About the Opera
The opera Benjamin Franklin consists of scenes that highlight the intriguing and complex issues, both public and private, that defined the man and his times.

The text of the opera is in Franklin’s own words, borrowed from his extensive body of writing.

The drama occurs over the course of Franklin’s lifetime, which spanned most of the eighteenth century, the period of Enlightenment, of knowledge and rationality,  political independence and social reform.

The various scenes unfold chronologically, illustrating places and events during the span of Franklin’s lifetime. Events are set in Colonial America, England, France, and finally the United States of America. Simultaneously the drama presents the many faces of Franklin as moralist, business leader and philanthropist, artist, scientist, and statesman. In England we hear a movement from Franklin’s original string quartet. At Versailles Mozart plays his own composition on Franklin’s Glass Armonica.

In addition the opera considers Franklin’s complex relationship to women, as well as the painful history concerning his son William, who was an English sympathizer at the time of the American Revolution. In different scenes throughout the opera, a video screen displays images of current and historical events in American culture which have been directly influenced by the life and works of Franklin.     

The music in the opera employs simple patterns and inventions that form the structural and textural basis of the work. Musical patterns such as the subtle alternation of major and minor harmonies are used to underscore the delicate and often difficult position in which Franklin served as go-between for Britain and Colonial America. Rhythmic and harmonic devices such as lengthening and shortening of beats in sequence, cycling through neighboring tonalities, and singing and playing in different keys at the same time represent a simple, yet powerful tension which define the conditions under which the events of the opera occur.

The orchestration is lightly scored, with winds and brass in twos, piccolo, tuba, and percussion. Along with conventional arias and ensembles, various solo instrumental combinations accompany theatrical speaking and vocal recitative.