Prescription for Judy
At New England Mutual Hall
The first opera by Victor Yellin, '49, is a distinct disappointment considering the fine writing that is so evident in his other works. Prescription for Judy, his short one-act piece presented by the Musical Guild Sunday night, is purportedly an attempt to unite operatic form with the American language and the American scene. This is a fine idea, but the prescription lacks several important ingredients.
For a realistic opera, it has a singularly unrealistic plot. The story of fickle Judy, the apothecary's daughter, is nothing more than a loosely-tied string of cliches. Judy refuses to date a racketeer, name of Joe. Larry, Judy's childhood sweetheart, comes home and Judy falls in love with him again. Joe is killed in a drunken brawl and Larry is suspected. But it all works out okay, because the real murderer is found with a bloody hanky in his pocket. The unimaginative libretto by the composer's wife doesn't help at all.
Yellin's music is supposed to approximate normal speech inflections, but it does not even come close. There can be no excuse for accenting the second syllable of "Larry" (this happens at least twice) or for writing crescendo that reach their peak at the most unimportant word of a sentence. Nor does the music ever serve to heighten the dramatic situation. Instead, it is mildly pleasant background music that certainly does not represent Yellin at his best.
The dance sequence at the beginnings of Scenes Two and Three provide the most interesting musical moments. But good as they were, they were distressingly remote from the line of the story.
Marilyn Shotz, a member of Boris Goldowsky's Opera Workshop, was outstanding as July. Her pitch was always accurate, despite the frequent absence of orchestral accompaniment, and she showed great acting ability.
Yellin said after the performance that he has begun a full-length opera based on an incident in the life of Andrew Jackson. If he can avoid all the errors he made in his first effort, he may yet produce a good opera in the Thompson-Blitzstein tradition.