Shawn Jaeger’s Payne Hollow, a one-act opera, will have its world premiere on March 14th and 16th at the Bard College Conservatory of Music.

Payne Hollow is based on Wendell Berry’s short play, Sonata at Payne Hollow (Larkspur, 2010), which depicts, in verse, the lives of writer and painter Harlan Hubbard and his wife AnnaIn the early years of their marriage, beginning in 1946, they lived and travelled the Ohio River on a shantyboat they built themselves. Over a period of about four years, they drifted from Brent, Ohio (near Cincinnati) to New Orleans, a distance of about 1385 miles.

After their trip was over they settled on a small plot of land overlooking the Ohio River at Payne Hollow, on the Kentucky side of the river near Madison, Indiana. Here they lived without electricity or machinery or other necessities of modern life. They nevertheless lived graceful, energetic and productive lives, fascinated by the beauty of their place and the river.  They took joy in music, painting, reading, writing, gardening and one another.

Wendell Berry became friends with the Hubbards in 1964. In 1989, when Mr. Berry was asked to deliver the Blazer Lectures at the University of Kentucky the topic he chose was what he had been long thinking about – the “exemplary” lives of Harlan and Anna Hubbard.  Subsequently he wrote Harlan Hubbard, Life and Work (University Press of Kentucky, 1990).

All new editions of Mr. Berry’s books have Harlan Hubbard’s artwork on the covers.

The world-premiere of Payne Hollow will be March 14th and 16th at Bard College Conservatory of Music, near Annandale-on-Hudson, New York.