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Kirke Mechem

Publisher: G. Schirmer

The Rivals (2002), 67
G Schirmer Inc
Opera and Music Theatre
Year Composed
1 Hour 55 Minutes
optional chorus
Solo Instrument(s)
2S, 2Mz, 2T, Bar, B-bar, B

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Programme Note
Kirke Mechem The Rivals (2002), 67
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First performance:
September 16 2011
Skylight Opera Theatre
Richard Carsey, conductor
Milwaukee, WI

Selections for sale:
50483630 - Lydia's Romance, soprano and mezzo-soprano duet - Vocal Score
50483629 - Lydia's Romance, SA chorus - Octavo
50485595 - Lydia's Romance, SATB chorus - Octavo

(formerly "The Newport Rivals")
Comic Opera in Two Acts
Freely based on Sheridan's play, "The Rivals"

The action takes place during one day in Newport, Rhode Island, about 1900.

Rich and dashing British Naval Captain Jack Absolute has fallen in love with American heiress Lydia Larkspur. But Lydia is in love with a romantic fantasy: she wants to elope with some penniless artist and live in "charming poverty." Jack masquerades as a poor English composer named Waverley and wins her heart; Lydia's aunt and guardian, the famously verbose Mrs. Malaprop, will not hear of it. She and Jack's father, both unaware that "Waverley" is Jack, decide that Lydia should marry the real Jack. Jack — now his own rival — has a big problem: how to reveal his true identity to Lydia without losing her. He ties himself into knots to indulge her rebellious fantasies, but eventually Lydia learns the truth and rejects him.

Jack's friend Nicholas Astor loves Lydia's cousin Julia, but his gloomy fear of being loved only for his vast fortune drives him to put her love to such ridiculous tests that she finally breaks off their engagement.

Baron von Hakenbock, a bellicose Prussian fortune hunter, has been carrying on a secret correspondence with "Celia," whom he believes to be Lydia but who is really Mrs. Malaprop. He and one of Lydia's rejected suitors, Jasper Vanderbilt, prepare to fight simultaneous duels: Jasper with his rival, the non-existent Waverley, and the Baron with Jack. Jasper is the bumpkin son of the Kentucky branch of the wealthy Vanderbilts; he also does not know that "Waverley" is his friend Jack. It all comes to a head on the dueling field. True love averts the duels, clears up the misunderstandings, and unites the proper pairs.

Cast List:
   MRS. MALAPROP, her aunt and legal guardian: Mezzo-soprano
   JACK ABSOLUTE, in love with Lydia: Baritone
   NICHOLAS ASTOR, Jack's friend: Tenor
   JULIA, Lydia's cousin, engaged to Nicholas: Mezzo-soprano
   SIR ANTHONY ABSOLUTE, Jack's father: Bass
   LUCY, Mrs. Malaprop's maid: Soprano
   JASPER VANDERBILT, Lydia's suitor: Tenor
   BARON VON HAKENBOCK, a Prussian fortune hunter: Bass-baritone
   Optional Chorus: Servants, Townspeople

  • 06 APR 2017
    Missoula, MT
    University of Montana

    Other Dates:
    7 April - Missoula, MT
  • 11 JAN 2014
    Bronx, NY
    Bronx Opera Company
    Michael Spierman, conductor

    Other Dates:
    19,17,18,15,13,16,12,14 January - Bronx, NY
  • 16 SEP 2011
    The Rivals World Premiere
    Milwaukee, WI
    Skylight Opera Theatre
    Richard Carsey, conductor

    Other Dates:
    17,18,21,23-25,27,28,30 September; 1,2 October - Milwaukee, WI

[Mechem's] operatic adaptation of the great Restoration comedy of the same name by Richard Brinsley Sheridan has few rivals among its contemporaries. The Wichita-born Mechem was clearly inspired by the comic operas of Mozart and, especially, Rossini. Determined to write an American piece, he transposed the setting from Bath, England, to the gold coast of Newport, Rhode Island, at the turn of the century, where a cast of poseurs, pretenders and social climbers would feel at home. It works surprisingly well. I say "surprisingly," because the play is sheer farce and calls for split-second timing, which is not necessarily the calling card of the opera world, where tears more often than not are the bitcoin of the realm, unless you look to the denizens of Rossini's most famous buffa pieces. And the composer has. Although Mechem used a variety of musical American styles--ragtime, Broadway, e.g.--in the course of the piece, this is definitely an opera, filled with charming and comic ensembles and arias of every sort, short of a mad scene. The composer has done a marvelous job in both the music and libretto telling the story of...--well, the plot's not the thing but how it's put across and the details, frankly, make it sound less than it is.
Richard Sasanow, Broadway World,27/01/2014
"Absolute perfection . . . as buoyant and hilarious as a classic screwball comedy, [with] glorious music. There’s nothing old-fashioned about it — we’re just a costume change away from something right out of Real Housewives of Newport. It’s one of the finest pieces of music theater I’ve seen in some time — on any stage."
Paul Kosidowski, Milwaukee Magazine,18/09/2011
"An absolutely delightful evening of music and theater. It uses colorful music to define characters and set a comic pace that accelerates throughout the piece. Even the music under stage business is engaging and melodic."
Elaine Schmidt, Milwaukee Journal,17/09/2011
"A hit, an instant classic. . . beautiful and jaunty tunes that align neatly with plot and character. He develops these musical ideas ingeniously, accumulating meaning and richness through their iterations.. Mechem is also his own librettist; rarely have words fit music so well. . . . This opera has rhythm, in every sense."
Tom Strini,,17/09/2011
"The Rivals Plays very much like an opera for people who don't think they like opera."
Russ Bickerstaff, Shepherd Express,01/01/0001
Pure Joy in Skylight Premiere Mechem’s bubbly score sings. Voices take to it happily and gratefully. . . The musical style is fluid and easy on the ear. Details of orchestration enrich the well-crafted score. Defined numbers emerge, some with Americana touches of the period, such as ragtime, music hall songs, and band shell concerts. . . the entire piece is charming and enjoyable.
Shepherd Express, ,01/01/0001
Irresistible . . . Mechem’s fresh, classical work will be a significant factor to the art’s future, and will enrich the opera fan while tempting those who might like to try opera for the first time. . . had the audience standing on their feet.
Performing Arts Postscripts, ,01/01/0001
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