Trinity Lyric Opera
Almost four hundred years ago, in Bedfordshire, England, John Bunyan had a dream.... in it, he saw a man with a terrible burden on his back. And though he was delivered of that burden, he saw that same Pilgrim pass through the Valley of Humiliation, the Slough of Despond, then Vanity Fair, only to be thrown into prison, finally to be engulfed by deep waters, yet to arrive victoriously at the gates of the Celestial City. The lessons he learned along the way serve as examples and reminders four hundred years later to every reader of his great classic.
English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams also had a dream... it took 40 long years for his dream to become reality when London first heard his great masterpiece in April of 1951. The message of Bunyan’s "The Pilgrim’s Progress" had charmed his heart and stirred his soul since he first began sketches in 1911 of what was to become his great "morality," the fifth opera he was to write, the master choral composer at the apogee of his creative genius. In it, over the next forty years, he married Bunyan’s text to music that is at once rapturous, compelling, noble and yet accessible, a language understood by all, a masterpiece sans pareil. He seamlessly incorporated sections written decades before its premiere as stand-alone pieces, somehow anticipating their rightful place in the complete opera years later. He even wrote an entr’acte on the train from Dorking during rehearsals, realizing that he needed just a little more music to provide a perfect transition. One year after its premiere at Covent Garden in April of 1951, it was dropped from the repertoire, only to rise from the ashes three years later in a splendid production at Cambridge ... a production so compelling that it launched the musical career of a young geography student by the name of John Noble, whose performance indeed so nobly portrayed the Pilgrim that he abandoned his college science studies in favor of a life-long career in music, urged on by a letter from RVW himself. That college production, staged in a guild-hall, encompassing great depth in its interpretation, vindicated RVW’s forty long years of work as in a dream after the tepid reception it received in London.
The Founder of Trinity Lyric Opera also had a dream... his was to bring this great work to audiences in the San Francisco Bay Area for the very first time in a production that would have greatly pleased RVW himself. After four years of patient planning, thinking and much time spent in prayer, Trinity Lyric Opera was incorporated as a 501(c)3 California Public Benefit Corporation, with Federal and State tax exemption status. Immediately a Board of Directors was formed, and the search was on for the perfect cast and staff to stage what was to be in fact the U.S. West Coast premiere of "The Pilgrim’s Progress," while keeping our sights on further presentations in the future. It has been entirely a walk by faith, but as our new production began to take shape, we knew we were on to something that had taken on a life of its own.
My heart is humbled and grateful for the countless expressions of support from well-wishers, corporate and private sponsors, the many greatly talented artists working with us on our first production and for the personal friendships that have been forged in collaboration with the many involved on the pilgrim path here below leading to our inaugural performances. Dreams can come true... they did for John Bunyan, as his pilgrimage ended in the Celestial City; they did for Vaughan Williams, with music that lives on in the hearts of countless devotees almost fifty years after his death; and they did for the Founder of Trinity Lyric Opera with the birth of a new opera company in the greater Bay Area. My hope is that the music and the message of this stunning opera will fill your heart and stir your soul long after the strains of the hymn-tune "York" have faded away into memory.
Founder and Artistic Director, Trinity Lyric Opera