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THE FURNISHED ROOM  

 

 

An opera in one long act, based on the short story by O. Henry. 

 

Libretto by Richard Kuss 

 

Duration: 90 minutes. 

 

Young Man

Tenor

Jess/Neighbor Woman

Soprano

James/Harold

Boy soprano

Marie/She #2

Soprano

Roland/He #2

Tenor

Sprowls/She #1

Mezzo Soprano

Mooney/He #1

Baritone

Drayman/Uncle

Bass

Mrs. Purdy

Contralto

Mrs. McCool/Neighbor

Contralto

 

 

Synopsis

 

Early 1900s, a cheap boarding house in New York City.

 

A young man has come to New York in hopes of finding his sweetheart who left him to seek a career on the professional stage, and from whom he has not heard in some time. His search has ultimately taken him to the lowest echelon of the theatrical district. He asks the question, “You may have seen her?” of those he passes on the street. 

At length he arrives at a boarding house, still asking about his “mignonette.”  One of the rooms in the house tries to light up, seemingly beckoning to him.  He is weary; he rings the bell. 

In the house we meet Mrs. Purdy, the landlady, and her friend, Mrs. McCool. They part and Mrs. Purdy goes to the door. She lets the young man in and takes him up the stairs to the room. She sings the sad tale of New  York City furnished rooms. She leaves him briefly to get water and towels. As he inspects the room, the past tenants make their appearance to the audience (but not to the young man, though he senses their presence). Each character has his or her own particular musical theme. Mrs. Purdy returns and the young man decides to take the room.       

As he tries to make himself at home, the sounds of other people about the house come crashing through. We are always in conflict with the sounds of the present and the voices of the past. The past wins out as the ghosts of Jess and James (the scarlet woman and her illegitimate son), Marie and Roland  (the runaway young lovers), and Sprowls and Mooney (a middle‑aged vaudevillian couple), surround him. They build into the sextet "A hell of a home." The Drayman (death) enters and flirts with them all, but chooses (by symbolically tossing his cigar onto the bed), mignonette. At this moment the young man realizes she has been there and searches the room for any sign of her, during which time the ghosts begin to taunt him. He knows she has been  there, senses her, hears her presence as her music sings out in the orchestra ... but  all he finds is the Drayman's cigar.       

He returns to Mrs. Purdy and Mrs. McCool and asks again about mignonette. They reply once more that they never knew such a young woman. He returns to his room and covers the air passages and turns on the unlighted gas. We close on Mrs. Purdy and Mrs. McCool having their beer.

 

Daniel S. Crafts

7285 Spruce Mt. Loop

Rio Rancho, N.M.  87144

(505) 867‑9756

wilroc@juno.com