Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Romance, mystery, music: one of the most beloved characters in literary history, Sherlock Holmes, is being envisioned in an opera for the first time (he’s a baritone). This Saturday at 4 pm in Lang Concert Hall, excerpts from Professors Tom Whitman and Natalie Anderson’s opera “A Scandal in Bohemia” (a work in progress) will be performed.
The presentation will include the opening of the opera, providing the background of how Holmes, played by John Andrew Fernandez, encounters Irene Adler, whom Sherlock Holmes fans will undoubtedly recall as “the woman” of Holmes’ life, as well as two arias featuring Dr. Watson, played by Henry Clapp ’09, and Irene Adler, played by Laura Heimes. This is the third opera on which Anderson and Whitman have collaborated. “Scandal,” reflects Anderson, is similar to the other pieces in its combination of a strong and intelligent male and female lead who are “are drawn to each other but have difficulty getting together.”
Anderson is quite enthused about the work, in an online interview she wrote, “We’ve had a lot of fun creating this opera, particularly because students are involved in its production: Henry Clapp ’09 sings Watson rather gorgeously; we’ve employed a brilliant student orchestra; and next year we’ll begin working with a student chorus and student dancers. I find the music for this opera really interesting as well, a little bit jazzy… We’ve enjoyed ourselves very much already, and want to share the opera with as many people as possible!”
Students involved in the opera are also enthusiastic. Says flutist Anne Searcy ’08, “Working on the opera is an exciting new experience for me. I get to stretch myself to play with more emotion than I normally do. Also, the singers are the center of attention; we’re mostly just providing them an environment to sing in.”
Henry Clapp, who was asked to play Dr. Watson last spring and has been working on the music since last semester both with his teacher, Julian Rodescu, (who is playing the Reader and the King in the opera), and also with Professor Whitman, speaks highly of the music. “Tom has a real knack for creating really singable vocal lines, even while the orchestra has a very complex part.” He encourages many to come to the performance, “It’s not going to be all that long and it’s a really fun story… a wide range of audiences would find it interesting not just the ‘opera core.'” As Searcy puts it, “What could be better than a Sherlock Holmes story?”