Roman Fever
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Premiere recording of Ward's emotional, romantic opera full of nostalgia and charm.

Roman Fever had its world premiere in Durham, NC in the Spring of 1993. Robert Ward, Pulitzer-prize composer and retired Mary Duke Biddle Professor at Duke University, composed the music for the opera based on the well-known short story by Edith Wharton. The librettist, Roger Brunyate, is a stage director for the opera department at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. "Earlier," said Ward in an interview, "Roger told me he was speaking to all his composer friends about writing operas with predominantly female casts. His idea seemed a good one, since most university and conservatory opera groups are three-quarters women and one-quarter men, and opera casts are usually the opposite - mostly men, fewer women." Shortly after this, Ward happened to read Wharton's short stories, including "Roman Fever." "I thought, My God, what a story, so I contacted Roger to see if he'd like to write the libretto while I worked on the music." The title refers both to malaria, the disease which once flourished in the marshes near Rome, and, metaphorically, to the giddiness that strikes many who visit the romantic Italian capital. Despite dark elements, the composer describes his work as a "tragicomedy: no one dies. "The tragic element," says Ward, "lies in the thing that in our life we have failed to achieve: relationships, career, the thing that leaves a kind of ache inside throughout our lives." The score of the opera displays a number of interesting musical styles: the old-style Italian ballad, a jazz duet, an operatic aria and a soaring quartet where each woman expresses her individual thoughts. Said Ward, "I've never written anything so overtly jazzy as this duet in this show 'They Kissed our Hands'."
Robert Ward, composer
Roman Fever
Manhattan School of Music Opera Theater, David Gilbert, conductor

"In all, Roman Fever is an adroit, thoughtfully expanded operatic treatment of a great story...plenty to enjoy." (OperaNews)