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Music Text

Libretto by the composer after the play by William Saroyan (E)


girlS,A,boyS,boyA,dramT,T,2Bar,BBar,B,3speakers; chorus
timp.perc(1):susp.cym/glsp/xyl/tam-t/bells/SD/BD/bongos(or tpl.bl)/

Abbreviations (PDF)


Boosey & Hawkes

This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the world.


World Premiere
New York, New York
Kirk Browning, director
Conductor: Peter Herman
Company: NET Opera Theater


HENRY, the morning paper route carrier Whistler and Boy Alto
BEN ALEXANDER, poet, and Johnny's father Dramatic Tenor
JASPER MACGREGOR, the man with his heart in the Highlands Bass Baritone
JOHNNY Boy Soprano
MR. KOSAK Deep Bass
Johnny's Grandmother (who sings only in Armenian) Contralto
RUFE APLEY, the carpenter* Baritone
SAME WALLACE, the lineman* Baritone
ESTHER, Mr. Kosak's beautiful daughter Girl Soprano
Philip Carmichael, the young man from the Old People's Home Baritone
Mr. Cunningham, the real estate agent spoken role
The Young Husband spoken role
The Young Wife (and their baby) spoken role
A Dog barker
A Chorus of good friends and neighbours (* denotes member of the Chorus)
Time and Place

August and November, 1914; A house on San Benito Ave., Fresno, California. Mr. Kosak's grocery store


In their modest California home, Johnny, his father Ben Alexander, an unsuccessful poet, and his grandmother, who speaks and sings only Armenian, live precariously, getting food on credit from the grocer, Kosak. They are visited by an old actor, Jasper MacGregor, who has escaped from the old people’s home. His strong character, virtuosity on the cornet, and insistence that his heart is in the highlands, wins over the family and neighbors, who bring gifts of food. After a few weeks, Philip Carmichael comes to take MacGregor back. Ben’s poems are rejected by the Atlantic Monthly. His despair is deepened when Mr. Cunningham, a real estate man, brings a young couple to view the house, on which three months’ rent is due.  Ben gives his poems to Kosak in lieu of money. The family joyfully opens the door as MacGregor reappears. His cornet draws neighbors, who again bring offerings of food. MacGregor obliges the neighbors with a grand reading from Shakespeare, then collapses as attendants come for him. The young couple reappear to claim the house, and Johnny, along with his father and grandmother, pack up their possessions and take to the road.


Dramatic, Tragic

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