The Crucible
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The only American opera to win a Pulitzer Prize.

When the final curtain fell and the last notes of the orchestra died away on the opening night of The Crucible, an excited audience thundered its approval. The opera had been commissioned by the New York City Opera. The libretto and score were written in less than a year, the last page of the full score having been completed just 11 days before the first performance on October 26, 1961. In the days that followed, the press was almost unanimous in their high praise of the work and at the close of the 1961-62 season, it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music. The Crucible, play and opera, draws upon the frenzy and anguish of the witch-hunt that took place in Salem, Massachusetts, in the 1690s. Eminent divines, such as Cotton Mather and the Reverend Hale, supplied ample theological proof for the existence of witches. However, in the actual conduct of the witch-hunts the real motives were as likely to be greed, local animosities, and sexual repression as obedience to the Biblical admonition, "thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." Though the composer and librettist have not utilized any texts or musical material from the period, they have, through the use of rugged hymn-like melodies and tunes almost like folk song in character, managed to convey the feelings and atmosphere of the time.
Robert Ward, composer
The Crucible
New York City Opera, Emerson Buckley, conductor

"Robert Ward's The Crucible was warmly received on its first production in New York in 1961, and it has since been very widely performed, not only in the United States...Ward's music is swift moving and gratefully lyrical. His language owes a lot to the American vernacular of his teachers Howard Hanson and Aaron Copland...and something also to an operatic vernacular rooted in Puccini...There is a certain cragginess, too, drawn partly from very careful word-setting of Miller's archaizing text and very apt for evoking the starched rigor of a closed and in-turned community, that seems to be Ward's own...This one was made not long after the first performance, by the company that created it; under Emerson Buckley's direction there is a crackling sense of pace and of stage-seasoned ensemble." (Gramophone)
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