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Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on July 19, 2000. All rights
Princeton composer Frank Lewin takes the spotlight
for the final production of the Opera Festival of New Jersey.
Bright" marks the directorial debut of the Opera Festival’s own
general director, Karen Tiller. Prior to joining the organization
in 1999, Tiller directed productions for Opera Memphis that included
"Tosca," "Madama Butterfly," and "The Turn of
the Screw." The production is conducted by the Opera Festival’s
newly appointed music director, Patrick Hansen.
Featured in the cast are John Marcus Bindel, making his Opera Festival
debut in the role of Friend Ed. Adam Klein plays Victor, Indira
plays Mordeen, and Todd Thomas plays Joe Saul.
Based on the novel and play by John Steinbeck, "Burning
deals with the desperate urge of a man to carry on his tradition by
fathering a child. As the opera progresses, it unfolds that his young
wife is willing to risk her marriage by making the choice of betrayal
to satisfy her husband’s dream of fatherhood.
Lewin, who first saw Steinbeck’s play in 1950, says the idea of
an opera was born immediately. He began work on the libretto in 1967
and 10 years later started on the music composition. This was during
the period when Lewin was both teaching and maintaining his active
professional schedule. He completed the opera in 1989. "Burning
Bright" was given two acclaimed performances at Yale in 1993.
Lewin’s compositions were also featured at Richardson Auditorium in
a concert presented by the Friends of Music at Princeton in October,
1995, to celebrate the composer’s 70th birthday.
"I love to write for voice," Lewin told U.S. 1’s Elaine
(October 12, 1995). "I write for voice whenever I have a
Lewin chooses his texts carefully. "I like simplicity of
he says. "It allows the greatest scope for the imagination to
fill in what the words convey. The first songs I wrote were settings
of William Blake poems. The music goes beyond the words, it drapes
Born in Breslau, Germany (now Wroclaw, Poland), Lewin reached the
United States in 1940 at the age of 15. After graduating from high
school in New Rochelle, New York, he studied with various composers
including Paul Hindemith at the Yale School of Music. Shortly before
entering Yale, Lewin married Elsbeth Gaertner, a research assistant
at the Institute of International Studies. In 1951 Lewin received
a degree from Yale, and the Institute moved to Princeton. The couple
raised three daughters here.
Meanwhile Lewin became an active commuter. He joined with the new
television industry in New York, and also taught: composition for
film at the Yale School of Music in New Haven, and music and modern
media at the Columbia University School of the Arts in New York.
Lewin has a considerable, wide-ranging body of work. In addition to
opera and musical comedy, his compositions include solo and choral
compositions, instrumental pieces, as well as scores for film,
theater, and historical outdoor dramas.
Lewin distinguishes between composing and being a professional
As a professional musician he is a craftsman, ready to employ his
skills to meet someone else’s requirements. As a composer he is
unrestricted. "I couldn’t afford to write only what I wanted to
write," he observes.
Theater, University Place, 609-258-2787. Frank Lewin’s opera based
on a John Steinbeck novella. $22 to $82. Friday, July 21, 8
and Sunday, July 23, 8 p.m.
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