The Kentucky Opera opens a company premiere this week. Benjamin Britten’s “The Prodigal Son,” which premiered in 1968, is part of Kentucky Opera’s Chamber Series of Contemporary Opera staged in alternative venues around Louisville.
Performances are Thursday and Friday evening at St. Francis in the Fields Episcopalian Church in Prospect.
“The Prodigal Son” is one of three parables told by Jesus that deal with loss and redemption. A rich landowner’s younger son asks for his inheritance so he can leave home and pursue a life of pleasure, only to end up penniless and back at home, begging forgiveness.
The one-act opera is the third installment of Benjamin Britten’s Parables for Church Performance trilogy. Opera general director David Roth says Britten took his dramatic inspiration from Japanese Noh theater and medieval church dramas performed by clergy for largely illiterate congregations.
“Britten effectively uses the setting of a medieval church in England to emphasize the timeless lesson of the Prodigal Son,” says Roth. “He constructs the work, performed here by the monks, as a sacred drama, a form used in the early centuries of the Catholic church.”
Roth says that he feels Britten is one of the greatest modern classical composers of the 20th century.
“With this company premiere of The Prodigal Son, we are joining in a worldwide celebration of Benjamin Britten’s 100th Birthday that runs through 2013,” says Roth. “The Choral Arts Society will continue that celebration here in Louisville when it performs Britten’s War Requiem in April.”
The one-act opera is produced in partnership with the Louisville Choral Arts Society. Principal roles in the opera are performed by members of the opera’s emerging studio artist program.