OP0639. FOUR SAINTS IN THREE ACTS (Virgil Thomson & Gertrude Stein), recorded 25 June, 1947, w.The Composer Cond. Inez Matthews, Ruby Greene, Charles Holland, Beatrice Robinson-Wayne, David Bethea, Abner Dorsey, Altonell Hines, Edward Matthews, Randolph Robinson, etc.; STOKOWSKI Cond. Hollywood Bown S.O.: The Plow that broke the Plains - Suite (Virgil Thomson), recorded 30 August, 1946. RCA 68163, w.Elaborate 31pp. Libretto-Brochure. Very long out-of-print, Final Copy! - 090266816323
"On February 7, 1934, the Wadsworth Atheneum debuted the modernist opera Four Saints in Three Acts in its new Avery Memorial Theater and, the following night, hosted the official premiere. Written by Gertrude Stein with music by Virgil Thomson, the avant-garde production featured an all-black cast directed by noted African American choral conductor Eva Jessye. In addition to being the first opera in the United States to boast a singing roster of exclusively African American talent, the performance coincided, quite purposefully, with another cultural milestone: the opening of the first comprehensive exhibition of Pablo Picasso’s work to be shown in the United States.
After its sold-out run at the Wadsworth Atheneum, FOUR SAINTS IN THREE ACTS went to Broadway. There, as in Hartford, its fantastical tale of two 16th-century Spanish saints, Ignatius of Loyola and Teresa of Avila, met with both acclaim and bewilderment.
In reviewing the Atheneum’s presentation, THE NEW YORK TIMES observed, ‘To be sure, the spirit of inspired madness animates the whole piece ….But does it make sense? the serious minded will ask. It does not - to the too serious minded. But neither do ALICE IN WONDERLAND and other creations of fantasy.’ Today, FOUR SAINTS IN THREE ACTS is regarded as a landmark of American modernism.”
- THE NEW YORK TIMES, 7 Feb., 2017
“Virgil Thomson candidly and accurately predicted that his posthumous fame as a composer would rest on his two operatic collaborations with Gertrude Stein. He finished the music for their first opera, FOUR SAINTS IN THREE ACTS, in 1928. After its 1934 premiere at the Wadsworth Atheneum, FOUR SAINTS hit Broadway for some 60 performances - unprecedented for a new American opera. Not all musicians knew what to make of Thomson’s deceptively simple pump-organ harmonies and catchy hymn-like tunes.”
- Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com