Music: Opera in the Idiom

Jacques Wolfe, 55, composer of such famed songs as Shortnin' Bread, Glory Road, and Gwine to Hebb'n, is a man with strong feelings about "real American opera." He is convinced that it won't develop until a lot of traditional "operatic hogwash" goes down the drain. His prediction: American opera will settle in a style "somewhere between Porgy and Bess and South Pacific. Let's face it, the popular song is the American idiom." Last week Rumanian-born Composer Wolfe was illustrating his point in a theater off Broadway with a little production called Mississippi Legend.

Wolfe based his story on Novelist Roark Bradford's John...