If you go to The Prairie Home Companion page and then click on Segment 1 you can then move in to 21:06 or so and hear the composer speak. When you get to the music you will also hear a former singer from Opera San Jose, Brian Leerhuber, singing the lead role of Tom Joad. Cool eh? (The second song they sing is lovely.)

If you go here you can also hear Brian in a couple of other things (look to the right).

Robert Orth is also in the cast; I performed A Waterbird Talk with him a few years back, when San Jose Chamber Orchestra did it. What a talent!


  1. Oops.  I posted this comment in the wrong place, so I’m posting it here now.

    Gee.  Thanks for posting this.  I didn’t know anything about this opera
    until now.  I love the novel, and I have always found Steinbeck’s
    language extremely musical, but this is not at all the musical voice I
    would have in mind for “The Grapes of Wrath.”  It is kind of Barberish
    and kind of Bernstein-like, cast in a kind of stock Americana with a
    lot of simple, happy harmony and loads of repetition.  Having singers
    use diction like “fur” for “for” and “acrost” for “across” is something
    that I need to chew on for a while before I can swallow it. 

    can’t really say anything about the opera as a whole, but from this
    Prairie Home Companion snip, it does seem to be an opera for the
    typical PHC listener.


  2. Patricia Mitchell

    That brings up a good question: who IS the typical PHC listener? 🙂

    I really liked the second clip on PHC, but I can’t say anything more about the opera until I hear it completely, and who knows when that will be?! (It would be great if Opera San Jose could do it, but I’m not holding my breath.) I hear it’s a four hour opera, too, and I’m guessing it’ll be shortened before the next run.