Murder in the First
Composer: Solomon Epstein
Librettist: Solomon Epstein
Premiere Date: Not available.
Description: Based on true events in San Francisco, 1938-1942. A young prisoner at Alcatraz, Johnny Bowes, wrongly accused and arrested, is sadistically abused by the Alcatraz wardens. Driven insane by three continuous years of solitary confinement, Johnny's first act upon his release back into the general prison population is to rip out the throat of another inmate using a spoon handle. Three hundred inmates and guards in the prison dining hall witness the killing. At Johnny's murder trial, his idealistic lawyer, Henry Davidson, stuns the court by accusing the wardens of Alcatraz of the murder--Henry declares that, through torture, the wardens turned Johnny into a mindless murder weapon. Ultimately, the jury finds Johnny guilty of involuntary manslaughter, which carries a three-year sentence. Furthermore, the jury accuses the Alcatraz wardens of crimes against humanity and petitions the court to order an immediate Federal investigation of Alcatraz. Johnny, back at Alcatraz, is again thrown into solitary confinement by the associate warden. Before Henry can petition the court to transfer Johnny to another prison, Johnny dies, but not before scratching the word "victory" on the wall of his dungeon. Partly as a result of this case, in 1963, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy closed Alcatraz as a penal institution forever.
Length: 02:30
Total Acts: 2
Chorus: Chorus (20-30 singers)
Musical Style: Jazz-based elements fused with various 20th-century classical styles, both tonal and non-tonal; quotations of Americana
Contact: Solomon Epstein
Phone: 413-786-0764
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