Seymour Barab

  • Mr. Barab was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1921, and began his professional career as a church organist at the age of thirteen. “I was preparing for a career as a pianist when the conductor of the high school orchestra persuaded me to study the cello. I later became a cellist in the orchestra and after graduation auditioned for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. I was accepted and have since appeared with principal orchestras throughout the country such as the Cleveland, San Francisco and Philadelphia.”

    Mr. Barab’s interest in contemporary music led to a close association with American composers, whose music he began to perform while he was still in high school. Before leaving Chicago, he became a founder of the New Music Quartet; and then in New York City of the Composer’s Quartet, the resident quartet of Columbia University, whose primary purpose was to promote contemporary music. On the other end of the spectrum, he played the viola da gamba and helped form the New York Pro Musica, one of the first contemporary ensembles to reintroduce baroque and renaissance music. He has been a member of the faculties of Rutgers University, Black Mountain College and the New England Conservatory of Music, although he is mainly self-taught in composition.

    Following military service in World War II, he took advantage of the G.I. Bill to spend a year in Paris, where he explored his own talents for musical composition. In this one year alone, he produced over two hundred art songs and other works. Vocal music has in fact become Barab’s favorite means of musical expression. “It is less abstract,” he observes. “The words of a poem immediately suggest music to me.”

    Barab’s proclivity for musical theatre has made his operas consistently performed, especially his comic one-acts and those for young audiences. According to Central Opera Service, during the 88-89 season, he was the most performed composer of opera in America. His fellow composer, Miriam Gideon, has called him “the Rossini of our time.” His Little Red Riding Hood was the first American opera performed in China in its post-isolationist period. His highly praised full- length Civil War opera Philip Marshall, which uses Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot as its point of departure, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

    The Toy Shop, commissioned by the New York City Opera, was performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and in 1998, scenes from the Pied Piper of Hamlin were also performed there, where he was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Opera Association.

    Seymour’s Cosmos Cantata, was set to a text by the novelist Kurt Vonnegut and commissioned and performed by the Manhattan Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Richard Aldon Clark. Of their collaboration, Kurt Vonnegut says: “Barab’s music is full of magic. He proved to an atheist that God exists. What an honor to have worked with him.”

  • Cover Title (Subtitle) Duration Instrumentation
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    Voice and Piano
    411-41041 The Rivals
    Four Songs for High Voice and Piano
    16633 American Punchlines
    Opera in 1 Act
    16633 60:00 Piano
    16634 Androcles and the Lion
    Opera in 1 Act.
    16634 50:00 Piano
    10115 The Betrothal of Becky Brown
    Opera in 1 Act
    10115 30:00 1 – a cappella version (Piano/Vocal score available for rehearsal. If a cappella is not possible, it may be accompanied by string quartet, duplicating the vocal parts) 2- Chamber Orchestra (composer will orchestrate to order)
    411-41137 The Betrothal Of Becky Brown
    Opera In One Act
    16636 Cinderella
    A Fairy Tale Opera in 1 Act
    16636 120:00 1 1 2 1 – 2 1 1 0; Perc. Str. or Piano
    16635 The Code of the West
    Opera in 1 Act
    16635 Piano
    16637 Jewish Humor from Oy to Vey
    Opera in 1 Act
    16637 60:00 Piano
    16638 Let’s Not Talk About Lenny Any More
    Opera in 1 Act
    16638 40:00 Piano (orchestration available)
    16639 Mating Habits of the Radical Chic
    Opera in 1 Act
    16639 Piano
    16640 The Pied Piper
    Opera in 1 Act
    16640 50:00 Piano
    16625 Reba
    Opera in 1 Act
    16625 Piano
    16642 Say Cheese
    Opera in 1 Act
    16642 40:00 Piano
    16643 Scenes in Wonderland
    Opera in 1 Act
    16643 40:00 Piano
    16644 Sleeping Beauty
    Opera in 2 Acts
    16644 120:00 Piano or 1 1 2 1 – 2 1 1 0; Perc. Str.

    …exciting to read and equally pleasant to hear.
    …always fun for the adults as well as children.

    –Barbara Lockard-Zimmerman, Opera for Youth Journal

  • 1998: Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Opera Association
    Opera Philip Marshall nominated for Pulitzer Prize