An Opera in Two Acts
Libretto by William Luce
2 Sopranos, 2 Mezzo-Sopranos, 2 Tenors, Baritone, Bass-Baritone (constructed so that only 8 singers are needed; each person may play up to 3 parts)
2(Pic)/1(Eng. Horn)/2(Bass Clar.)/12/2/2/0 1/2/1/1 Strings
Approx. 2 hours
CLARA (mezzo); several arias, ensembles, etc. onstage a lot, needs endurance, has some resting spots in the work; must portray Clara Brown both as an older and as a younger black woman.
CHIVINGTON (tenor) The character who interacts the most with Clara; moderately taxing, one aria, ensembles.
BLACK SUPPORTING ROLES
BECKY (sop) Clara’s friend; 2 scenes
LIZA JANE (sop) Clara’s lost daughter, appears in last scene; sings sustained lyric duet with Clara (hi b)
ELIZA BROOKS (sop) In one scene; she is thought to be Clara’s daughter, but is not; one duet with Clara- very emotional scene.
BARNEY FORD (bari) Clara’s good friend; in three scenes; duet and trio
OTHER ROLES (may be cast from chorus)
JENNY (sop), friend of Clara, half caucasian, half Native American ancestry
LUCINDA (sop) Daughter of Clara’s master; two scenes, not taxing
EVALINE (alto) Sister of Lucinda, two scenes, not taxing
GOSSIP 1 (sop) 2 scenes
GOSSIP 2 (sop) 2 scenes
GOSSIP 3 /JANE GORDON (mezzo) four scenes; strong and spirited lady, madame in brothel
CORNISH MINER/MINER/BIDDER 1(tenor) three scenes, has short dramatic song in brothel
JEWISH MINER/MINER/BIDDER 2 (bari) three scenes, has short dramatic song in brothel
ITALIAN MINER/TOM/AUCTIONEER (tenor) three scenes, must be strong singer/actor; important material as Auctioneer, plus short dramatic song in brothel.
WADSWORTH (bari) 1 scene- plays Wagonmaster- strong looking, take-charge kinda guy.
BYERS (bari) 1 scene, head of Newspaper; solo lines in ensemble
EVANS/DOCTOR (bass) three scenes. Several solo lines, ensembles.
ACTORS (no singing, a small amount of dialogue)
CLARA’S SISTER AS CHILD (Prologue)
CLARA BROWN as young child (Prologue)
President Grand (1 scene) Speaks two words!
Roles that were double cast in the premiere production can be sung individually if preferred.
The opera tells the story of a remarkable woman who was an ex-slave, and who spent most of her life in bondage in frontier Kentucky. During these years she had lost contact with her husband and children when they were sold to different owners. She obtained her freedom after the death of her owner in 1857 and traveled west in search of her missing family.
Clara arrived in Central City, CO, around 1860, already some 60 years old. She opened her own laundry business and with hard work and successful investments, Clara became wealthy, owning scores of properties and mining claims throughout Central City, Georgetown and Denver. She used her money to help dozens of beleaguered freedmen come to Colorado to start new lives. Surviving fires, flood and frauds, Clara continued her good works throughout the 1870’s, however, she searched in vain for her long-lost family.
In her later years, her health failing and impoverished from a lifetime of unflagging generosity, Clara moved to Denver and had to depend upon her many friends and admirers to provide for her. In a truly operatic denouement, the faith that sustained her through her entire life was finally, and gloriously, rewarded by a miraculous reunion with her daughter Eliza Jane.
Information taken from an article by Roger Baker who is the author of the book entitled Clara: An Ex-Slave in Gold Rush Colorado, recently published by Black Hawk Publishing.
For more information, see Gabriel’s Daughter on William Luce’s website.
“Adding to the historic weight of the evening was the fact this is also the 25th season that Mollicone’s Face on the Barroom Floor is being performed on site in the city’s Teller House bar. It is today second only to Menotti’s Amahl as the most-performed one-act American opera of the 20th century. In ‘Gabriel’s Daughter’ Mollicone…reveals a voice uniquely his own. He has woven bits of Americana —honky-tonk, gospel and a hint of Battle Hymn of the Republic—seamlessly into his score. His compelling music moves the story forward at a rapid pace, but never hurries it. To capture the bite of the story Mollicone pushes tonality to its edge, and an undercurrent of darkness focuses attention on the haunting love at the core of the work. His richly colored music is engaging—but never relentless…. Mollicone is a master of massive scenes that portray the historical milieu—the slave market, the gold-rush craze, a mob stirred by racial hatred, and John Baril has the CCO chorus singing at the height of its powers in them. For overall beauty and effectiveness of staging Gabriel’s Daughter sets a new standard at the CCO.” –THE DAILY CAMERA, 7/14/03 – Wes Blomster
“Mollicone mixes operatic grandness, Broadway-musical energy and movie-soundtrack sweep to create a likable score that brims with memorable tunes (try to purge the toe-tapping ‘ Colorado !’ chorus from your head). Clara’s ‘Lullaby’ and the gospel-tinged ‘Glory Day’ also impress. Luce has crafted an elegant libretto, featuring unforced rhyming couplets and hard-hitting lines (‘Slavery and God going hand in hand’).”
–ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS 7/15/03 – Marc Shulgold
“Given Mollicone’s extensive experience in the operatic realm, it is not surprising that he has put together a solid score, skillfully evoking moods and shaping characters… There are moments when the opera sounds like a movie score and many other times when it comes off more as a Broadway musical…”
–THE DENVER POST 7/15/03 – Kyle MacMilla
“If you have never seen an opera, see this one. If you want to be part of history in the making, attend the Central City Opera’s production of Gabriel’s Daughter this summer. You can say you saw it in its first season, before it was famous. This opera will be a Colorado, if not an American, classic, to be treasured by Coloradans, African-Americans, opera-lovers, history buffs, miners and, well, just about everybody.”
–THE MOUNTAIN EAR 7/21/03 – Barbara Lawlor
“Mollicone has composed a work that will stand solidly in the opera repertoire – and do the American Opera proud…. Henry Mollicone’s score incorporates Ragtime, military marches and Gospel with nods to Bernstein and Copland. His work is, by turns, tender, passionate and stirring…. The masterful libretto by William Luce is full of heart-piercing poetry…. Not to be missed!”
–OUT FRONT COLORADO 8/1/03 – David Marlowe