Music by Howard Hanson Libretto by Richard L. Stokes after the story The Maypole of Merry Mount by Nathaniel Hawthorne
About Merry Mount
Merry Mount was one of the Met's most successful essays into new American works in the thirties, both artistically and with the public. At its premiere, the opera recieved a total of fifty curtain calls, still a house record. The opera is written in Hanson's stanard neo-romantic style, with an especially prominent chorus providing some of the most notable music.
Cast of Characters
Faint-Not Tinker,a sentinel,bar
Samoset,an Indian chief,b
Desire Annable,a sinner,c
Jonathan Banks,a Shaker,t
Wrestling Bradford,a clergyman,bar
Praise-God Tewke,her father and elder of the congregation,b
Miles Brodrib,captain of the trainband,bar
Peregrine Brodrib,his son,s
Bridget Crackston,her grandmother,c
Jack Prence,a mountebank,t
Lady Marigold Sandys,s
Thomas Morton,her uncle,bar
Sir Gower Lackland,t
Jewel Scrooby,a parson,b
Puritans, men, women, and children
male and female Cavaliers
Indian braves and squaws
Princes, Warriors, Courtesans and Monsters of Hell
In a puritan colony in New England, the congregation listens to their young preacher, Wrestling Bradford, preach about their mission to reclaim the New World from the forces of Satan. Privately, he confesses to Praise-God Tewke, one of the elders of the congregation, that he is tormented at night with dreams of demonic concubines and the demoness Astoreth. Tewke persuades Bradford that the solution is for him to marry his daughter, Plentiful Tewke, who is in love with the preacher; although Bradford wants to be married at once, Plentiful persuades him to wait a week. A troop of puritan children enter; one serious boy tries to lead them in a religious game, but they are all distracted by the entrance of the jester Jack Prence. The jester is captured and whipped by the Puritans; they learn that he is from a new colony of Cavaliers who plan to found a new colony devoted to pleasure, called Merry Mount. He is rescued by Lady Marigold Sandys; Bradford recognizes in her his vision of Astoreth. A battle ensues between the Puritans and the Cavaliers; Praise-God Tewke stops the fighting, chastising all for fighting on the Sabbath. The Puritans accuse the Cavaliers of heresy; the Cavaliers accuse the Puritans of treason. Bradford, still infatuated with Marigold, agrees to a truce until the next day with the leaders of the puritans. When he learns that Marigold is going to marry Sir Gower Lackland the next day, however, he breaks his word and orders the Puritans to attack Merry Mount that evening.
The celebration at Merry Mount begins with the christening of the village and a maypole dance before the arrival of Marigold. The Cavaliers and a group of Indians celebrate Lackland and Marigold's wedding, but as soon as the ceremony is over, Bradford and the Puritans enter, overcome the revellers, and set fire to the Cavalier settlement, in the process humiliating Samoset, a local Indian chief. Bradford drags Marigold away; in another part of the forest, he tries to convince her, first to give up her worldly ways, then to love him. Marigold rejects him, and he attacks her; Lackland enters and fights with Bradford, but he is killed by one of the Puritans, and Marigold is carried off to the Puritan settlement. Tewke chastises him for his treatment of Plentiful, and Bradford prays for forgiveness, but in a vision, Lucifer, played by the actor who played Lackland, tempts the preacher. He offers him wealth and power, but Bradford is strong; when he offers him that hand of Astoreth--played by the actress who plays Marigold--he gives in, and signs the Devil's Book. He and Astoreth sing a love duet as the curtain falls.
Bradford is asleep in the forest, watched over by Plentiful Tewke. Bradford awakens and realizes what he has done; they hurry back to the Puritan settlement, which has been set upon and burned by Samoset and his tribe. Samoset is shot by a group of surviving Puritans and the indians flee. Bradford enters and describes his vision; he blames the fall of the settlement on the witchcraft of Marigold. The Puritans will kill her, but she defies them, saying that she will go to meet her husband. Bradford, enraged by this, says that he will go with her and fight Gower again at the gates of Hell; before the entire settlement, he renounces God; removing his cap, he reveals a scarlet brand upon his forehead. The Puritans flee in terror, and Marigold faints; Bradford seizes her and rushes with her into the flaming church as the curtain falls.
Concert premiere Hill Auditorium, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan May 10, 1933 Nelson Eddy John Charles Thomas Chicago Symphony University Choral Union
Stage premiere Metropolitan Opera, New York, New York February 10, 1934 Faint-Not Tinker: Arnold Gabor Samoset: James Wolfe Desire Annabel: Irra Petina Jonathan Banks: Giordano Paltrinieri Wrestling Bradford: Lawrence Tibbett Plentiful Tewke: Gladys Swarthout Praise-God Tewke: Arthur Anderson Myles Brodrib: Alfredo Gandolfi Peregrine Brodrib: Helen Gleason Love Brewster: Lilian Clark Bridget Crackston: Henriette Wakefield Jack Prence: Marek Windheim Lady Marigold Sandys: Göta Ljungberg Thomas Morton: Louis D'Angelo Sir Gower Lackland: Edward Johnson Jewel Scrooby: Millo Picco First Puritan: Max Altglass Second Puritan: Pompilio Malatesta Tullio Serafin, conductor Rosina Galli, ballet mistress Jo Mielziener, designer Wymetal, Jr, stage director
West coast premiere Seattle, Washington October 28, 1996
(also October 29) Lauren Flanigan Walter MacNeil Richard Zeller Charles Austin Seattle Symphony Gerard Schwartz