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Lee Hoiby

Publisher: G. Schirmer

Bon Appétit! (1989)
Text Writer
Julia Child, adapted by Mark Shulgasser
G Schirmer Inc
Opera and Music Theatre
Sub Category
Chamber Opera
Year Composed
18 Minutes
Solo Instrument(s)
Alternate Orchestration
fl, ob, cl, bn, hn, pf
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Programme Note
Lee Hoiby Bon Appétit! (1989)
Cast List:
   JULIA CHILD: Mezzo-soprano

A comic culinary extravaganza that taps the wit and antics of one of America's best-loved television personalities.

Librettist note:
Bon Appétit! was comprised of two icons of the television age: music draped over the words and gestures of Julia Child, the mother-of-all-foodies, in her black-and-white days; written for Jean Stapleton, famed original-cast, Broadway-musical comedienne, in her late career. The juxtaposition clicked for a few seasons, as a curtain-raiser for the more substantial Italian Lesson. The work lives on by virtue of flamboyant mezzos, piano-accompanied at gala occasions where great quantities of chocolate are consumed.

Two episodes of the second WGBH-TV season were conflated: the race between the whisk and the electric beater comes out of a different cake. Props have been used, or not. Hoiby's music deftly veers around Broadway chansons, early television, and Ravelian apotheosis to underline Julia Child's compelling domestic uplift.

— Mark Shulgasser, librettist

The second half of the evening was devoted to “Bon Appetit” by the late Lee Hoiby who, for this one-woman, one-act opera, simply adapted an episode of Julia Child’s television show “The French Chef,” meaning that the singer, accompanied by a wind quintet and piano, actually has to prepare a chocolate cake. (Wolf Trap set up a full kitchen counter, stand mixer and all.) Barton’s performance was so note-perfect, and so genuinely funny, that it was easy to forget that the piece might be difficult for someone else to pull off. Hoiby’s music is quite wonderful, with the winds miming some of the actions in the text and offering their own flavor of plummy support. What came across was simple delight.
Anne Midgette, Washington Post,26/10/2014
It is a credit to Hoiby's keen sense of theatricality that he did exactly what should be done given the material: create a solid, well-written work of sheer entertainment. For the "libretto" the composer essentially transcribed and combined a couple of Julia Childs's cooking show episodes. He was well aware of the main character's naturally melodious speaking voice, and rather than working against it as a more "serious" modern composer might have done, he built on it, turning her inflections into song. Then, as if baking a cake himself, he layered simple-yet-tasty melodies and harmonies, kneaded in clever musical references, and frosted it all with colorful orchestrations. BMO's [Boston Midsummer Opera's] particular recipe added Judy Kaye to the mix; she clearly owns the role, now that Jean Stapleton is no longer with us. Kaye's delivery was so natural and unencumbered by any self-conscious acting that, had she been taller, one could have believed it was Julia herself on the stage.
Tom Schnauber, Boston Music Intelligencer,29/07/2010
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