Librettists are used to coming in second. Although their work creates the structure on which an opera or song cycle rests, they’re seldom credited as a work’s creators. And they don’t get much time to do their stuff. “Usually the librettist gets about a month,” says Mark Campbell, “and the composer gets four years. I have honestly been given less time to work on a libretto than it has taken to get the contract signed.”
This short time frame, however, means Campbell is able to write a lot of librettos. “Rappahannock County,” his song cycle with Ricky Ian Gordon that opens in Norfolk on April 12, is just one of five premieres he’s having this year, many of them in the Washington area. There’s “And the Curtain Rises,” a new musical playing at the Signature Theatre through April 10. There’s “The Inspector,” an opera he wrote with John Musto that will have its world premiere April 27. There’s “Silent Night,” an opera written with Kevin Puts that is in rehearsals now for a premiere next November at the Minnesota Opera. And there’s “Later the Same Evening,” the Edward Hopper opera Musto and Campbell wrote for a Washington premiere in 2007, which is opening this summer in a revised version at Glimmerglass, the festival in Upstate New York.