Aaron James, a football superstar, discovers what money and power can't buy, as he confronts the temptations and pressures of life off the field, and how they shape his relationship with a twelve year-old boy who idolizes him. This richly melodic opera is a poignant exploration of individual accountability, the myth of celebrity, and single parenting.
The curtain comes up on Aaron James, a star wide-receiver, as he makes a winning play in a critical game for his team, The Hawks. Aaron has become a pal and surrogate father to Casey, a troubled kid whose mother, Jenny, works as a secretary for the tough-talking team owner, Doris.
Casey idolizes Aaron not realizing the player has a second life off the field as a compulsive gambler. An enforcer for the mob appears to demand that Aaron throw a game to pay off his growing debts.
Against a backdrop of sport radio broadcasts that reveal the extent of Aaron's popularity, Casey becomes more and more attached to him.
The team owner buys him out of debt, but the enforcer still demands Aaron throw the game. Otherwise, he threatens to release photographs of Aaron gambling in Las Vegas that will end his career. Although he never decides to throw the game, Aaron does drop the winning pass depriving his team of a championship.
Casey overhears a conversation between Aaron and Doris in which she accuses him of dropping the pass on purpose. The boy is devastated. After his mother holds Aaron accountable for her son's disillusionment, the player decides to redeem himself by admitting his gambling to Casey and the world, and quits the game.
He's a giant on the gridiron, but real life cuts him down.
Composer Mike Reid was a college football star at Penn State who went on to play pro ball with the Cincinnati Bengals. Speaking of DIFFERENT FIELDS, Reid says, "My inspiration to write DIFFERENT FIELDS was simple. I love sitting in a theatre and having an ensemble of singers tell me a story with music. As a songwriter, I have always believed that the best and most interesting life a song can have is in the context of a narrative. Songs that express an intensity of emotion beyond what can be said with speech are, for me, the very heart and soul not only of musical theatre, but opera as well.
DIFFERENT FIELDS is not so much a piece about football as it is a story about the myth of celebrity. In too many cases the always attractive face of celebrity serves to hide the darker, more troubling fact that many of our heroes today are simply not who we think they are. Something happens to young people when they are thrust into too much power simply because they have extraordinary athletic gifts. They start believing they don't have the same faults and failings as everyone else. There is a saying: Athletics builds character. That implies if you're not involved in sports, you have no character. Well, the country is finding that's not true. Aaron James learns that honesty is a choice that must be made. DIFFERENT FIELDS is concerned with the loss of heroes and being careful with what is offered. What is chosen."
The six roles in DIFFERENT FIELDS are written to be sung by a baritone, soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, boy soprano, and bass-baritone. The piece can be presented with minimal sets and costumes.
A Musical Drama
Music by MIKE REID
Libretto by SARAH SCHLESINGER
NOTE: The names of the Composer, Lyricist, and Bookwriter shall be equal in size, type, coloring, boldness, and prominence. No billing shall appear in type larger or more prominent than the billing to the Authors except for the title of the Play.
AARON JAMES (baritone): a wide receiver at the height of his career. He is in his early thirties.
JENNY WILLIS (soprano): the team secretary. She is 31 years old. The mother of Casey Willis.
CASEY WILLIS (boy soprano): Jenny's twelve-year old son.
DORIS WARNER (mezzo): a flamboyant woman in her forties. She was the trophy wife of the deceased owner of the Hawks football team.
CAL FARBER (tenor): a radio sports personality in his forties.
RON BOWEN (bass-baritone): An enforcer for a Vegas syndicate.
Reed 1 (Flute, Piccolo)
Reed 2 (Oboe, English Horn)
Reed 3 (Clarinet)