Eastern Nazarene to present world premiere of new opera

Quincy composer transforms Chaucer tale into plea for religious tolerance

QUINCY, MA Dec. 12, 2007— When Quincy composer Delvyn Case decided to write an opera about religious tolerance, he chose a rather unlikely source of inspiration: The Prioress’s Tale, one of Chaucer’s famed Canterbury Tales that features decidedly anti-Semitic overtones.

An assistant professor of music at Eastern Nazarene College, Case was only too aware of the sensitivity involved in a Christian liberal arts college presenting an opera based on an anti-Semitic story. He reached out, therefore, to local rabbis and members of the South Shore’s Jewish community to gain their input as to the best way to transform Chaucer’s tale into a moving musical plea for religious tolerance and cultural understanding.

The result is The Prioress’s Tale, Case’s original one-act chamber opera which will make its world premiere at Eastern Nazarene’s Cove Fine Arts Center on January 17. Directed by Andrew Ryker, the performance will feature three of Boston’s best young opera singers in the principal roles. A panel discussion involving both Christian and Jewish clergy will follow the 7 p.m. performance.

"As a Christian, I’m saddened by the long history of intolerance that has been manifested by some Christians, and the deep rifts between Christians and Jews that still exist due to this deplorable past," Case said. "I felt that, as a composer, I could contribute positively to our public dialogue about these issues."

Working with librettist Christopher Hood, Case recast Chaucer’s original story of violence perpetrated against Christians by a Jewish man into a one-act opera focused on forgiveness, redemption and reconciliation.

"Our story is a tragic parable in which the reality of violence serves as an overall message about the power of forgiveness and peace," said Case, who noted that production of The Prioress’s Tale was supported by contributions from a wide variety of secular and religious organizations, including ENC’s Holocaust Studies fund, Jewish and Christian individuals, and Quincy churches representing six different Christian denominations. "We hope our opera communicates a deep respect for the victims of religious violence while also dramatically illustrating the terrible consequences of bigotry and hatred."

"As a Christian community, ENC strives to embody academic excellence, personal integrity, and respect for each individual," said ENC President Corlis McGee, who will offer welcoming remarks at the opera’s premiere. "By fostering religious understanding and appreciation, The Prioress’s Tale supports this mission, and we are so fortunate to have a composer of Professor Case’s caliber among our talented faculty."

Case’s music has earned recognition from numerous organizations, including The Society of Composers, The American Composers Forum, The MacDowell Colony, the Orvis Foundation, The New York Virtuoso Singers and The Chicago Ensemble. In 2000, his sacred song-cycle No Secret Hidden received a BMI Student Composer Award, considered to be one of the most prestigious prizes for a young composer in the Western Hemisphere.

Case holds a B.A. summa cum laude from Yale University and a Ph.D. in musical composition from the University of Pennsylvania. Before coming to ENC in 2004, he served as an adjunct faculty member at Boston College.

The Prioress’s Tale will make its world premiere Thursday, January 17 at 7 p.m. at Eastern Nazarene College’s Cove Fine Arts Center, 23 East Elm Ave., Quincy, Mass. An encore performance will be held Saturday January 19 at 7 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for seniors; students of all ages are free. For more information, call 617-745-3614 or visit