In 1992, writer Alfred Kazin began an article in The New York Review of Books with what today would seem a startling question: “Why is there no opera of The Scarlet Letter?” He must not have known Richard Alan White. Mr. White began conceptualizing his opera, “Hester,” named after the protagonist of Hawthorne’s classic American novel, in the 1970’s. At the time Mr. White began putting pencil to music paper, two major operas had in fact been inspired by The Scarlet Letter: Damrosch’s 1895 opera and Giannini’s in 1938, though neither became household names. To date, Mr. White’s approach to composing this classic is unique. With a focus on Hester Prynne, Mr. White brings a truth to the story’s emotional depth. “I’ve worked in prisons. I was a NYC caseworker for the Dept. of Social Services and have worked with countless single mothers. I’ve known people who have been killed,” he said. Hester is not a fantastical melodrama. It is about real life and is more relevant today than ever before.”
Richard Alan White, 82, is an emerging composer based in Brooklyn, New York. He has a Master of Arts, Music Composition, from Columbia University, (1957). Both the librettist and the composer of Hester, he is also a trained actor and singer with a long list of acting and singing credits. He studied composition with Robert Starrer, Hall Overton, Jack Beeson, Otto Leuning, and acting with Uta Haagen, Alice Spivak, and Stephen Strimpell. He attended lectures in Darmstadt, Germany with Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and Olivier Messiaen. This is his first professional performance of any of his works. From New England, he has family roots in Salem, Mass., which is the location of the Custom House in Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.