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Beeson, Jack

Jonah (1948-50)

Duration: 115 minutes
Opera in three acts (or two acts)

Libretto by the composer after the play by Paul Goodman (E)

colS,S,M,A,2T,2Bar,3B (sharing 19 roles); chorus 2(I=picc,II=picc,afl).1.2(II=bcl).2- t.mil/SD/tgl/xyl/BD-harp-pft-strings(
Abbreviations (PDF)

This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the world.


JonahBuffo Bass
His Wife, HephizabahContralto or Mezzo Soprano
An Angel/The Captain of the Glory of TammuzBaritone
First Idolatress / First LadyColoratura Soprano
Second Idolatress / Second LadySoprano
Third Idolatress / Third LadyMezzo Soprano
First Sailor / A DukeTenor
Second Sailor / An Urban GuideBaritone
Third Sailor / A PeasantBass
A Meditative Man / An AstrologerBass
The KingBass
A Child's Voicechorus soprano
A Seasick Passengerchorus tenor
A Sirenchorus mezzo soprano
A Messengerchorus baritone
Two Spiesspeaking parts
Sailors, Nineviteschorus

Time and Place
Biblical, Nineveh

The prophet Jonah is visited by an angel. He is commanded to go to Nineveh and proclaim that the city shall be destroyed in 40 days. Jonah disobeys and decides to sail to Tarshish. When his ship begins to sink, Jonah realizes that he is the cause of trouble and begs to be thrown overboard. He is quickly swallowed by a Leviathan. After awakening in the belly of the whale, the angel appears and again commands him to go to Nineveh. Jonah relents and delivers the message. He convinces the king that the city will be destroyed, and the people repent. After 40 days have passed and nothing has happened, Jonah, who has built a small booth just outside the city, is visited by the people. Jonah is annoyed that God sent him on this mission and then spared the people of Nineveh. The angel then appears and destroys Jonah's watermelon. An ensuing storm knocks the angry Jonah to the ground. The angel asks why Jonah is concerned about a watermelon, yet begrudges the salvation of the seven million inhabitants of Nineveh?


Mythology, Religion, Society

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