News & Music Events 2015-2016

August 2016

Sun, Aug 21, 2016

"The Scarlet Professor": A New Opera in Workshop

A free workshop performance of the concluding half of "The Scarlet Professor," a new opera based on the celebrated 1960 arrest and trial of Smith College professor Newton Arvin, takes place on Sunday, Aug. 21, at 3 p.m. in Buckley Recital Hall at Amherst College. The semi-staged performance is followed by a discussion with composer Eric Sawyer, librettist Harley Erdman and author Barry Werth, on whose book the opera is based.

"The Scarlet Professor" recounts the story of Newton Arvin, a nationally renowned literary critic and English professor who was arrested in 1960, along with two younger colleagues, for possessing "beefcake" pornography. The opera blends the human drama of men caught in a national crusade against perceived indecency with fantasy based on scenes from the book Arvin wrote about most passionately: Nathaniel Hawthorne’s "The Scarlet Letter," with its depiction of sin, secrecy and shame in small-town New England.

Today, this nationally famous case is seen as a historical fulcrum, perched between the cultural McCarthyism of the 1950s and the "new world" of personal liberation ushered in by the 1960s.

The Aug. 21 workshop is a final sneak preview to the world-premiere production of "The Scarlet Professor" to be performed at Smith College in September 2017.

Sawyer, music professor at Amherst College, and Erdman, theater professor at UMass Amherst, collaborated previously on "The Garden of Martyrs," an opera premiered in 2013 by the Springfield Symphony at Northampton’s Academy of Music. Werth’s award-winning account of the events first appeared in The New Yorker magazine in 1998.

Directing the stage is Ron Bashford, a theater professor at Amherst College and a member of the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab, who brings his production of Shakespeare’s "Pericles" to Amherst next September. The performance will also feature dance and choreography by Paul Matteson, and Eduardo Leandro conducts.

The cast features seven leading opera vocalists from the New England region, including UMass faculty tenor William Hite, as well as a chorus led by Gregory W. Brown.

Tue, Aug 30, 2016

Orientation: Financial Aid

Wed, Aug 31, 2016