Vollrath’s opera ‘The Quest’ finds new audience through YouTube

"The Music Man" statue by Huo Bao Zhu that sits outside of the John M. Long School of Music was dedicated last week in honor of Dr. Carl Vollrath.

An opera written and composed a Troy University music professor in the 1960s and only performed on three consecutive nights in 1966 has now been reprised for a larger audience on YouTube.

Dr. Carl Vollrath wrote the two-act opera, “The Quest,” during his doctoral studies at Florida State University. The opera is based on the Children’s Crusade of 1212 and included 100 cast members.

The Florida State University School of Music and Opera Guild performed the opera on June 10-12, 1966, in Tallahassee, but it has not been performed since. However, a recording of one of those performance has now made its way to YouTube thanks to John Thrasher.

Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr., Chancellor, announced the dedication of the statue in honor of Dr. Vollrath following a reception in Vollrath’s honor.

“I met Carl through my girlfriend, who was a student here, and I got to know him over the course of several months,” Thrasher said. “I saw his passion for what he did, his travels around the world and his musical influences. He told me about a pet project that he had done years ago and he gave me a recording of it. I told him I could help him get it on YouTube. I knew it was a big passion of his and I wanted to help him get it on YouTube for the sake of posterity.”

Thrasher did the video editing on the project and collaborated with recent TROY graphic design graduate Mya Steele, who provided illustrations for the project.

“Historical accounts tell us that there were two children’s crusades, one in France and one in Germany,” Vollrath said. “There were many common themes in the two crusades, so I put the two stories together in my opera. These are stories that have a lot of underlying meanings and are certainly stories that we should continue to keep in mind today.”

Reaching new audiences through YouTube wasn’t as easy as the process may seem. The original performance was recorded by the radio station at Florida State, but those tapes were no longer available. Fortunately, an individual viewing the opera from the balcony recorded the performance on a personal recording device. Vollrath said the recording had to be “cleaned up” and he received help from fellow TROY professor Robert Smith and one of his students.

Dean of Libraries Dr. Chris Shaffer, Dr. Hawkins and Walter Givhan, Senior Vice Chancellor for Advancement and Economic Development, presented Dr. Vollrath with a plaque that will hang in the room in the library that will house his original musical works.

Vollrath said he was grateful to all those who had helped throughout the process to ensure that “The Quest” could reach others.

A member of the TROY faculty since 1965, Vollrath was honored by Troy University with a reception on Wednesday to recognize the availability of the opera on YouTube and also to dedicate the statue, “The Music Man” by the artist Huo Bao Zhu, outside of John M. Long Hall and a room in the University’s library in his honor. In addition, a room in the Troy Campus library was dedicated as The Archive of Carl Vollrath’s Music, containing a large number of his original musical scores and works.

“The more I get to know about Dr. Carl Vollrath, the more impressed I am,” said Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr., Chancellor. “He truly has influenced music education at all levels. He has inspired generations of students. He is an artist himself and has composed over 70 published works, including six symphonies and an opera, and he honors us by his friendship and his great work.”