School of Music

“The Summer King” Redux

If you missed the exciting world premiere of “The Summer King” last May at Merrill Auditorium in Portland or you would like to listen once again to this musical masterpiece, you will have the opportunity on Wednesday when MPBN broadcasts the unique baseball opera composed by USM’s own Dan Sonenberg in its entirety.

“The recording does a great job of capturing the excellent performers and audience enthusiasm,” Sonenberg stated. “If you didn't make it, or even if you did but want a second hearing, here's your chance!”

“The Summer King: An Opera on the Life of Josh Gibson” will be presented on MPBN’s show, “Maine Stage,” at 8-11 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 6. It can be heard on radio or streamed live here:

After 10 years of hard work, Sonenberg, USM Associate Professor of Music and Resident Composer, finally got to see his musical efforts up on stage and in the limelight. His opera was performed in concert to a standing ovation from an almost full house.

The production about the Negro League baseball legend was the season finale of Portland Ovations, which commissioned the opera. Four talented opera singers – Stephen Salters as Josh, Lori-Kay Miller as Grace, Kenneth Kellogg as Sam, and Candice Hoyes as Helen – were backed up by a cast, chorus and professional orchestra that featured numerous faculty, students and alumni from USM. Led by Steven Osgood, assistant conductor with the Metropolitan Opera, the performers took the challenging music and made it their own.

Christopher Hyde, writing in the Portland Press Herald, described Sonenberg’s music as having “a voice of its own, sardonic, wistful, lyrical or tragic, illuminating nearly every situation expressively.” The reviewer also predicted that with a complete staging, the opera “could become an American classic.”

You can read the full review here:

For more about “The Summer King,” go here:

Caption: Stephen Salters as Josh sings to Candice Hoyes, playing Josh's wife, Helen, during the May 8 production of Dan Sonenberg's "The Summer King" at Merrill Auditorium, Portland (photo courtesy of Portland Ovations).