The Mighty Casey Strikes Out Yet Again - But is Redeemed by Love.
Baseball-themed Opera by Schuman featured on The Lyric Stage this Sunday (8/20 at 8 pm)
William Schuman was born in 11910 and lived until 1991. He wrote symphonies, ballets, concertos, band music, chamber music and early in his career, pop songs with librettists who included Frank Loesser. He was the founding president of Lincoln Center and president of the Juilliard School. He liked Americana, and set his Mail Order Madrigals (1972) to texts from the 1897 Sears Roebuck catalog. He also had a passion for baseball, and said that baseball was the "epitome of American life and character".
So its no surprise that the first of the two operas he wrote is based on Ernest Thayers poem "Casey at the Bat" with a libretto by Jeremy Gury. The one act libretto enhances the poem, giving us a feel of small town America and adding a love interest for Casey that allows him a redemption of sorts after his humiliating strikeout.
There are three scenes. The first sets the stage for the big at bat with plots by the rival team on how to pitch Casey and the appearance of Merry, a former baseball player herself as a kid, who is in love with Casey, and laments that he will inevitably leave Mudville to play in the majors. Finally, Casey appears.
The second scene tells the story we all know, how Casey strikes out, and Mudville is left devastated. But the third scene, which is orchestra only, is where the redemption comes in, as it shows Casey comforted by Merry; for Schuman and his librettist, there was a happy ending after all, or at least an uplift.
The narrative is held together by the watchman who both sings and talks us through the opera. And while he is the title character, Casey never sings or utters a word.
The opera premiered in 1953 in Hartford. We have a live performance at the Juilliard School from December of 1990, slightly abridged for time.
Catherine Thorpe, David Corman, Russell Cusick, Derek Dreyer, James Russell and Stacey Robinson are the soloists.
Gerard Schwarz, conducts the Juilliard Orchestra and Chorus.