psychological portraits that Wharton portrays so convincingly in her prose. I also, of course, wanted to tell a great love story, following in the tradition of many operas, whereby music, specifically song, is the only possible outlet for the emotions the characters feel, as they attempt to fathom their own hearts.
Two scenes from the opera and the aria “Love’s Testament” were performed with piano accompaniment at the Temple University Graduate Opera Scenes in April of 2012, under the superb musical direction of Donna Gill, who also played the piano for these performances. Eight scenes from the opera were performed in New York City in November 2013. A video of this performance may be seen below:
Please also see the links under “The Age of Innocence” menu, above, for more information about the opera.