Music: New Operas, U.S. Style

After four decades of increasing effort, U.S. opera composers are beginning to find their own level. Last week Manhattan's Columbia University Opera Workshop showed off two new works. Both were written with an eye to TV, had cast off the clichés of Italian grand-opera tradition and tried to replace them with something recognizably American: plots that deal with such topics as psychoanalysis and lynching, and melodies that have some of the easy grace—and some of the shallowness—of Broadway show tunes.

The curtain raiser was a frothy "sham in one act" called Malady of...

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