About the Opera

This opera represents a narrative that is being worked out in countless congregations across the country. It is the story of two people - one grounded in tradition, the other excited by new conceptions of faith. There is also a third voice, the chorus. On the simplest, human level, it represents the spirit and wisdom of the everyday faithful, who are often caught between the contentions of these two polarities - yet through their steadfast and simple devotion hold possible clues to a resolution. On another level, the chorus also represents the ageless voice of wisdom, reminding us that there is a greater ground of faith which holds us all together in this grand tension - ( perhaps intentionally? ) - while affirming timeless truths. In support of the work’s theme, the score blends new musical ideas with traditional sounds. The tension of this parable - like the real tension felt by many today - is over who truly holds the legitimate interpretation of the faith. The argument is the struggle to find the truth. The argument itself is a sign of life.


Scene 1: The Nativity.  Daniel introduces himself as the narrator, telling the story in hindsight, a tale that spans twenty-five years. We see Dr. Fitzgerald as he first comes to lead his congregation. His first sermon is broad in its appeal and the congregation enthusiastically welcomes their new preacher. A year passes, and as Fitzgerald becomes more comfortable, his sermons begin to challenge his flock - Daniel in particular - in ways that are new and strange. A dark sermon on Christmas Day leaves Daniel wondering if he has misunderstood the meaning in Fitzgerald’s sermon and if there is something questionable about the doctor’s spirituality which they at first overlooked.  

Scene 2: A Difficult Teaching. It is Valentine’s Day and Fitzgerald gives a traditional and moving sermon on love. After the service a mother, Mrs. Simpson, comes to Fitzgerald for advice on her daughter’s wedding plans but is startled by a shockingly non-traditional position on marriage ceremonies. Given this new revelation, Mrs. Simpson and Daniel are dismayed.

Scene 3: The Crucifixion. The congregation is found grousing among themselves and comparing notes on the progressively outrageous things Fitzgerald has said. Since Daniel has been taking notes on the sermons that have riled him most, he decides to take his complaints to an elder. After a passionate appeal, he is told that problems must be taken to Fitzgerald. Rather than taking his problem to the root of the problem, Daniel decides to stop taking notes and become a shell, one who attends church in physical presence only.

Scene 4: Resurrection. The day has come when Fitzgerald announces his retirement and Daniel decides it is time for a confrontation. Here, the voice of tradition and the voice of new ideas clash. The argument rages back and forth: Did the pastor do Daniel a service or a disservice by challenging him with new ideas? Did Daniel do the pastor a disservice or a service by harboring anger and resentment and clinging to his entrenched position?  The opera resolves as the congregation lifts a hymnotic prayer:

May we be lifted in spirit to a higher plane, from which we can see as God sees and one day know the answers to questions which at present lie beyond our understanding.