ABINADI

Detail from the poster of BYU's 2003 production of Abinadi

Music Scores and Character Plot

Please email me at mryan@choirworks.com if you are interested in viewing the orchestral score. I’ll gladly email you a PDF copy.

Video of ABINADI

  • The DVD video of my opera ABINADI as produced by Brigham Young University in 2003 was released by Covenant Communications. At this time I am not aware of any online stores carrying it and it is no longer listed on the Covenant website. Sorry! I do have a few copies of the DVD; if you are an interested producer, please email me at mryan@choirworks.com and I will gladly send you one of these.

Being that the DVD is no longer available for purchase, I feel at liberty to share this complete footage of the ‘Cast B’ performance of ABINADI, in which I play the part of King Noah. This is a handheld shoot taken by one of the cast member’s parents from the balcony of the De Jong Concert Hall in the Harris Fine Arts Center at BYU:

About the Opera

ABINADI : A Music Drama in Two Acts is based on the story of the prophet Abinadi, one of the most compelling and detailed accounts in The Book of Mormon. The story is not so much about Abinadi himself, but of the effects this prophet’s words have on King Noah, his priests, and the people of Shilom (Noah’s kingdom). Abinadi gains only one convert in the court of Noah, the priest Alma, but that one convert goes on to have a huge impact on the rest of the nation. The story is a testimony to the power one good person can have upon society, even if they may not see the fruit of their own labors.

Synopsis and Timing

Act I  (57′ 30″)

Prologue (3′ 30″) - Alma and Helam reflect on the of events leading up to the rule of king Noah.

Scene 1 (19′ 45″)- Iskal (wife of Gideon, her name means ‘wisdom’), Agath (supporter of king Noah), and Cinoa (fiancé of Helam, her name means ‘love’) gather by a well in Shilom. They talk, argue and pray about their men who have gone off to fight the Lamanites. The men return singing a war song. Helam is reunited with Cinoa and he sings of his love to her. Gideon (Captain of the Guard) is reunited with Iskal and boasts of his fighting prowess, but, seeing Iskal’s distress, he tries to comfort her. Iskal continues to speak of her worries about the state of the nation. Gideon becomes angry and commands the army to celebrate. A scuffle breaks out when some of the soldiers pull Helam away from Cinoa and begin to take improper liberties with her. It is at this time that Abinadi enters and rebukes the people for their wickedness. The soldier who accosted Cinoa most severely challenges Abinadi and calls other soldiers to take him prisoner. Iskal implores for Gideon to intercede, but he claims he cannot since the king is approaching. Noah enters with Alma and questions Gideon about the turmoil. Gideon explains that the men seek to ‘bag a prophet.’ Alma scoffs at the term ‘prophet,’ but Noah is intrigued and commands the prophet to be brought forth. The soldiers unveil a man, but it is not Abinadi (who has escaped in the confusion), it is the errant soldier. Noah condemns the man on the spot, but he pleads for his life and cries that Abinadi the prophet has escaped. Noah, upon learning more about the situation, issues a warrant for Abinadi’s arrest and asks ‘who is this Abinadi’ to condemn his people. He then commands his soldiers to sing him a song of war.

Scene 2 (27′ 30″) – Two years later in Noah’s court room. Rosewa (Noah’s favorite concubine, her name means ‘fornication’) sings and dances for the king with the other concubines of the court, but her music is interrupted by shouting from outside. Noah commands Gideon to see to it, and then speaks to Rosewa of his love. Gideon enters and proclaims that the people have brought a great gift. Noah consents to have it brought in. Abinadi enters in chains. After some help from Alma, Noah recalls who Abinadi is, and says they must have a trial and put him to death. Abinadi is ordered out and Noah commissions Alma to conduct the trial. Alma expounds his view on prophets to the court and orders the witnesses to be brought in. Agath and two other women enter. Alma examines them and they tell the words of Abinadi against the people and the king. Rosewa is infuriated and screams that this is evidence enough, but the king commands that they continue. Rosewa pouts, and the king’s attention is divided. When the witnesses finish, Noah flies into a rage. After regaining some composure, Noah professes to be nothing more than a just man who must uphold the law. Abinadi is brought in and interrogated by Alma and the four priests, Benaiah, Ithamar, Nadab and Adonijah. When the king and priests become annoyed with the direction things are taking, Noah commands the guards to take Abinadi out and slay him, stating ‘for he is mad.’ Abinadi mysteriously resists the power of the guards and they fall aside. He states he will not be allowed to be harmed until he has delivered his message, but warns that his fate and that of Noah’s are tied together. He then calls them to repentance and Alma begins to take notice of his words. Noah is only further angered. When Abinadi is finished, he commands Alma to take the priests and slay him. Alma’s role then changes from prosecutor to defender. This only further angers Noah and he commands Alma to flee or be killed. Noah motions for soldiers to follow him and orders the court cleared, but Rosewa stays behind. They argue over Alma’s fate, but Noah begins to grow suspicious of Rosewa’s loyalties and she changes the subject to love. Noah’s mood changes and they retreat together laughing.

