From the Studio…

Wednesday, February 15, 2023 at 7:30 PM
Friday, February 17, 2023 at 7:30 PM
Saturday, February 18, 2023 at 3:00 PM

St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, 2120 Lincoln Street, Evanston IL 60201

  James Janssen, Music Director and Conductor 
 Sally Craige Christensen, Stage Director

Anatoliy Torchinskiy, Piano

Bon Appétit!

Music by Lee Hoiby (1926-2011)
Libretto by Julia Child
Adapted by Mark Shulgasser

First performed in 1989

The Old Maid and the Thief

Music by Gian Carlo Menotti (1911-2007)
Libretto by the composer

First performed on radio in 1939

Click here to watch a video of the February 18 performance of Bon Appétit!

Click here to watch a video of the February 18 performance of The Old Maid and the Thief


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Bon Appétit!  Program Note by Mark Shulgasser

Bon Appétit! was comprised of two icons of the television age. It was written for Jean Stapleton, famed original-cast, Broadway music comedienne, in her late career: music draped over the words and gestures of Julia Child, the mother-of-all-foodies, in her black-and-white days. The juxtaposition clicked for a few seasons, as a curtain raiser for the more substantial Italian Lesson. The work lives on by virtue of flamboyant mezzos, piano-accompanied, at gala occasions where great quantities of chocolate are consumed.

Two episodes of the second WGBH-TV season were conflated: the race between the whisk and the electric beater comes out of a different cake. Props have been used, or not. Hoiby’s music deftly veers around Broadway chansons, early television, and Ravelian apotheosis to underline Julia Child’s compelling domestic uplift.

The Old Maid and the Thief — Synopsis

This one-act opera in 14 scenes was the first opera to be written for performance on radio. Miss Todd is an aging spinster who, though of high standing in her community, has had a nonexistent love life for over forty years. Her housemaid Laetitia is a young, catty eavesdropper who is wary of becoming an old maid like her employer. Bob, a wanderer, comes to Miss Todd’s door one afternoon while the town gossip, Miss Pinkerton, is visiting. Enamored of his beauty, Laetitia easily convinces Miss Todd to let him stay. Laetitia then convinces Bob to stay by promising him more food and accommodations without any cost, and Bob remains in their house, as Miss Todd’s “cousin Steve” to anyone who asks.

The next day, Miss Todd meets Miss Pinkerton in the street, and the latter tells her of an escaped convict who is reportedly in the area. The convict matches Bob’s description, and Miss Todd runs home to warn Laetitia that they are harboring a thief and must get rid of him. Once again, Laetitia, insinuating that Bob is in love with her, convinces Miss Todd to let him stay. To keep him from running away and revealing them as accomplices, Miss Todd leaves money out for Bob to “steal.” However, before long she needs more money, and resorts to stealing from her neighbors. Meanwhile, Laetitia is falling in love with the wanderer and sings “Steal Me Sweet Thief,” an aria of her love for him, asking him to steal her away before time ravages and withers her looks. Miss Pinkerton soon encounters Miss Todd again and warns her to “Keep all the doors locked, keep all the windows closed,” because the thief (in actuality, Miss Todd) is in town and has stolen from the neighbors. Miss Todd plays along, agreeing that the mysterious crimes point to the indubitable presence of a thief. At home, Bob is sick of confinement and plans to leave the next day. He sings “When the Air Sings of Summer” (Bob’s Bedroom Aria) as he packs his bag. Laetitia stumbles upon him as he packs and, desperate, asks him what it will take to keep him there. Bob replies he would like to “have something to drink.” Miss Todd, who, being a good prohibitionist, doesn’t have any alcohol in the house, insists there would be a scandal if she were to be seen buying liquor. Laetitia cleverly convinces her that, since stealing and drinking are both sinful, breaking into a liquor store (“sinning against a sin”) wouldn’t be problematic, and they plan to rob the store that night.

The next day, Miss Pinkerton visits Miss Todd at home and informs her that the liquor store has been violated and the owner attacked. A drunken Bob interrupts their conversation, singing loudly upstairs, prompting the shrewd Miss Pinkerton to add that the police are going to search every house to find the thief. Miss Todd shoos Miss Pinkerton out the door, and then she and Laetitia confront Bob about his true identity. They each try to convince him to run off with them, in order to evade the police, but Bob refuses to run away because he has done nothing wrong. Miss Todd incredulously asks, “Is your love for me so small that you would see me in prison?” to which Bob replies, “Small? I don’t love you at all!” Miss Todd flies into a rage, and storms out, saying she will call the police and blame all the theft on him. Glumly, Bob and Laetitia duet on whether to stay and face the charges or leave, and the persuasive Laetitia eventually wins the argument. Bob then observes: “The devil couldn’t do what a woman can: Make a thief of an honest man!” Vindictively, they steal all of Miss Todd’s valuables, including her car, and ride off together. Miss Todd returns to find her house empty and, realizing her life is now in ruins, collapses in grief after a final frantic aria.