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The Gambler’s Son: A Performance Companion Guide of Dr. Tyler Goodrich White’s Opera

Patrick McNally, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This document is intended to be a practical tool for anyone interested in performing or developing a deeper appreciation for the opera The Gambler’s Son by Tyler Goodrich White. Premiered and produced by UNL Opera in October, 2019, The Gambler's Son is based on Mari Sandoz’s Son of the Gamblin’ Man and Robert Henri’s The Art Spirit. The document presents brief biographies of the composer Tyler Goodrich White and his wife, the librettist, Laura White. A discussion of the work's inspiration and evolution includes a review of the process by which the two works of literature were melded into one cohesive libretto. Preceding the analysis of the opera, this study places The Gambler’s Son into the context of modern American opera in the 21st century. Sixty-three contemporary American operas that premiered five years prior to The Gambler’s Son were considered for comparison. The analysis of the opera is presented from a performance perspective. White uses a serial twelve-tone technique to structure the opera. However, unlike many post-tonal operas, The Gambler's Son contains memorable recurring musical themes akin to the Wagnerian leitmotif. The document provides analysis of those musical themes, emphasizing their important role in giving the opera musical, dramatic, and aesthetic quality and accessibility. Following the analysis, vocal and dramatic demands of the cast are presented, role by role, along with historical information about each character. Musical and staging information on the world premiere is provided, as well as suggestions of possible adaptations for future productions. The appendix features a line-by-line analysis of the sourcing of the libretto, a cataloguing of the major musical themes, extensive interview transcripts with the composer and librettist, a program from the original production, a list of themes, and a number of production images from the premiere. The author of this document, baritone Patrick McNally, created the role of John J. Cozad in the 2019 premiere production.

Subject Area

Music|Musical performances|Biographies

Recommended Citation

McNally, Patrick, "The Gambler’s Son: A Performance Companion Guide of Dr. Tyler Goodrich White’s Opera" (2021). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI28652826.