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PROGRAM NOTES by the composer
Stone Soup An Operatic Fable in One Delicious Act

STONE SOUP was my first professional commission, composed in the summer of 1983. To conjure up tunes that were so catchy that they felt inevitable, I walked up and down the streets of Southwest Philadelphia with Frank McQuilkin's clever libretto, singing along until each scene came out right.

Commissioned by Young Audiences of Greater Philadelphia for their in-school opera ensemble, STONE SOUP received well over 1000 performances over 20 seasons of "continuous run" in Philadelphia-area schools.

A subsequent commission from Young Audiences took the opera, originally composed only with piano accompaniment, into a chamber orchestra version which has also received performances around the country.

Using catchy tunes, humor, and a story about food, young listeners stay engaged and absorb the very timeless metaphor that "it takes all kinds of people to make up a happy town" just as "it takes all kinds of food to make Stone Soup." Through the one-act opera, which may seem like entertainment for young listeners, this important message is introduced, while the equally important message that opera is fun is also in the background!

STONE SOUP uses a cast of 4 principal singers: Vegetable Lady (Soprano), Mayor (Alto), Soldier (Tenor), Butcher (Bass). In addition there are small speaking roles for several children, and an optional chorus of townspeople. It was composed for solo piano accompaniment, and later orchestrated for an ensemble of 1-1-1-1, 1-1-1-0, Harp, Piano, 2 Percussion, and Strings which may be 1 per part, or doubled.

  cover art by Alexis Napoliello

1. OVERTURE - Musical introduction and Soldier's entrance

2. SOLDIER'S SCENE- He is lost, lonely and hungry; cartoon-like sound effects about him yawning and his stomach growling.

3. SOLDIER'S SONG - Soldier (Tenor) sings that he's gotten lost.

4. ALL KINDS OF PEOPLE - Big production number for entire cast (SATB soloists, optional chorus of villagers), with the refrain "It takes all kinds of people to make up a happy town." That becomes the underlying moral of the whole story.

5. JOBS TRIO - Mayor (Alto), Butcher (Bass) and Vegetable lady (Soprano) sing arias introducing themselves, their personalities, and caricaturing themselves.

                  [brief dialogue transition]

6. MAGIC SCENE - Soldier wonders what to do, has a sudden idea, then shows children how to make soup out of stones;  followed by a Magic Chant and dialogue.

                 [Butcher enters. Soldier explains he's making the most delicious soup in the world, with only water and stones. Butcher says if people think they can make soup with only stones, then his business will be ruined!]

7. STONE SOUP SONG - Butcher sings that all soup needs meat; mostly solo for Butcher, but Soldier has some lines, too.

8. MAGIC INTERLUDE - Brief return to Magic Scene's music, now introducing the Butcher to the magic soup.  Brief dialogue follows.

9. STREET CRY - Vegetable Lady enters and sings a brief solo chanting a street vendor's cry about her vegetables, then dialogue about the magic soup being made with no vegetables; she responds that if there's any wonderful soup being made, it's got to have vegetables!

10. FOOD FIGHT DUET - Butcher and Vegetable Lady have a vehement and comical "argument duet" (with simultaneous competing cadenzas) debating whether meat or vegetables are more crucial to a good soup.

              [brief dialogue transition]

11. GOOD SMELL SONG - Mayor's aria about how happy she feels when she smells good food; she meets the others making soup, and the aria becomes a quartet.

12. MAGIC WORDS - Brief reprise of No. 6 as the soup is completed; a banner is unfurled and the Mayor declares "Stone Soup Day."

13. FINALE - Happy ending, based on reprises of the magic chant and  "It takes all kinds of people to make up a happy town," paired with the lines "it takes all kinds of food to make stone soup" to celebrate the metaphor and moral.

  Magic Scene from the world premiere performance
  (left to right: Jeremy Slavin, Mertine Johns,
Gregory Cantwell, Elena Clancy)

  Scene from The Atlanta Opera 2012-13 production
  (left to right: Jevares Myrick, Katherine Oates,
Katherine Bowen, Ivan Segovia)




last updated February 21, 2020