ON JULY 12 came the world premiere of Seymour Barab's Philip Marshall, a timeless, engrossing drama (libretto by the composer) about a Civil War veteran who, on returning home, finds life irrevocably altered by the conflict. Sandwiched between a spoken prologue and epilogue (Mrs. Hannon's visit to the doctor of the mentally crippled hero), the opera unfolds as flashback in the minds of Philip and Mrs. Hannon; a single, functional set served through the two long acts, with blackouts and prop changes behind one of the spotlit characters carrying on a sort of memory trip. The opera seemed tailor made for television.
Barab's lyrical, tastefully orchestrated score (with arias and ensembles) got sensitive treatment from the large orchestra under Wolfgang Schanzer. In the role of Maritha--the naive impetuous girl in love with Philip--Julia Lovett proved herself a singing actress of the highest caliber, with a soprano voice of exceptional purity and range. The other roles were well filled, from Theodor Uppman's sympathetic, war-weary hero to tenor David Griffith's war-dodging prodigal son, Jonathan Hannon. Soprano Suzanne Blum sang a passionate Rosellen (Philip's fiancé-turned-madam), and as Lucius, baritone Ronald Holgate developed from sinister bordello owner to heartsick, jealous lover...
Here's the first act:
. . . and here's the second act: