The Abduction of Figaro, S. 384, 492

Opera in three acts.

P.D.Q. Bach

Edited by Prof. Peter Schickele
Rental
Performing Ensemble: Opera with Chorus
Text: Libretto by Peter Schickele.
Publisher: Theodore Presser Company
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

You have your instant classics (The Messiah, the Moonlight Sonata and All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth might be cited as examples), your successes de scandal (such as Carmen, The Rite of Spring and the Edsel), and then you have your Rip van Winkles, your pieces that slumber in obscurity for years, or even decades, or hey, let?s fact it, even centuries before the Prince Charming of history bestows the magic kiss that awakens these musical frogs and transforms them into the pumpkins that speckle the firmament we call the standard repertoire.

This last category includes the famous canon by Pachelbel (not to be confused with Tacobell, a Mexican composer at the court of Catherine the Great), The Four Seasons of Vivaldi, and Schubert?s Unfinished Symphony, to name a few. The question that can be heard on every street corner today is, ?What about The Abduction of Figaro, Joe; will P.D.Q. Bach?s opera join that select company of neglected masterpieces which will finally become part of the bread and butter of programming, part of the daily grist of musical life??

The work has certainly paid its dues, slumber0wise: although very little is known about the circumstances surrounding its composition, a reference in the libretto to the death of George Washington establishes 1799 as the earliest possible date for its completion, and P.D.Q. Bach?s timely death in 1807 renders any date later than that highly suspect. A work from the dawn of the 19th century, then, being given a second crack at life almost two centuries later.

Or is it a second crack? Has the opera, in fact, ever been performed before? Here the curtain of silence that envelops so much of this musical outcast?s output is encountered in all its opacity. The size of the cast and the presence of a chorus and corpse de ballet indicate that it was not mounted by the Vienna Opera Company, which in those days consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Fritz Vienna and their little boy, Rudy, with the occasional participation of their miniature St. Bernard; Hansel and Gretel and Ted and Alice taxed their capacities to the limit. The only troupe that was large enough to perform The Abduction of Figaro, and that was known to have passed through Wein-am-Rhein, was Bill?s Opera Company, out of Leipzig, which did include dancers, but which, alas, succumbed to economic reality by going belly-side-up in 1795. We are left with the strong possibility that these performances are exactly what the Minnesota Opera is billing them as: the World Premiere. Are we witnessing the birth of a new war horse? A chestnut nouveau? A fixture-to-be on the operatic horizon? Only time, to coin a phrase, will tell; it could happen, but holding your breath is counterindicated.

Available on Rental

Additional Information

Cast Voices 2 Soprano, 2 Mezzo-Soprano, Counter Tenor, Tenor, 4 Baritone, Bass-Baritone, 2 Speaking (1 = Baritone singing range, but not a trained singer) Mixed Chorus: Servants to the Pasha and Harem Women (Act II); Woodcutters, Huntsmen and Huntswomen (Act III)
Duration 02:30:00
Editor Schickele, Prof. Peter
Orchestration 2 2 2 2 - 2 2 3 0; Timp. 2Perc. Ukelele/Pedal Steel Guitar/El.Guitar. Pno. or Hpscd. Str.
Premiere 27th, 28th April, 1984. Minnesota Opera, conducted by Peter Schickele.

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