Thomas Hardy wrote a tale of a tragic man whose ambitions are never realized, his love lost and his life plagued by death. Jude the Obscure interweaves the themes of education, religion, sexuality, marriage and death throughout the tale of young Jude Fawkes a stone mason would wanted nothing more than to become a scholar. With over a hundred years of separation, Allan Blank set Hardy’s work to music. The creation of the opera happened in conjunction with Hilda White and is divided into three acts and today I finally get to see the finished product.
Arabella’s Song was the very first sketch I processed roughly two years ago. At the time, I thought it was merely a poem set to music, or an arrangement. Slowly, as I opened boxes 6, 13 and now 22, the entirety of the sketch was revealed as an opera. Yes, it would have been much easier if all of the sketches and scores for Jude were neatly placed in the same box. Yet, this is one of my favorite aspects of the job: History Detective. A sketch of music, only a few lines in length, labeled Arabella’s Song led to intensive research, more processing and the eventual discovery of an opera 476 pages long.
Archival processing is just that, a process. Finding the threads of a person’s life and weaving a pattern for others to follow. The end goal of all of my work is for researchers. Musicians, historians, students to learn and grow from Allan Blank’s work. Finally, seeing the finished product as Mr. Blank had envisioned is incredible. Jude: an Opera in Three Acts is moving, tragic and beautiful. I always marvel at the creative mind and now perhaps I get a glimpse. My very own moment of “my eyes grew accustomed to the light…” Right now, I am almost done processing this box and tomorrow will open another. I wait, anxiously like Lord Carnarvon, anticipating my next discovery.