Children's and Liturgical Opera Company, LLC
www.chancelopera.com
OPERAS FOR CHILDREN AND ADULTS: Rabbi Nachman's Chair
 
 
 
 
Painting of Rabbi Nachman's Chair by Vladimir Shpitalnik
 

a narrated opera of Hasidic tales

based on stories collected and retold by Howard Schwartz

music, lyrics and story adaptations by Susan Hulsman Bingham

costumes and sets by Vladimir Shpitalnik
 
*RABBI NACHMAN'S CHAIR won a Special Commendation from the
Vienna Masterworks 2003 Nancy Van deVate International Opera Competition
 
VOICING:
  Narrator, mime, soloists (soprano, mezzo soprano, tenor, tenor, baritone, baritone) and actors. Piano and violin accompaniment; children's chorus (acting)
MAIN CAST
  Narrator, Cantor/Shohet (baritone), Rabbi Nachman as a boy (treble), Feige, Nachman's mother (soprano), Udel, Nachman's eldest daughter (soprano - must be able to play violin), Rabbi Nachman as an adult (mime), two younger Nachman daughters (sopranos), chorus of Hasidim (tenors and baritones, must be able to do some Hasidic dancing), Shohet's wife (mezzo soprano), Shohet's children (trebles), Angel/Urchin Chorus (trebles), Reb Nosson, Nachman's scribe (tenor).
TALES CAST:
  (Tales are interspersed throughout the opera; one character may play several parts.)
"The Prince Who Thought He was a Rooster"
  Prince (soprano or treble)
King (baritone)
King (baritone)
Wise Man (tenor)
"The Decree"
  Rabbi Yohai (tenor)
Rabbi Eleazer, Yohai's son (bar)
Angel chorus (trebles)
"Reading the Lips of the Ari
  Rabbi Abraham Halevi (tenor)
The Ari (baritone)
Angel Chorus (trebles)
"The Crown of Shoes"
  Baal Shem Tov (mimed by Rabbi Nachman)
Chorus of Hasidim (all male)
"Little Rolls"
  Rabbi Nosson (tenor)
Angel Chorus (trebles)
"The Golden Dove"
  Rabbi Bar Bar Hanna (tenor)
Hanna's friends (2-3 bar)
"The Precious Prayer"
  Angel/Urchin Chorus (trebles)
The Ari (baritone)
Isaac ben David (tenor)
"The Fish"
  Rabbi Nosson (tenor)
Angel Chorus (trebles)
"Yodea, Angel of Losses"
  Yodea (tenor)
Angel Chorus (trebles)
     
ACCOMPANIMENT:
  piano and violin
CHORUS:
  treble chorus, men's chorus (both acting)
DANCE:
  Hasidic group dancing - repetitive and ecstatic
PROPS:
  Projections of slides of paintings by Vladimir Shpitalnik depicting scenes from the tales; projections of photographs of Me'ah She'arim Synagogue, Jerusalem, and other scenes from Nachman's life. These may be made available through the Chancel Opera Company. Call for information.
SOURCE OF TEXTS:
  Howard Schwartz's book, GABRIEL'S PALACE
LANGUAGE:
  English
MUSICAL STYLE:
  Semitic, modal, tonal, some klezmer, very expressive, dancy
SCENES:
  one overarching scene with many small scenes inside
DURATION:
  90 minutes
PREMIER:
  The Episcopal Church of St. Paul and St. James, , New Haven, Connecticut, 1995 and at the Jewish Community Center of Greater New Haven, Woodbridge, Connecticut. Stage direction by Phyllis C. Warfel and lighting design by William B. Warfel. Choreography by Willa Needler.
     
SOUND SAMPLES:
  Sound Sample One: Overture. Raphael Ryger, violin, and Susan Bingham, piano.

Sound Sample Two: Aria sung by Rabbi Nosson to Rabbi Nachman. Laurence Fletcher, tenor.

     
REVIEWS:
 
"All was superlative. Should be in NYC, Jerusalem. The music beautiful, the singers excellent and professional, the mime the best."
CS, M.D., New Haven
     
   
" . . . so many beautiful melodies . . . good Jewish flavor . . use of children's chorus just wonderful . . . (at one point) tears were rolling down my face."
GB, Bales Gitlin Music, No. Branford, CT
     
   
"The music was just wonderful and the story both delightful and moving . . . (children were) absolutely amazing." F.C., New Haven Arts Council
     
   
" . . . enthralling performance. Very thoughtful way you worked with the (sanctuary space) . . ."
B.C., Church of St. Paul and St. James, New Haven, CT
     
   
" . . . truth and beauty -- a work of genius and love."
E.H.A., Hudson, MA.
     
