Monticello: The Opera

GLENN PAXTON, composer of "Monticello"

Composer Glenn Paxton was born in Chicago, graduated cum laude from Princeton University where his teachers were Ed Cone and Milton Babbitt, and now lives in Ojai, California.

His first professional composing credit was the score to the Broadway musical First Impressions, produced by Jule Styne, directed by Abe Burrows, starring Polly Bergen, Farley Granger, Hermione Gingold, and, in the British production, Patricia Routledge. Jule Styne was his theatrical mentor. He also worked extensively with Fred Coe, Arthur Penn, and Jerome Robbins.

He has written the music to over a hundred TV specials, documentaries, and theatrical movies including When the Legends Die (20th Century-Fox feature starring Richard Widmark, with original songs performed by Freddie Hart), Amazing Stories (ABC, Steven Spielberg), the much repeated PBS Christmas show An American Christmas: words and music (with Burt Lancaster and James Earl Jones, and original Paxton songs performed by Freda Payne and Peter Yarrow), The Stately Ghosts of England (NBC, with Margaret Rutherford), The Hill Country (NBC, with the main theme,The Hill Country Theme, later recorded by the Boston Pops Orchestra, Willie Nelson, The Reivers, and many others, PBS’s New World Visions (recorded by members of the New York Philharmonic), many Andy Rooney specials and essays for television, many ABC Afterschool Specials including an Emmy Award nomination for original music (My Other Mother), and numerous television movies Including Dark Night of the Scarecrow (CBS, with Charles Durning), Vital Signs (CBS, with Ed Asner), Isabel's Choice (CBS, with Jean Stapleton), The Two Worlds of Jennie Logan (CBS, with Lindsay Wagner), Dream Breakers (CBS, with Kyle McLachlan), Charlie and the Great Balloon Chase (with Jack Albertson and Adrienne Barbeau), and Clone Master (Paramount-NBC, with Ralph Bellamy).

In 1983 his musical The Adventures of Friar Tuck (Pulitzer Prize nomination by the Lake George Opera Festival, 1984), with words by Allan Leicht, ran for a month at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga, NY, following presentations of the work at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. In 1997 it was performed in St Petersburg, Russia in a cultural exchange, produced by the O’Neill Theater. There have also been productions in New York, Cleveland, and New Orleans. In 1993 the Lansing Symphony (Gustav Meier conducting) premiered his orchestral-choral composition The Evening Sing. In 1991 his multimedia full length work Walking Home, based on personal accounts of farmers and townspeople in western Illinois 70-100 years ago, and commissioned by Western Illinois University, was premiered at the university with opera stars Timothy Nolen and Karen Beardsley.

His CD of original piano music, Prairie Indigo, relating to childhood memories of a farm in rural Illinois, has played on over 150 radio stations during the past several years.

His opera Monticello, about Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson, with libretto by Leroy Aarons, was premiered by L.A. Theatre Works at the Skirball Center, Los Angeles, in April, 2000 and a commercial recording of the work is in release. A second production, a full production, was produced at California Plaza in Los Angeles by Grand Performances in 2001. There have been a number of full-length broadcasts of the opera on public radio across the country.

Another recent work is the musical W. R. and Daisy, about W. R. Hearst and Marian Davies, written in collaboration with Robert and Phyllis White, which premiered in a full production at Theatre West in Los Angeles in 2004.

Sara’s Diary, 9/11, a song cycle for soprano and piano with text by Leroy Aarons, was premiered at Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s Bing Theater and broadcast simultaneously on Radio Kmozart, Los Angeles, on September 28, 2003. Many performances of the work took place in September 2004, in southern and northern California, and it has been broadcast a number of times on public radio.

Biographical references:

Who’s Who in America (MacMillan-Marquis) - starting in 1999

Who’s Who in the World (MacMillan-Marquis) - starting in 1999

Who’s Who in Entertainment (MacMillan-Marquis) - all editions