MainStreet Award

Directors' Choice Award Winner

| script | breakdown | synopsis |


Music Paul Alan Levi, Libretto by Toni Mergentime Levi


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Musical Selections

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A one-act opera

THANKSGIVING is a one-act, hour-long, serio-comic American opera. Set at a contemporary annual Thanksgiving dinner, the opera presents four generations of a family -- outwardly loving but deeply affected by feelings of jealousy, resentment, hurt and anger toward one another. As the action progresses from the guests' arrival to cocktails to dinner, the characters’ inadvertent insults become progressively more direct and deliberate, culminating in a melee of hurled epithets and food, before the characters recall the evening's purpose and re-avow their ties in a hypocritical closing hymn.

During the proceedings, characters periodically withdraw from the action to reveal themselves to the audience in arias and small ensembles. Thus the audience comes to understand these people and to perceive how contemporary American values have molded their personalities. The opera emphasizes the frequently comic American mode of maintaining appearances, regardless of the truth. This theme is reflected in the Thanksgiving ritual of love and generosity, as well as in the characters’ individual lives.


THANKSGIVING won the Grand Prize for New Opera awarded by Seagram’s and the National Music Theatre Network, with Hal Prince chairing the Judges Panel. Full-length staged readings and excerpts have been performed in NYC at the Mitzi Newhouse Theatre (Lincoln Center), Douglas Fairbanks Theatre on Theatre Row, Merkin Concert Hall and the Theatre at St. Peter’s. Joanna Gleason (Into the Woods) directed; singers included soloists from the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera and Broadway stages. John Lithgow drew the turkey logo.


The libretto attempts to capture the essence of American middle-class vernacular. The music, while underlining the uniquely American flavor of the lyrics, uses a broad spectrum of styles ranging from Berg to ragtime. Much of the music is derived from the hymns "Old Hundredth" and "We Gather Together." Among the set pieces are a drinking song, soft-shoe, prayer, twelve-part madrigal, commercial, chorale and excerpts from Grandma's favorite old songs.

Originally intended for television, THANKSGIVING requires one living room/dining room set, contemporary costumes, 15 performers, and an orchestra of 25, including piano, harp and banjo. There are 12 singing roles of equal importance (6 men, 6 women), a non-singing actress and two non-singing children. The opera's three scenes flow into each other without pause.


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