   
"Susan Hulsman Bingham must pursue a wider audience."
J.S., New Haven, CT
     

Noble Barker as Rabbi Nachman in RABBI NACHMAN'S CHAIR.
Photo: Susan H. Bingham

 

SYNOPSIS

 

Prelude: Scene 1:

Me'ah She'arim Synagogue, Jerusalem, 1945. Bratslaver Hasidim are dancing around a beautiful chair which belonged to their beloved teacher, Rabbi Nachman, who lived long ago. The chair had been dismantled by members of the community when Nazis forced them to scatter. Each Hasid took a piece of the chair and agreed to meet with it in Jerusalem after the war. Now is the great day. There is dancing and singing, as not one piece of the chair has been lost.

Scene 2: Medzeboz, Ukraine, 1782.

Rabbi Nachman as a boy is praying near the grave of his great grandfather, the Baal Shem Tov. Alarmed at his fervor, his mother consoles him. The boy is ready for the Sabbath. He begs God to lend him "extra soul" to enable him to hear His voice. Nachman arrives at the synagogue, hides under a table, and weeps, unsure as to whether God will come to him.

Tale: The Prince Who Thought He was a Rooster: A prince, thinking he is a rooster, does only roosterly things. A wise man cures him. Sabbath chanting begins. Young Nachman is coaxed out from under the table, and as he looks upon the Sabbath lights, he realizes that God is here. He leaves the synagogue, picks a blade of grass, and hears its song.

Scene 3:

Fifteen years later. Nachman is teaching his eldest daughter how to play the violin.

Scene 4:

Bratslav, Ukraine, 1790: Nachman answers his students' questions in violin music, dance and the telling of tales.

Tale: The Decree: Rabbi Yohai and his son argue with God about how many righteous men it takes to keep God from destroying the world. Hasidim ask what it will be like for Nachman when the Messiah comes.

Scene 5:

A disciple puts the finishing touches on a chair he has made for the Rebbe. His family admire it and take it to Nachman. The Rabbi sits in his chair and falls asleep. Children enact Nachman's dream.

Tale: Reading the Lips of the Ari: Rabbi Abraham Halevi finds his teacher sleeping. Seeing that his lips are moving, he moves closer and hears about "mysteries too wonderful to imagine, beauties too great to bear".

Nachman wakes. He is reminded of a tale . . .

Tale: The Crown of Shoes: It is Simhas Torah. The Baal Shem Tov should be dancing with his disciples, but is sad. Soon he dances too. We learn why he was sad and what changed his mind.

Scene 6:

It is explained that Rabbi Nachman needed a scribe to write down the many stories he told. . .

Tale: Little Rolls: Rabbi Nosson dreams of life's futility. He climbs a ladder and sees Nachman's face, though they have not met.

Rabbi Nosson searches the world over to find the person he saw in his dream. One year later, he arrives at a synagogue in Bratslav. Nosson and Nachman recognize one-another. Nachman tells a story. . .

Tale: The Golden Dove: Rabbi Bar Hanna, making lame excuses, leaves his travelling companions when he remembers he has not said grace after their evening meal. God rewards him.

Tale: The Precious Prayer: Angels tell a rabbi that there exists a man whose prayers reach highest heaven. The rabbi goes to great lengths to find the man and learns that his prayers are indeed precious to God. Rabbi Nachman acknowledges Rabbi Nosson's presence at last.

Scene 7:

Tale: The Fish: Rabbi Nosson dreams of buying a fish in which is locked
the soul of his father. Nachman releases the soul.

Scene 8:

Nachman, dying, weeps in his chamber and tells Nosson of a book he has written which contains truths no one must ever see. As he nears death, his boy self appears and his mother's voice is heard. After he dies, the Narrator explains that Bratslaver Hasidim never sought another zaddik, but keep the memory of Nachman alive.

Scene 9:

One hundred thirty-five years later. The Hasidim are to be scattered. They dismantle Nachman's chair, and each disciple takes a piece, hides it on his person, and disappears into darkness.

Tale: Yodea, Angel of Losses: Yodea watches over people in times of darkness. He and his servants dig with shovels, searching for losses. One by one the chair pieces are brought together after the war.

Postlude: Scene 10:

Me'ah She'arim Synagogue, Jerusalem, 1945. Bratslaver Hasidim are dancing around a beautiful chair which belonged to their beloved teacher, Rabbi Nachman, who lived long ago. . . .

 

Piano/vocal score and violin part : $100. Price includes shipping and handling within the U.S. Price also includes performing rights and permission to make as many copies of the score as needed for cast and accompanist for one company's use for one season.



DVD available which includes libretto: $28. Price includes shipping and handling in the U.S.



CD available which includes libretto: $2O. Price includes shipping and handling in the U.S.




Slides for projections by Vladimir Shpitalnik may be available for rental; we also have the chair, which can be dismantled, and some costumes for rental.. Call for information.

 

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