Edith Wharton’s novel “The Old Maid” is to be seen at the Opera House in the hands of a remarkably good cast. The play ended last night with long-continued applause, which had the effect of bringing back repeatedly the two great characters, Lillian Gish and Carol Goodner.
It is easy to be suspicious of chronicle plays which begin in the 1830s and end in the 1850s, particularly when they deal with old maids. The old maids who know everything are a nuisance, the ones who know nothing are worse. But here we have no type but a collection of human beings, having substance and feeling, in one of those situations with which Edith Wharton proved it is not necessary to have melodrama or murder to awake sensibility and make tragedy visible. The storm can rise as well in a teacup as elsewhere.
. . .
Miss Gish played her part with extraordinary skill, moving by the gentlest accretions from the ardent girl of the first act to the tortured, frightened woman preparing for her daughter’s wedding and shaken by her secret. Those who have tears to shed in the theatre could scarcely withhold them for her piteous state at the ending of this play.
Selected scenes from The Age of Innocence will be performed on Sunday, November 17, 2013 at 3pm at Christ and St. Stephen’s Church, 120 W. 69th Street in New York City. Admission is free. For more information on the opera and this performance, please visit: http://davidowencarpenter.com/the-age-of-innocence/
From David Carpenter:
The Age of Innocence: A Composer’s View on Adapting the Novel for the Operatic Stage
I first became acquainted with The Age of Innocence in the mid-1990s, when I saw the wonderful film adaptation of the novel by Martin Scorsese. Soon after that, I read the novel and was completely captivated by this story of suppressed emotion and thwarted love. At that time, I had been composing music for about nine years (having begun when I was fourteen), and even then I thought of what a wonderful opera the novel would make. I knew, however, that it would take several years before I had the experience as a composer to tackle the daunting task of adapting Wharton’s masterpiece into an opera. It was in 2009, when I was nearing the end of my doctoral studies in music composition at Temple University in Philadelphia, that I had to decide on a subject for my dissertation—for someone getting a degree in music composition, this would be a major musical work. For me, it had to be Age. Continue reading