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Old House Under the Elms
Operatic adaptation of Desire Under the Elms
Roberts Theatre, Grinnell College
September 5-7, 2002

Producer: China Zhengzhou Qu Opera Company
Director: Xie Kang
     Music: Pan Yongchang
Designer: Zhang Wei     Script:
Meng Hua
Consulting Director: Sandy Moffett

 

Simeon Cabot (Ke Hu) - Yang Weilong
Peter Cabot (Ke Bao) - Liu Junqin
Eben Cabot (Ke Long) - Wang Haisheng
Ephraim Cabot
(Ke Tai) - Zhang Shengke
Abbie Putnam (Aibi) - Huang Chunhua
Sheriff - Liu Zixue

 

Acts I-IV     Acts V-VI

I  The Farm—in Front of the "Old House"

i - The two elder brothers enter plowing a field and complaining about their hard lot and mistreatment at the hands of their father.

ii - Eben enters on horseback and tells of their father's taking a young bride who is likely to take their inheritance. Eben offers money to buy the brothers' share of the farm.

iii - Abbie is carried on in a sedan chair with great fanfare, followed by the proud husband, the 76-year-old Ephram Cabot. She sings of the beauty of "her" new farm.

iv - Eben returns and encounters Abbie for the first time. There is a strong attraction between them which Eben resists as Abbie teases him. In a long aria, she tells him that she is now in control and he should give in and be her friend. They argue about the ownership of the farm. Eben claims that it belonged to his dead mother and thus is rightly his.

v - The father returns and father and son continue the argument.

II  Another Part of the Farmyard

i - Eben is trying to read but cannot concentrate because of his conflicting feelings toward Abbie. He sings of dreaming of her.

ii - Abbie enters and continues her flirtation. He tells her he is going to the village to see a prostitute. When she berates him he responds that she is no better than a whore for marrying to gain a farm.

iii - Ephraim returns. Abbie, angry with Eben, accuses him of cursing the father and trying to seduce her. Ephraim is infuriated and says he will kill Eben. This, however, is more of a reaction than Abbie wants and she tries to calm him down. Abbie tells Ephram that they can get back at Eben by having a son who would be the sole heir. This flatters the old man's ego and calms his temper.

III  Interior of the Farmhouse Showing Eben's Bedroom Next to That of Abbie

i - Eben, in his room, and Abbie with Ephram in the other, feel desire for each other even through the walls. She convinces the old man to leave. They sing of their love, separated by the wall. Eben is drawn to her room and they meet and embrace. Eben resists but Abbie tells him she will wait for him in the mother's room—a shrine which holds her spirit.

IV  The Mother's Room

i - At first Eben fears he will offend his mother's spirit, but finally they are convinced that they have his dead mother's blessing and their love is consummated.

In February of 2001, Sandy Moffett, Consulting Director at the Grinnell College Department of Theatre, received an email from his friend and fellow O'Neill scholar from Nanjing University, Liu Haiping, telling him that a provincial opera company in central China was producing an adaptation of O'Neill's play, Desire Under the Elms, in the style of the Chu Opera, one of the several styles of classical opera in China. Liu Haiping wrote that the company was interested in some critical input on their work and asked Moffett if he would be interested in traveling to Zhengzhou in Henan Province to see a performance. Moffett made two trips to Zhengzhou during the spring and summer of 2001, first to see the production, and then to work with the company in rehearsal with a possible trip to the U.S. in mind.

Plans were initially made for the company to travel to Grinnell during the first week in October, 2001. The events of September 11th forced the postponement of those plans. However, the Zhengzhou Chu Opera Company did indeed perform "Old House Under the Elms" on the Grinnell campus in September of 2002.


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