Sweet Bye and Bye is a deliberate poke at Aimee Semple McPherson, the larger-than-life miracle healer evangelist of the 1920s and 30s. The opera is a piece of historical fiction based on the alleged kidnapping of Aimee at a beach. She was assumd drownd, but showed up mysteriously in Arizona near the border, claiming she was kidnappd and held for ransom, but managed to escape. Skeptics charged that her disappearance was to have an affair with a married man. She enjoyed all the media attention, and continued ministering and healing, using all her theatrical ability, at her Angelius Temple in California, and also continued somewhat smaller celebraty-like [sic] scandals. Her movement was the founding of te Four Square Gospel church.
As for the opera itself, it is, in essence, a two hour parody. Two hours of a parody can get tiring, and in the several years I've owned this recording, I've always enjoyed listening to excerpts (Beeson had some great ideas), but to listen to the whole thing, or even half of it, or more than one scene, I'd rather not. The bantering back and forth between "Sister Rose" gets tiring, and in terms of character development, is simply not convincing. While the opera is a comedy, I suppose, it's brand of humor is worn after 15 minutes.
I'm also not convinced about the forced, cliche ending of the opera. It simply doesn't fit or flow into the opera, but seems like an escape to an endless parody opera.
Again, great ideas in the music, some exellent music, but the storyline itself and the character development leaves much to be desired.
Then again, how many American composers have attempted a large-scale comedy opera? Carlisle Floyd's Cold Sassy Tree is about the only successful attempt that comes readily to mind, unless you also count Bernstein's Candide.
A recorded opera of Jack Beeson's is always welcome though. His operatic contributios to American music were comparatively significant, and deserve more attention.