Scene 3 (6′ 45)- On one part of the stage, Alma is remorseful about his past and pledges his future to God. On another part of the stage, Abinadi is led to the pyre amid shouts of the mob.  On yet another part of the stage, Iskal, Cinoa and Helam pray to God for protection and guidance while Alma recounts the words of Abinadi. Meanwhile, Noah commands Abinadi to remit his testimony or burn, but Abinadi will not recall his testimony and warns that if they burn him, Noah will suffer the same fate. Noah’s resolve weakens, but he is persuaded to continue by the whisperings of Rosewa, and his priests. Noah gives the order to ‘burn him’ and the torch is set to the wood. Everyone expresses their inner fears and concerns during the turmoil. The scene concludes with the ‘light’ or calling of Abinadi passing to Alma visually.

Act II (31′ 35″)

Scene 1 (7′ 00″) - Alma preaches by the well. No one seems to be listening, but Iskal notices and listens from afar. Another bystander removers her cloak. Rosewa, laughs at Alma and attempts to persuade him to come back to the court. They argue about religion and their former relationship. Alma attempts to persuade her to come with him, but in the end, though torn, she leaves. Iskal has heard this all, and comes forward to offer Alma a safer place to preach, her home.

Scene 2 (5′ 50″) – Noah’s courtroom. Musicians entertain the king. Gideon reports that neither Alma nor his followers have been found. Noah is angry and commands Gideon to find them, even if it means using torture. Gideon begins to show signs of questioning his orders, but one of the priests enters and reports that spies have found out the location of the ‘rebels.’ Rosewa laughs and mocks about the ‘rebels’ conquering the kingdom with words and baptisms. Noah insists it is serious, but Rosewa continues to defend Alma. Noah accuses her of being a traitor; he strangles, then stabs her. Gideon attempts to stop it but is restrained. Noah vocalizes a defense for his actions and then commands Gideon to go and kill the ‘rebels.’ When Gideon questions this, Noah asks if he will betray him as well, but Gideon falls in line and says the army will leave at dawn. All leave the court except one of the concubines who attends to the body of Rosewa and finds that she is not yet dead.

Scene 3 (6′ 20″) – Alma preaches baptism to his followers. Helam and Cinoa step forward and ask to be baptized. They all leave to go to the waters. Rosewa enters, supported by the concubine that attended her. She asks her to go on and warn Alma, for she can go no further. She prays for Alma’s safety and dies.

Scene 4 (2′ 30″) – The Nephite army rushes upon the camp at the waters of Mormon, only to find it deserted. Gideon offers a prayer of gratitude and then calls upon his men to rebel against the king. One soldier agrees it is the right thing, but asks how they can do it. Gideon lays forth his plan and rallies his men to follow him.

Scene 5 (4′ 20″) – Gideon comes upon the king by a tower. He is outside enjoying the air. He informs the king that his news is private and the king dismisses the concubines attending him. Gideon then tells Noah he is doomed, but Noah is flippant. Only when Gideon draws his sword does Noah begin to worry for his life and questions by what right Gideon has to do this. Gideon quotes scripture, but Noah rebukes that he is no prophet. This angers Gideon, and he says that he is right, for Noah ordered the prophet killed, as well as killed his lover and also tried to have his people murdered. They fight and is obvious that Noah will lose. He climbs the tower and cries out that the Lamanite armies are upon them. Upon confirmation, Gideon lets Noah go for the good of the people, that Noah might lead them to battle.

