Gordon in the News: last updated 10/24/2008

Comedic Opera Scores First Performance in New Gordon College Science Center

Sept. 4, 2008

Jo Kadlecek
Office of College Communication

Wenham, MA--Take a bit of farce, mix it with some satire, add some singers and a small orchestra, and the result is Charles Gounod's 1859 comic opera, The Doctor in Spite of Himself.

The first musical performance ever to be held in Gordon College's MacDonald Auditorium, The Doctor in Spite of Himself will also be the final event to celebrate the dedication week for the Ken Olsen Science Center, the College's newest addition to its campus on Boston's north shore. The opera is part of a series of artistic and academic events scheduled during the week of the Sept. 27th building dedication, which is named after one of the twentieth century's pioneers in computer science and founder of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). The Science Center marks the first time Mr. Olsen has agreed to have his name associated with a building.

Gounod's 1859 comic opera The Doctor in Spite of Himself is based on a play by Molière and is part of the tradition that inspired Gilbert and Sullivan to enter the world of musical theater. After researching it from Gounod's own 600-page manuscript (housed in Yale's rare book collection), Michael Monroe, assistant professor of music, translated the French opera into English and orchestrated it for a chamber orchestra. Along with Gordon's department of music, Monroe will produce the comic opera, Ron Luchsinger of Opera North will be the guest director, and current students and alumni will perform in the eight principal roles and chorus accompanied by a student orchestra.

Monroe describes the story as one of "Molière's many jabs at the medical profession." In this case, a lumbering brute of a woodcutter is able to pass himself off as a doctor with a bit of resourcefulness and a lot of absurd Latin. Along the way, he gets the beating he deserves for mistreating his wife and manages to help out a pair of young lovers who've been kept apart by a disapproving father.

"This show provides an entertaining look at how limited our wisdom is, no matter how much we think we know. It reminds us that we can't take ourselves too seriously," said Monroe.

Though Gounod is best known for his grand operatic settings of Faust or Romeo and Juliet, Monroe said the opera, "is full of catchy tunes and cleverly constructed ensembles that match the energy of the madcap plot. Preparing this new score was fairly time-intensive, but the task of translating the French libretto into English proved to be the most creative and rewarding aspect of the project."

Performances for Charles Gounod's comic opera, The Doctor in Spite of Himself will be: Saturday, Sept. 27 at 8pm and Sunday, Sept. 28 at 3pm. They are free and open to the public. Earlier on Saturday, Sept. 27, at 11 a.m. and also in the MacDonald Auditorium, keynote speaker for the dedication week, Dr. Francis Collins, former director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, will lecture on, "Genomics and the Human Condition."

To request an interview or additional information, please contact the Office of College Communications at 978.867.4235.


Gordon College is a Christian college of the liberal arts and sciences on Boston's North Shore. The college offers majors in 37 fields and has graduate programs in education and music education. Leading the way in Christian college merit, Gordon is nationally ranked for its excellence in academics and its role in character building. These achievements recognize Gordon as one of the nation's top Christian colleges.