“Everybody in America knows who Benjamin Franklin was, more or less, and most people even have a pretty good idea of what he looked like. But William Franklin, Ben’s illegitimate son, is known only to those who are well read in American history….” And so, librettist Terry Teachout introduces us to the subjects of his newest opera The King’s Man, written in collaboration with composer Paul Moravec. Directed by David Roth, the 60-minute, one-act historical opera premieres on October 11 and 12 at the Kentucky Opera’s Contemporary Opera Series, and is part of a double-bill with Moravec and Teachout’s Stravinsky-inspired opera Danse Russe which features stage direction by Michael Ramach.
Teachout continues, “Paul has long been fascinated by Ben Franklin, so much so that he [previously] composed a piece called Useful Knowledge that is based on [Franklin’s] writings. When we decided to write a companion piece to Danse Russe—our second opera—a backstage comedy about the making of The Rite of Spring, Paul suggested that we might look to Franklin as a possible subject…The story of William Franklin’s stormy relationship with his famous father is a fascinating and disturbing tale. Unlike Ben, William was a Tory who chose to remain loyal to King George III throughout the Revolutionary War, a decision that got him tossed into prison and nearly cost him his life. It also led to a permanent break between father and son, who saw each other only once more after William fled to England in 1782. The King’s Man [is based on] their final meeting, and the complicated events that led up to it.
“It soon became clear to both of us that Ben’s break with William was not just dramatic but positively operatic. While my libretto is a fictionalized account of their quarrel that takes liberties with the facts, it is firmly rooted in historical truth. To be sure, we don’t know all that much about the particulars of the two men’s relationship—neither one of them left behind anything like a frank account of how they felt about one another…Few things, after all, are as fraught with tension and resentment as the relationship between a father of genius and a son who is merely talented, and that is what Paul and I have sought to explore.”
More Moravec in October: on the 5th, the Garth Newel Piano Quartet presents the West coast-premiere of their commissioned work – Piano Quartet at Pomona College in California; SOLI Chamber Ensemble gives the world premiere of Moravec’s Soli Collage on October 14 and 15; the 20th brings an Astral Artists’ concert featuring several of the composer’s chamber works at Philadelphia’s American Philosophical Society; and on the 26th, the composer’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Tempest Fantasy is featured at the LiveWire Festival in Baltimore.