Four Saints in Three Acts, 1934

Four Saints in Three Acts, 1934


(drum rolls, then classical
anthem begins playing) – Hi, I’m Rebecca Rabinow, a curator at the Metropolitan
Museum of Art. Gertrude Stein
began collaborating with her friend the American
composer Virgil Thompson in early 1927 on a piece that would become
the opera “Four Saints in Three Acts.” Virgil Thompson composed
the music based on a libretto
written by Gertrude Stein, and every word
that Gertrude wrote, including the stage notes, became part of the performance. The sets and costumes were
designed by Florine Stettheimer, who was picked
for her high camp aesthetic. When Gertrude’s friend
Mabel Weeks first heard it performed
in Virgil Thompson’s home, she wrote to Gertrude and said, “It will finish opera just as Picasso has finished
oil painting.” The opera debuted
in February 1934 at the Wadsworth Atheneum
in Hartford, Connecticut, where it was performed
to celebrate the opening of the first
Picasso retrospective ever held in America. The production was
a smash success, and after its performance
in Hartford, it was performed on Broadway
in New York, and then traveled to Chicago. – CHORUS:
# Ten, ten, ten, ten. # – MAN: # Ten. # – CHORUS: # Ten. # – MAN: # Ten, ten, ten. #

3 Replies to “Four Saints in Three Acts, 1934”

  1. Yet it didn't "finish opera," any more than Picasso did for oil painting.

    It's an amusing enough bit of gibberish with a few beautiful passages by Thomson.

  2. the comment by Mabel Weeks was made by Weeks not Stein nor Thomson who had not intended to end anything. Weeks was someone you would really have to want to know about to know about.

  3. What nonsense, this commentary. Picasso didn't "finish" oil painting. And Virgil Thompson CERTAINLY didn't finish opera. There's just a few people who still managed to somehow go on after him: Berg, Poulenc, Britten, Stravinsky, Bartok to name a few.

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