How Natural Causes Killed Victor Came to Be Written
Robert Aldridge’s opera, Elmer Gantry, began as George Swanson was driving down I-95. The music was sweaty, pushing each other into the tent, eager, skeptical, hopeful, distracting ourselves from our G-d-awful problems. Swanson says, “I was hooked.”
He had been gathering evidence to send to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, to request an investigation into Valdez’ death as a possible Civil Rights violation. Swanson had prepared media articles about Victor Valdez, and had collected seven letters from prisoners regarding Victor’s torture and death. He says, Those letters kept echoing in my mind.” When Aldridge included bald, tacky 1920s revival songs in his opera, Swan thought, “There could be an opera about Valdez using real prison songs and new music.”
Poulenc’s Organ Concerto in G Minor made Swanson hear the organ and grand piano of St. Saviour’s Parish Church in Bar Harbor along with kettle drums. Skip Fraley’s musicianship on the wash tub demanded its part in the ensemble.
Congregations of any faith may revise the opera to present in their sacred buildings. Please contact Rev. George Swanson at george [at] katrinasdream.org
Here is the production that premiered at St. Savior’s on August 22 and 23, 2014. To learn more about the opera click here.