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The System (Piano/Vocal Score)

By Jan Bach

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Opera in 1 Act for mixed voices (Onstage Band (Soprano Saxophone, Accordion, Bass Trombone)
2(1.2/pic) 2 3(1.2.3/BCl) 2 - 3 3 3 1 - P - Pf(Cel) - H - Str)

Composed by Jan Bach. One Act/Chamber Opera. 20th Century. Piano/vocal score. Galaxy Music Corporation #7.0473. Published by Galaxy Music Corporation (EC.7.0473).

Item Number: EC.7.0473

8.5" x 11" inches. Text: Edgar Allan Poe.

Written by Jan Bach, based on a story by Edgar Allan Poe

The libretto is freely adapted from Edgar Allan Poe's The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether. A young American poet, Edgar Allen, lost in the English countryside during a storm, comes to a large dilapidated country house to ask for dinner and a night's lodging. The poet soon finds this is no ordinary house, rather an asylum run by Warden McCoy; Mrs. Henry, the head nurse; Madame Chauvenet, an elderly dietician; Brayer, an orderly; and a Doctor Green. The Warden describes his "system" for curing the patients, which is to allow them to act out their fantasies. To a woman who imagined she was a chicken, the staff fed her corn and gravel for a week. A man who thought he was a frog was encouraged to crouch knee-deep in a tub of water and croak. But a revolution by the inmates to subdue the staff caused a reversal of the "system" and harsh measures were imposed: locking up the inmates in the cellar and tar-and-feathering the offenders. At the opera's end, the inmates break out of the cellar to overthrow the staff again, but gradually the poet becomes aware that staff and inmates are, in fact, interchangeable.

This dark comedy allows great possibilities for staging and design. An unusual feature is that each of the main characters has their own singing tempo throughout the 50-minute work.

MRS. HENRY, the head nurseSoprano
MADAME CHAUVENET, the elderly dieticianMezzo-Soprano
MR. BRAYER, a hospital orderlyTenor/Baritone
EDGAR ALLEN, a young authorTenor
DR. GREENBass-Baritone
HIRAM MCCOY, inventory of the systemBass
CORDELIA, a beautiful young maidenMute

Winner of The Mannes College Opera Competition, 1974

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