James Maraniss, Long-Silent Opera Vocalist, Dies at 76

James Maranissa Spanish scholar who wrote the libretto for an opera completed in 1978, won the Pulitzer Prize in 2000 but was not fully staged for another decade, died on 9 January at his home. alone in Chesterfield, aged 76.

The cause was a heart attack, his brother, David, said.

Mr. Maraniss, a professor of Spanish and European studies at Amherst University, had never written a libretto when the composer Lewis Spratlana faculty colleague, approached him in 1975 to collaborate on an opera based on Pedro Calderon de la Barca’the early 17th century drama “La Vida es sueño” (“Life is a dream”). The work has been booked by the New Haven Opera House in Connecticut.

Excited by Calderon’s lively writing that quickly conjured musical images in his mind, Mr. Spratlan told Mr. Maraniss the news about the committee – unaware that Mr. Maraniss was an expert on his work. Calderon.

Mr. Spratlan, now retired from Amherst’s music division, recalled in a phone interview, “What a wonderful coincidence. The two men, friends and neighbors in adjoining apartments in a house on campus, soon began working together and completed the three-part opera in 1978. That year, Mr. Maraniss also published “On Calderon,” a study of the writer’s plays, including “La Vida es sueño,” about a prince who comes into conflict with his father king.

Mr. Maraniss, familiar with Calderon’s rhythm and language, animated the libretto.

Mr Spratlan said: “Jim tried to take extremely elaborate 17th-century Spanish, the equivalent of Elizabethan English, with very high levels of expression, and translate it into modern English to preserve it. preserves all the grandeur of Spanish in its Golden Age,” said Mr. Spratlan.

However, by the time they were completed, the New Haven Opera House had ceased operations and no other opera company was in the process of producing. Frustrated for years, Mr. Spratlan finally raised money for concert performances of the second act in early 2000, first at Amherst, then at Harvard. Mr. Spratlan Nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for music and won.

However, “Life Is A Dream” has not received a full production yet until 2010, at the Santa Fe Opera.

In his review in The New York Times, Anthony Tommasini describes the libretto as “poeticly elegant” and said that Mr. Maraniss and Mr. Spratlan “honored Calderón by adhering closely to the philosophically ambiguous play, considered the ‘Hamlet’ of Spanish drama. Too tight sometimes”.

David Maraniss says his brother doesn’t complain about waiting so long for full production.

“But that libretto meant as much to Jim as anything he did in his life,” said Maraniss, a journalist and biographer. 1993 Pulitzer Prize winner to cover Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign for The Washington Post, said in a phone interview. “I can’t say the wait was as painful for Jim as it was for Lew, but it’s a great sense of relief that it’s finally been produced.”

James Maraniss and Mr. Spratlan won the 2016 Charles Ives Opera Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

James Elliott Maraniss was born on March 22, 1945 in Ann Arbor, Mich. rewrote the man in The Detroit Times after an informant identified him as a Communist, found a job at The Capital Times. His mother, Mary (Cummins) Maraniss, was an editor at the University of Wisconsin Press.

After graduating from Harvard University in 1966 with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish literature, Mr. Maraniss earned a master’s degree in the same discipline. He then began his PhD in Romance languages ​​and literature at Princeton University. It was issued in 1975.

After several months working for Wisconsin Governor Patrick Lucey on Native American and immigrant worker issues, Mr. Maraniss was hired at Amherst in early 1972, where he remained until his retirement that year. 2015. He teaches Spanish culture and literature in Spanish.

Until recently, he was still working on the translation of “Don Quixote”.

In addition to his brother, Mr. Maraniss is survived by his wife, Gigi Kaeser; his daughter, Lucia Maranis; his sons, Ben and Elliott; his stepson, Michael Kelly; and sister Jean Alexander. Another sister, Wendy, died in 1997.

After “Life Is a Dream”, Mr. Maraniss wrote Portuguese lyrics to James Taylor’s 1985 song “Only a Dream in Rio” and translated novels and novels in the 1990s by Antonio Benitez-Rojo. , a Cuban and a voice expert in Caribbean literature who served as professor of Spanish at Amherst.

“I was bored with being a scholar until I started a new life as his interpreter,” Mr. Maraniss said in an obituary of Mr. Benitez-Rojo, “And in a sense his presenter comes to the English-speaking world, to share his level of power, which is a great art.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/24/arts/music/james-maraniss-dead.html James Maraniss, Long-Silent Opera Vocalist, Dies at 76

Fry Electronics Team

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