Young Goodman Brown

Young Goodman Brown (1995), Based on the short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Young Goodman Brown is an opera with music by Phillip Johnston, libretto by R. Foreman, directed by David Hershkovits, originally produced in 1995 at LaMama ETC, NYC by Target Margin Theater.





Young Goodman Brown – Reviews

The Village Voice (Marc Robinson)

“The deliberate tension between Herskovits and Phillip Johnston, the composer, is as charged as that between Brown and the Devil. Where the director is restrained, the composer is generous. Where the story’s focus narrows, the music grows more luxurious. The score is deceptive. Like Virgil Thompson, Johnston lures his listeners with pretty melodies, folk simplicity and the occasional quotation. . . but Johnston is always shifting gears: Each new tune is as pretty as the last, but we expect its interruption and wonder what’s next.”

The New York Times (Ben Brantley)

“The chief interest here is Mr. Johnston’s music, smoothly performed here by a five-member orchestra under Christopher Berg’s direction. The solemn portentous framework is subliminally laced with jazz, Latin dance tunes, waltzes and modernist dissonance. It vaguely suggests a subversive, nightclub version of Britten’s ‘Peter Grimes,’ appropriate music for divided souls. Johnston works on a small canvas, but he packs a lot into it.”

American Theater (Randy Gener)

“What drives this faithful Young Goodman Brown forward is the seductive elegance of Phillip Johnston’s jazzy opera music. …Johnston takes more leaps with the material than his librettist does. The felicitous mutation from one genre to another–Latin jazz, gospel rock, waltzes, Monk-like ballads and Kurt Weill melodies, even burst of Burt Bacharach flit in and out of the score–is brainily allusive, subtly offhand and often precipitous as each style mixes and matches with plot crinkles, character turns and imagistic twists. Neither European eclectic nor pastiche, Johnston’s silken jigsaw-puzzle musical patterns–a chamber opera extension of his cracked-jazz devil-may-care oeuvre–fit quite well with Hawthorne’s sprightly way of hanging heavy symbols on strings of pretty words.”

New York Newsday (Jan Stuart)

“The chief interest here is Johnston’s score, a rhythmically promiscuous melding of jazz, pop and chorale motifs sung with escalating intensity by a cast of twelve. . . The composer sets up a witty musical opposition between Goodman and the Devil, finding a more conventionally stentorian vein for the former and a corrupting rock and roll style for the latter.”

The Village Voice (Leighton Kerner)

I sometimes wonder what would have happened if a time warp had let Gustave Mahler and Nathaniel Hawthorne meet each other and talk about life, and, of course, mortality. The thought re-emerged … when I went to LaMaMa’s Annex for the last performance of Young Goodman Brown, a frisky little opera based on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story of the same name. Phillip Johnston’s music and Richard Foreman’s libretto effectively wipe away much of Hawthorne’s rather off-putting gloom. . . . A delight.”