On the surface, Marc Blitzstein’s The Cradle Will Rock might appear to be an opera about unions and unionism. But, as the composer himself pointed out, the work squarely addresses trials faced by the middleclass and raises questions regarding economic power, class structure, hypocrisy, accountability, and social agency that remain urgent today. Many previous performances of this opera have used minimal sets and props to reflect the legendary circumstances of the renegade premiere at the Venice Theatre in 1937. Our team recognizes the need for a full-scale production that presents The Cradle Will Rock as modern music-theatre, not as a footnote in the history of 20th century theatre or dated agitprop. We propose a staging using modern, functional, and unpretentious tools to emphatically and forcefully cut through artifice and tradition in order to ask big questions: Who do the people work for? Does the engine of labor serve the many, or just the one? Is the selling of one’s efforts ever honorable or respectable?
Our proposal for The Cradle Will Rock is designed specifically to emphasize the prescience of Blitzstein’s 1937 version - we imagine it performed uncut, with his original orchestrations, and without an intermission. We share Blitzstein’s sentiment, expressed in his program notes when the opera was presented at the New York City Opera in 1960: “Let it take its chances... let it prove whether it remains an engrossing and entertaining musical stage piece.” Our team is convinced that a modern production of this opera can be built upon the scaffolding of the original text and music. By stripping away the period facade of its premiere, we hope to reveal the relevance of the work as it stands today.