Robert Butts

Conductor ● Composer ● Educator

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Mark Twain and the General Performances in 2013

Mark Twain and the General, a forty minute opera about a moment in the lives of Mark Twain and President Ulysses S. Grant, will be performed twice in early 2013.    The poignant opera relates the meeting of Twain and Grant during the last years of Grant's life, while he was at work on his book about the Civil War.   The opera also features Julia Grant and The Cook.   

Saturday, January 12, 8:00 PM, Prallsville Mills, Stockton, New Jersey, presented by The Opera Project.  This intimate presentation will be accompanied by piano and cello/bassoon.    Tickets are $15 at the door.  For further infromation, call: 908-268-1264.

Wednesday, February 6, 2:30 PM, NJIT, Newark, New Jersey, presented with The Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey as part of a concert also featuring music by Mozart and Handel.    This presentation will be the first with full orchestra.   The concert is free and open to the public.

Jon Plaut wrote in (following a performance in August 212): "With music by the Orchestra’s music director and conductor, Dr. Robert W. Butts, and a libretto by Jewel Seehaus-Fisher, this highly thoughtful and stimulating work arouses the deepest thoughts about the Civil War, war in general, and Ulysses Grant’s place in history.   The libretto, which is sub-titled, Death Watchers: Mark Twain and the General, is profound and culminates in Julia singing in a soliloquy that she has received 'nearly a dollar for every man who died in the war.' And the music by Maestro Butts is a mixture of modern, epic classical and Civil War extracts driving us to the dramatic conclusion, as Mark Twain sings, 'He finished his book, and died the next week. His book was clarity, war is ugly but he told it fair. Battle by battle,' while Julia sings 'A best-seller, they say.' ”

New Jersey's acclaimed playwright Jewel Seehaus-Fisher adapted the opera libretto from her play of the same name.   Seehaus-Fisher has had several of her plays produced around the world, including a recent off-Broadway production of the play from which the opera was adapted.   

Robert W. Butts has been conductor of The Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey since its founding in 1996.  He has also served as Conductor/Artistic Director with In Mid Air Productions, Opera at Florham and New Jersey Concert Opera.  He was recently named Conductor of Eastern Opera Company.   He has composed several musical theater works, including an adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart to his own libretto and also in collaboration with Jewel Seehaus-Fisher Gesualdo: A Music Drama.    At the end of January, Dr. Butts will be one of seven composers participating in Atlanta Opera's 24 Hour Opera Project. 

Starring in these productions will be soprano Karole Lewis as Julia Grant, bass John Lamb as Ulysses S. Grant,  tenor Brian Jamieson as Mark Twain, and tenor Ira Barth as The Cook.   Lewis has sung with Dr. Butts as Pamina in The Magic Flute and Donna Anna in Don Giovanni and was director for the Opera at Florham production of La Traviata conducted by Dr. Butts.    John Lamb has appeared with Dr. Butts in the roles of Dr. Bartolo in Marriage of Figaro, Seneca in L'Incoronazione di Poppea, and created the role of Sir Toby in six episodes of Cakes and Ale, created by Jewel Seehaus-Fisher.    Brian Jamieson appeared with Dr. Butts in productions of Tosca, The Magic Flute, L'Incoronazione di Poppea, and The Marriage of Figaro as well as creating the role of Gesualdo in Gesualdo: A Music Drama.   Ira Barth has appeared in the chorus for L'Elisir d'amore and The Magic Flute as well as creating the role of The Cook in Mark Twain and the General.