The Scarlet Letter — Opera in 2 Acts

2008, rev. 2016 | 3 lead roles for soprano, tenor and baritone; 3 minor roles for mezzo-soprano, tenor and baritone, small chorus (at least 8), non speaking child’s role and chamber orchestra).

Full length opera in 2 Acts, to libretto by poet David Mason based on the Hawthorne classic. Approximately 2 hours long, in 2 Acts (6 scenes). Please see my Opera page and Opera Catalog for more information. There is also a one hour abridged version for 5 voices and piano. Please contact me for more information. And to purchase the Naxos recording please click here.

There are several stand-alone arias, available for PDF download on this site, from my MusicaNeo site. Classical Vocal Reprints also sells hard copies.

Act I, Scene 2 from the opera (aka “The Prison Scene”) is also available excerpted as a duet for baritone and soprano.

You can purchase the Piano Vocal score from MusicaNeo (link below) or from Classical Vocal Reprints. If you purchased a Piano Vocal Score prior to April 2024, please contact me for a complimentary updated score.

Please note:

The language used to describe Native Americans is taken from the Hawthorne and is not meant to be viewed through today’s lens. It is used to portray the way the Puritans thought of the native population and does not reflect the views that David Mason or I have.

Nevertheless, here are some substitute lyrics:

Act I Scene 1, 268-9: Alternate words for Chillingworth:
Long was my journey
/by land and by sea,/my bondage far off/among the natives.

Today this fellow here/has kindly  brought me/out of captivity.

Act I Scene 2, 43:

Instead of “Above a year I’ve sojourned with the savages” — the word savages can be changed to “natives here”.

The notes would remain the same but the rhythms would change to 2 8th notes followed by a quarter note on beat 2 for the word “here” (which would remain tied over…).

MUSICAL AND LITERARY SKETCHES from the creation of the work:


First ideas for the piano accompaniment to Beyond All Price (Hester’s Lullaby).
The ideas for the opening of Act I, Scene 4, are scribbled on the back of an envelope. The rhythm is meant to convey a heartbeat, and the dynamic contrasts the difference between the strong (Chillingworth) and the weak (Dimmesdale). I was obviously wondering whether to construct Dimmesdale’s vocal line so as to reflect his illness, or whether that revelation would be premature. I have no idea what the $110 and $150 scribbles refer to, but Jeff Sharkey and Pat O’Neill (sic) of Peabody had apparently called me!
The opening draft for the beginning of Act I, Scene 3, done in my NYC apartment. Carol Kimball must have been visiting me, as I remember singing this opening to her, and she was surprised that I would sing through my compositions as I was writing them.
Even before getting to music paper, I had some ideas – here they are drafted on a printed copy of the libretto.
A sketch of “One Law” chorus, as it appears in the earlier version of the Piano Vocal score. I wound up using many of my original ideas, and purposely constructed the melody, using the same pitch of “One” and “Law” – to further underscore their meaning.
A sketch of “Our Nights,” Dimmesdale’s big aria in Act I, Scene 4. This sketch is of the end, beginning on the “depravity” – here sketched on as “dep.” I often just notate a few words to indicate where I am in the vocal line.
During any composition, I will often hit a “problem spot,” and then spend countless hours trying to discover how best to solve it. Music paper never seems to be at hand when the solution finally presents itself. I remember scribbling this in my car, on the back of a receipt from Apex Optical. It’s for Dimmesdale’s aria “Ye People of New England,” and I wound up using the high G (suggested in pencil) instead of the E flat, for the line “ours to share.”


 Dave begins to plot 6 scenes for the libretto. Notice his focus on big thematic issues: “Adulteress, angel,” etc.
These appear to be notes toward a chorus in Act I.
The six major scenes more clearly plotted in notes, with some emphasis on the way time becomes a character in Hawthorne’s story.
These appear to be notes linking ideas from Hawthorne to the six major scenes of the libretto.
More notes on ideas from Hawthorne keyed to the text of the novel itself. 
Draft of two pages from the final scene of the opera with some insertions and deletions. The chorus is singing about election day while Hester is plotting to book space on a ship for herself, her daughter, and her lover, Dimmesdale.