One of the bad things about Henry Mollicone's new opera "Hotel Eden" is that most of it is bad. The worst thing about it, however, is that the good parts come last. This violates one of the most important rules of writing, musical or otherwise: You put your best stuff (or at least some of it) first.
"Hotel Eden," which received its East Coast premiere Thursday night in Friedberg Hall in a Peabody Opera Theatre production directed by Roger Brunyate, updates three biblical stories: Adam and Eve; Noah and Mrs. Noah; and Abraham and Sarah. There's a great precedent for dramatizing such stories -- and enlivening them with contemporary detail -- in the Mystery cycles of 14th century England. Mollicone and his librettist, Judith Fein, do not live up to that precedent.
More than half of "Hotel Eden" is over before the listener gets to hear anything interesting. The piece begins with an overture for the nine-player ensemble, which was conducted by Teri Murai, that was as perky as day-old coffee. And all of the first act, which is about the consciousness-raising of Eve, is every bit as dull as the overture. The second act -- the Noah story -- is just as bad until the end, when a lovely trio that later becomes a quintet makes things interesting for a few moments. The best music comes in the final act. There's nothing genuinely memorable here, but Mollicone puts some moving and sentimental tunes in the mouths of Abraham and Sarah as they sing about what it is to love late in life. It's the sort of stuff that one might find in a fairly good Broadway show -- the only problem is that it comes too late and there's just not enough of it.