February 20, 1934
Four Saints in Three Acts
Composer:Virgil Thomson
Librettist:Gertrude Stein
Synopsis
A surrealist drama: The story is of religious life in 16th-century Spain, but is really a metaphor for the artistic life that [the creators] lived themselves. St. Teresa was based on Gertrude Stein and St. Ignatius on James Joyce.

Prologue: A choral introduction to the saints
Act I: On the steps of Avila Cathedral
Act II: A garden party in the country near Barcelona
Act III: A monastery garden on the coast near Barcelona
Act IV: The sisters and saints reassembled and reenacting why they went away to stay.

Imaginary but characteristic incidents from the lives of the saints constitute the work's action. Its principal characters are St. Teresa of Avila, Saint Ignatius Loyola, and their respective confidants, Saint Settlement and St. Chavez. Other characters include a Compere and Commere who speak to the audience and to each other about the progress of the opera. About her libretto, Gertrude Stein wrote, "A saint a real saint never does anything, a martyr does something but a really good saint does nothing and so I wanted to have Four Saints that did nothing and I wrote Four Saints in Three Acts and they did nothing and that was everything. Generally speaking anybody is more interesting doing nothing than doing anything."

Productions
Click company name to view productions details.
COMPANYTITLEDATES
Opera Parallèle (Opera Parallele)Four Saints in Three Acts8/13/2011 - 8/13/2011
Encompass New Opera TheatreFour Saints in Three Acts2/20/2009 - 3/15/2009
Houston Grand OperaFour Saints in Three Acts1/1/1996 - 2/1/1996
Chicago Opera TheaterFour Saints in Three Acts4/1/1993 - 4/25/1993


OPERA America/Opera.ca Grants Awarded
Click here to learn more about OPERA America granting programs.
GRANT NAMEYEAR
The Robert L.B. Tobin Director-Designer Showcase 2015

Title Information

All information is derived from OPERA America's Season Schedule of Performances and titles databases which date back to 1991. OPERA America is constantly updating this data. If you feel that a work or an artist has been omitted or that information is incorrect, please use the linked forms below.
Title Information Form
Artist Information Form

Approximate Runtime (hh:mm)
01:30

Number of Acts
3

Musical Style
Through-composed, with dialogue; tonal; minimalist in its approach to themes, scoring, etc. Some Anglican chant and other references to religious music; extended monophonic linear passages; references to nursery rhymes

Vocal & Musical Forces
2 Sopranos, 2 Mezzo-Sopranos, 2 Tenors, Baritone, 2 Basses, SATB Chorus, Ballet

Original Cast
The original 1934 cast was completely African-American (one year before Gershwin's Porgy and Bess), although Thomson did not consider this to be a prerequisite for the work.

Edward Matthews (St. Ignatius)
Abner Dorsey (Compere)
Altonell Hines (Commere)
Bruce Howard (St. Teresa II)
Embry Bonner (St. Chavez)
Bertha Fitzhugh Baker (St. Settlement)
Beatrice Robinson Wayne (St. Teresa I)
The Eva Jessye Choir


THE ORGANIZATION RESOURCES
THE NATIONAL OPERA CENTER EVENTS FACILITIES AND SERVICES
BECOME A MEMBER MEMBER OPPORTUNITIES
SUPPORT OPERA AMERICA
RESOURCES
To have your company’s photos included in the header rotation, send photos that are at least 1200px wide and 550px tall to Webmaster@operaamerica.org. Please note that submission of photos does not guarantee inclusion.
All OPERA America facilities are handicapped accessible. The National Opera Center features ground-level entry with elevators to the venue. All spaces are wheelchair accessible, and modular seating can be arranged to accommodate wheelchair users for all programs and performances. Handicapped accessible restrooms are available on all floors.
330 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001
Tel: 212.796.8620 • Fax: 212.796.8621
Info@operaamerica.org

Privacy PolicyReturns Policy
Financial Statements
© Copyright 1995-2017 OPERA America Inc.

Technical issue with the website? Let us know.