Photo: Jim Caldwell
Performed by The Houston Grand Opera, 1994
Willie Stark (1980)Duration: 140 minutes
Opera in three acts and nine scenes
Libretto by the composer, based on the book `All the King's Men' by Robert Penn Warren (E)
S,M,4T,2Bar,4speakers,mime; chorus 2(II=picc).2(II=corA).2(II=bcl).2-22.214.171.124-timp.perc(3):xyl/glsp/vib/SD/TD/BD/crash cyms/susp.cym/gong/ant.cym/bell tree/tamb/anvil/maracas/tpl.bl-harp-cel- strings
This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the world.
Harold Prince, director
Conductor: John DeMain
Company: Houston Grand Opera
|WILLIE STARK, Governor||Baritone|
|JEFF, a Senator||Tenor|
|Radio Announcer||spoken and pre-recorded|
|HUGH, another Senator||speaking role or Baritone|
|JACK BURDEN, aide to Willie Stark||Tenor|
|SADIE BURKE, Stark's administrative assistant||Mezzo-Soprano|
|SUGAR BOY, bodyguard to Willie Stark||Tenor|
|"TINY" DUFFY, Lieutenant-Governor||Tenor|
|JUDGE COURTNEY BURDEN||Bass-Baritone|
|GEORGE WILLIAM, Judge Burden's old black butler||speaking role|
|MRS. STARK, Willie Stark's mother||Soprano|
|LUCY, Willie Stark's daughter||Soprano|
Time and Place
1935, a state capital in the deep South
Willie Stark, based on the book "All the King’s Men" by Robert Penn Warren, is inspired by the life and career of Louisiana governor Huey Long. The title character has risen from a humble background to become governor of a state in the deep South. He is the grassroots champion of the working class, but behind his "country boy" image Willie Stark is also a shrewd and ruthless politician, willing to stretch the law whenever he feels constricted by its boundaries.
The story follows Willie’s schemes to avoid impeachment for re-ordering the state’s legal system to achieve his political ends. Although his attempts to do so are successful, Willie leaves many ruined lives in the wake of his political ambition. Inwardly he is torn by a profound conflict between the idealistic man who entered politics several years before and the corrupt politician he has become. Meanwhile, he falls in love with socialite Anne Stanton. She is to marry Jack, whose father, the highly respected Judge Burden, favors the impeachment. Willie asks Anne to break off her engagement with Jack and marry him instead; she agrees to do so. Willie’s longtime political associate and advisor, Sadie, finds them together and lashes out at him, since she is no longer the only woman in his life.
Judge Burden is accused of bribery and Jack finds evidence to support this, though he does not want to believe it is true. After Jack confronts his father, Judge Burden takes a pistol from his desk and ends his life. A few days later, Jack is distraught when Sadie tells him of Anne’s plans to marry Willie.
As Willie gives a speech in celebrating of his victory, Jack steps out of the crowd and fires a pistol at Willie, killing him. As someone in the crowd tries to intervene, Jack is killed too.
Relationships, Politics, Society, Literary