- from "Cannery Row" - (1983)
for soprano and piano
Cannery Row (1945) remains under copyright, and as such the texts are not
reproduced here in their entirety.
Early morning is a time of magic on Cannery Row.
The street lights go out and the weeds are a brilliant green....
These songs were thoughts about a chamber operatic setting of
Steinbeck's novel, and are among a number of sketches towards an
operatic setting of this classic American tale planned as the 1945
copyright nears its conversion to public domain. This was not to be.
As in introduction to morning in Cannery Row, that wonderful area of the
Monterey Peninsula in California, a light high soprano describes for us
of the environs, the time of day and feeling which surrounds this
magical place as embellished by Steinbeck's marvelous story and
One of my favorite lines to set to music was "Silent early morning dogs
parade picking whereon to pee." Humorously the lyricism of the opening
to this song fits quite aptly for that picture as well, since it is all
a part of the morning's ablutions.
from "Cannery Row" - (1983)
for mezzo soprano and piano
Dora's girls are well trained and pleasant.
They never speak to a man on the street....
One of the "girls" -- a mezzo soprano -- in the Bear Flag, a
"respectable" house of prostitution, tells of the house and its girls.
While the text for the novel is prose, much of it is fully apt for a
libretto, so well written is the text. Therefore this strophic song and
bridge are fully prose yet function fully as lovely song lyrics at the
John Ernst Steinbeck (1902-1968) was born in Salinas, California, inland
by only miles from the Monterey Peninsula. This great American novelist
is perhaps best known for The Grapes of Wrath (1939) which told
the story of the Great Depression through one migrant worker family's
struggles. It won for him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962.
His novella, Of Mice and Men (1937) has been also a play, a film
(1940) and an opera, and won the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award,
and after the war years and some time working in Mexico with his friend,
freelance biologist Ed Ricketts, Steinbeck wrote Cannery Row
(1945), which has also become a film. The interesting characters of the
work are apt for operatic treatment, as is the text, which I fully
edited into a libretto using only Steinbeck's own words. In time, I will
ask permission of the estate to use this text as a complete libretto for
a two act work.