University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

University of Hartford

When the University of Hartford was incorporated just over 50 years ago by business and community leaders, they envisioned a center of education and culture for Greater Hartford. Read more...

WWUH FCC On Line Public File

Persons with disabilities who wish to access the WWUH Public File may contact John Ramsey at:

Visit WWUH on Facebook    Follow WWUH on Twitter

Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Heggie: It’s A Wonderful Life

12/24/2017 1:00 pm
12/24/2017 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

Jake Heggie (b. 1961) has quickly established himself as a major figure among contemporary American composers of opera. On Sunday, February 22, 2004, I broadcast his acclaimed Dead Man Walking (2000), the “death penalty opera.” Heggie’s third opera, Three Decembers (2008), could be included in the subgenre of “Christmas operas.” (Pucinni’s La Bohème falls within that subgenre.) Based on a short play by Terrence McNally, Three Decembers the opera surveys three generations of an American family as they gather together at three successive Christmas holiday seasons. The world premiere recording of Three Decembers I broadcast on Sunday, November 29, 2009. It starred the distinguished Frederika von Stade.

Heggie’s new Christmas opera is It’s A Wonderful Life, commissioned by Houston Grand Opera for its world premiere production in December, 2016. In the live recording made at Houston’s Wortham Theater, Patrick Summers directs the Houston Grand Opera Orchestra and Chorus, with a large cast of solo singers who portray the townspeople of Bedford Falls. William Burden sings the lead role of George Bailey. The role of the angel who intervenes in George’s attempted suicide has been changed from male to female. Clarence is now called Clara.

Yes, the opera is based on the famous 1946 RKO Pictures film, but only in part; it is also inspired by a story by Philip Van Doren Stein, The Greatest Gift. That gift might well be simple human kindness. It’s A Wonderful Life, both the movie and the opera, shows how one human life can make such a big difference to a whole community…like Bedford Falls. The take-away of George Bailey’s wonderful life is: if you have friends, you’ll never be a failure. The world premiere recording of Heggie’s It’s A Wonderful Life was released on two compact discs earlier this year through the German label Pentatone in its “American Operas” series. Larry Bilansky substitutes for me for this Christmas Eve Sunday broadcast.