The Gift of the Magi
Composed by David Conte (1955-). CD. Published by E.C. Schirmer Publishing (EC.CD141).
Item Number: EC.CD141
Text: Nicholas Giardini, O. Henry.
Music by David Conte
Libretto by Nicholas Giardini
The San Francisco Conservatory New Music Ensemble
Nicole Paiement, conductor Complete libretto - 73'34" total playing time
Della - Aimée Puentes
Jim - Tim Krol
Maggie - Elena Bocharova
Henry - Chad Runyon
Magi - Branden Smith, Aaron DiPiazza, Gary Sorenson
|Tracks 1-5: Scene I|
|Tracks 6-15: Scene II|
|Tracks 16-21: Scene III|
|Tracks 22-28: Scene IV|
Jim and Delia's cramped cold-water flat. Late afternoon, Christmas Eve.
Scene One: Della arrives home and busily prepares for the evening ahead. She lets down her long hair and luxuriates in a private reverie. Jim enters unheard and listens to her singing. Della abruptly stops when she senses him and scolds him for spying on her. He woos her, but she gently tempers his ardor. As they begin their Christmas preparation, Jim is stuck with an idea and starts off on a last-minute errand. Della reminds him of their promise not to buy one another gifts. Jim balks, but she exacts his promise once again. They part tenderly and he goes off.
Scene Two: Once Jim is gone, Della searches for any money hidden in the flat, but she finds little. She seizes upon an idea and calls Maggie to come and help her. Maggie rushes in and anxiously questions Della about her call. Della calms her and tries to enlist her help in a plan to get Jim a special Christmas gift. When Della admits she wants to sell her hair for money to buy the gift, Maggie is distraught and tries to dissuade her. Della is impassive and finally persuades Maggie to help her. They go off to sell Della's hair.
Night falls and moonlight floods the apartment.
Scene Three: Jim returns and coaxes Henry in as they lug a huge Christmas tree into the flat. Jim proudly shows Henry the gift he has bought for Della. Henry is impressed but worries about the cost. He questions Jim about where he got the money to buy it. Jim evades his questions but finally admits to pawning his father's heirloom pocket-watch. Henry is outraged and they argue. Jim tries to explain and asks for Henry's understanding. Henry eventually relents and wishes Jim well as he goes.
Scene Four: Della returns and is overjoyed to find the Christmas tree. Her gift for Jim slips from her coat pocket, and she admits to breaking their promise. Jim presents his gift to her and they chide one another. Della pleads with Jim to open his gift immediately and he teases her by stalling. When he finally opens it, he is stunned to find a gold chain for his watch. Della is distressed to learn he has sold his watch for her gift and begs him to return it. He persuades her to at least open her gift and she finds ornate combs for her hair. She is heartbroken as she removes her hat to reveal her newly shorn hair. In an embarrassed silence, they start to understand the greater meaning of their gifts. They begin to see each other in a new light and come to renew their vow of commitment and love.Reviews:
Conte has provided this simple tale with a lush spectacle of extravagant lyricism. With its warm sentimentality and easily absorbed archetypal themes, the O. Henry story line lends itself to operatic treatment... We might have expected a sparse and almost folklike musical treatment, designed to convey the familiar moral themes about love and selflessness during the holidays. Conte instead has lavished music of grand romantic feelings upon the proceedings, providing this simple tale with a lush spectacle of extravagant lyricism... Aided by the clarity of Giardani's articulate libretto, Conte exercised particular skillful[ness] in integrating specific events, acts, and even the characters' gestures into his orchestration. The work was also framed by striking a cappella ensemble numbers, sung off-stage and evoking the guiding spirit of the three Magi.
-Ching Chang, San Francisco Classical Voice
David Conte and his librettist, Nicholas Giardini, have turned (The Gift of the Magi) into a lovely little chamber opera that should give organizations an alternative to Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors. Conte's music is very tonal and melodic...his word setting is really quite wonderful. Conte's music is tonal and very melodic...a lovely little chamber opera that should give organizations an alternative to Menotti's "Amahl and the Night Visitors.
-John Story, Fanfare Magazine
...the level of musical dramatization... is simultaneously delicate and intense, and free of cliché...The student members of The San Francisco Conservatory New Music Ensemble, under Nicole Paiement, play the score confidently, as if it were a familiar repertory item.
-Jonathan Rosenblum, Opera News
Warmly melodic...with distinct shadings of Barber and Menotti, and more than a hint of Puccini...Particularly striking is the word setting...Conte's skill not only assures audibility of the text, but also creates a naturalness of the language that banishes any fear of affectation or sentimentality...I found all four singers and the trio of Magi worthy of the highest praise.
-Ronald E. Grames, Fanfare Magazine, November/December, 2015
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