Scene 6 (3′ 15″) – Noah and a group of armed men enter, fleeing the Lamanite army. Noah stops and says that it is safe to rest there. The voices of women can be heard in the distance. One man speaks up that he can’t stay there, that he must go back. Noah argues with him, but another man says that he is right. The three men argue and the cries in the distance grow. Noah expounds a plan to capture Lamanite women and escape to the north, but his followers have had a full change of heart and decide to go back and defend the wives and children thta they left behind. When Noah tries to stop them, they tie him to a tree and begin to gather firewood. The priests begin to sneak away as the men burn Noah.

Epilogue (2′ 20″) – Alma leads his followers into a valley and calls it after Helam. They praise God for their deliverance.

Images from the BYU Production

Fashioning the Libretto

  • Zeniff’s Record – A Model of Chiastic Structure (PDF) : This breakdown of the chiastic structures found in the record of Zeniff was prepared as part of a paper I wrote on that subject before starting on the ABINADI libretto. I think viewing the record in this way brings out the poetic beauty of this wonderful part of The Book of Mormon.
  • Zeniffite Chronology (PDF) : This chronology regarding the people of Zeniff helped me to keep certain things straight and work out several plot points in the ABINADI libretto.

Program Notes from the 2003 Production

COMPOSER’S NOTE

It sometime seems as though I was always working on this opera, or at least preparing to work on it. The actual project named “ABINADI” began about five years ago, but I ask, how does one decide to write an opera in the first place? Certainly, my experiences and training in composition, literature, musical theatre, orchestra, choral groups and indeed performing in operas myself helped to prepare me for the challenge, but how does one wake up one day and say “I’m going to write an opera!”? To be honest, I do not exactly know myself. I believe the idea rose out of my desire to combine my various talents into something integrated and also to make a lasting contribution to society and the church. My love to create music, to sing, my love for the theatre, and most of all my love for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Book of Mormon combine in this music drama to form an offering to you, the audience.

I hope why I chose the story of Abinadi is obvious. It is a story of inherent drama. It focuses on the Savior and the opportunity he affords each of us to change and to be forgiven. The message is timeless and immortal. If there is a ‘message’ to this opera other than that, I think it is that we should not be too quick to judge our fellows. Only God can see into our hearts, and what may be invisible to all others, God can take and turn into something quite beautiful if we let him.

About the music: I have tried to underlay the dramatic material with equally dramatic music and have aimed at writing something beautiful. More than that, what can I say? I do hope this work inspires you, and that is all I can hope for.

-M RYAN TAYLOR

DIRECTOR’S NOTE

I met M. Ryan Taylor seven years ago during my first semester teaching at BYU as his voice teacher. When he brought one of his compositions to a lesson it became evident that in addition to being a fine singer, he was also a gifted composer. After Ryan finished his undergraduate studies in vocal performance he continued in the masters program as a composition student. More than a year ago, he brought sketches from his opera ABINADI to me for perusal. While reading the score, my thoughts turned to President Spencer W. Kimball‘s article, “Gospel Vision of the Arts” where he expressed his desire for “inspired hearts and talented fi ngers yet to reveal” compositions that would feature prophets relating to the restoration that would “cover every part of the globe” (Ensign, July 1977).

In literal fulfillment of that vision, we thank BYU Broadcast Services (KBYU-TV and BYU-TV) for their interest in broadcasting ABINADI. Such an endeavor will provide the opportunity for countless viewers to enjoy the power and excitement of this work.

In support of BYU’s mission to encourage and mentor students, it is my pleasure to join with the School of Music and Division of Design and Production to present M. Ryan Taylor’s ABINADI.

–LAWRENCE VINCENT

Audience Response

These audience comments came from the feedback forms that were distributed at the 2003 Spring Workshop of ABINADI . . .

  • “Thank you for bringing this passage of the Book of Mormon to life for me. I was truly touched.”
  • “The music was beautiful and the singing was wonderful.”
  • “Great singing and story line.”
  • “Thanks for the length of the show. Choral writing was very effective and lovely.”
  • “Ending was awesome.”
  • “It touched my heart.”
  • “This was wonderful. Thank you so much for bringing us the Holy Ghost. I am changed.”

External Links

Websites of some Singers who participated in the production:

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