Since 1994, David Scott Marley has been acclaimed by both audiences and critics for a series of English-language adaptations of operas and operettas, all of which premiered with West Edge Opera (formerly Berkeley Opera):
- The Manga Flute, a new musical fantasy that places the characters from Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte into a story inspired by manga and anime, Japanese graphic novels and animatated films.
- Stories by Hoffmann, a new libretto in English for Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann, about the writer E.T.A. Hoffmann, his obsessive love for a young soprano, and the dark fantasies he dreamed about her
- a new, authentically American libretto for Puccini’s The Girl of the Golden West, set in a mining camp during the California Gold Rush
- a dramatic new version of Carmen based on Bizet’s own edition of his score and the original Prosper Merimée novella
- Daughter of the Cabinet, Lecocq’s operetta La Fille du Madame Angot made into a bawdy satire of current American politics
- The Riot Grrrl on Mars, Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri retold in the style of a low-budget 1950s sci-fi movie crossed with a modern graphic novel
- Bat out of Hell, an adaptation of Strauss’s Die Fledermaus set in Berkeley, California, in the last crazy years of the dot-com boom
- Beatrice and Benedick, adapted from Berlioz’s Béatrice et Bénédict and Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing
Mr. Marley began writing words and lyrics for musical theater in the early 1980s in Los Angeles, where for many years he was a member of the Lehman Engel Musical Theater Workshop. His second musical, All’s Fair, with music by Kurt Misar, premiered in 1989 in Portland, Oregon, where it sold out its entire six-week run and won several awards.
Whether he is presenting an unfamiliar work or showing a familiar one in a new light, Mr. Marley’s goal is always the same, to find the spirit and vigor that the work had for its first audiences and convey these same qualities to audiences today. His current projects include The Golden Slipper (a retelling of Rossini’s opera Cinderella set in ancient China) and an adaptation (as a spoken play) of Jonathan Fast’s novel The Jade Stalk.
The San Francisco Chronicle called The Riot Grrrl on Mars “a gloriously funny, tuneful evening that captures the spirit of a 184-year-old show with unerring resourcefulness,” demonstrating “a zippy gift for wordplay, with rhymes of Gilbertian intricacy and splendidly unpredictable turns of phrase.”
In its review of Daughter of the Cabinet, the East Bay Express wrote that Mr. Marley “creates the illusion of making the music fit his libretto instead of the other way around. … If 126 years didn’t separate them, one might imagine that Lecocq and Marley worked together.”
The Contra Costa Times called Mr. Marley’s Stories by Hoffmann “a witty, succinct English libretto,” while the Oakland Tribune praised it as “neat, tight, and psychologically incisive” and “illuminating.”
Of Mr. Marley’s new libretto for Carmen, the San Francisco Examiner wrote “It is the clearest, most cohesive, theatrically-musically-psychologically-editorially most valid presentation of an old, consistently abused warhorse. … If Marley worked in London or Berlin (or even in New York), his dramaturgical talent would place him in the category of Peter Sellars or Robert Wilson.”
San Francisco Classical Voice wrote of Mr. Marley’s libretto for The Girl of the Golden West, “Never was a great opera so in need of a good English translation — and now it has one courtesy of David Scott Marley …. His idiomatic language fits these characters like well-worn boots.”