The Ballad of Baby Doe

THE BALLAD OF BABY DOE

BY DOUGLAS MOORE

APRIL 12 (7:30 PM) & 14 (2:00 PM), 2019 AT THE VALENTINE THEATRE

A SEMI-STAGED PRODUCTION OF AN AMERICAN CLASSIC

Horace Tabor builds an opera house in the mining town of Leadville, Colorado in Douglas Moore’s most famous and frequently performed opera from 1956. What follows is a distinctly American tale of scandal and betrayal; love and beginning anew; and the loss of a fortune. Peppered with real figures from U.S. history like President Chester A. Arthur and William Jennings Bryan, The Ballad of Baby Doe is also known for the beauty of its heroine’s arias.

Performed in English with English supertitles.

To learn more about The Ballad of Baby Doe and the Tabors, click here for the Baby Doe Audience Guide.

The opera takes place in and around Leadville, Colorado, late 19th Century.

ACT I   

Horace Tabor, for the most part, owns the entire town of Leadville, Colorado. After his newly constructed opera house is opened, he stands in front of the gathered townsfolk and sings praises about it while taking jabs at his wife, Augusta. During the opera’s intermission, Augusta pulls Horace aside to scold him for his behavior in public. Before their conversation can escalate further, they are interrupted by a woman near the end of the intermission asking them to direct her to a hotel. Horace kindly recounts the directions to her before returning to the opera with Augusta.

Horace and Augusta return home once the opera concludes. Augusta readies herself for the evening and retreats to the bedroom while Horace grabs a cigar and exits to the front porch. Two women happen to pass by talking about the woman whom Horace gave directions to at the opera earlier that evening. Horace can hear her voice wafting from her hotel window, and he immediately applauds her when she finishes. Baby Doe is startled by his shouts since she believed herself to be her only audience. Following his applause, Horace responds with a song of his own, but after a few shouts from Augusta’s bedroom, he zips his mouth and hurries inside.

A few months later, Augusta finds a box tucked away in Horace’s study. With a slight grin, she opens the package and finds a fine pair of gloves and a love letter.  To her surprise and dissatisfaction, the gift is addressed to Baby Doe. She thinks back to every rumor she’s heard about her husband since Baby Doe’s arrival into town and realizes they were all true. When Horace returns home, Augusta confronts him in a fit of rage. After much fighting, Horace confesses he never meant to hurt her.

In her hotel room, Baby Doe has been considering leaving town alone. She finally decides to do it and asks the hotel staff when the next train for Denver departs. Several staff members run to Horace and divulge Baby Doe’s plans. Meanwhile, as Baby Doe packs her belongings, she pens a letter to her mother detailing her love for Horace. Augusta soon enters demanding that Baby Doe leave. Baby Doe agrees, but not before telling her that her relationship with Horace, though wrong, has no cause for shame. Augusta turns away and walks out the door just moments before Horace comes in. With his arrival, Baby Doe changes her mind and stays.  Horace couldn’t be happier. After a year has passed, Horace now lives with Baby Doe, while Augusta stays with friends in Denver.  Augusta finds out that Horace has decided to divorce her.  In her anger, she swears revenge, promising to ruin his life.

Months go by and Horace and Baby Doe are about to get married in Washington, DC. The couple have become very wealthy and Baby Doe’s mother praises them for it, while the housewives in attendance ridicule them.  However, their conversations change when Baby Doe and Horace step out into the party. Baby Doe and Horace mingle among the crowd and join in the debate about the silver standard, saying they prefer the gold standard.  Horace surprises Baby Doe with a beautiful diamond necklace that once belonged to Queen Isabella.  Baby Doe’s mother converses with the Roman Catholic priest and informs him that both Baby Doe and Horace were previously married but got divorced.  The priest had no idea, which is overheard by several of the catty women. Soon, it’s a full-blown scandal. Thankfully, it is put to rest when the President of the United States comes in and gives a toast to Horace and Baby Doe.

Intermission 

ACT II

Horace and Baby Doe have enjoyed a wealthy lifestyle for quite some time, but sadly, their fortune is dwindling.  Augusta has repeatedly warned Horace of the gold standard, but he paid her no heed. He spent a great deal of his fortune backing presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan, but when Bryan lost, Horace was abandoned by his party and not a single dollar was returned. 

Now, nearly broke, Horace returns to the opera house he built many years before, which he sold and no longer owns. He takes a seat on the stage and begins to hallucinate of his past. He sees Augusta pleading with him, then taunting him, visions of his two daughters whom he is told one will end up disowning his name while the other turns to a life of prostitution. Horace becomes so upset he falls to the floor unconscious. Baby Doe enters the theater and rushes to his aid. After coming around, he is convinced by Baby Doe that she is not a hallucination. He believes her and says that nothing will ever come between them. Then, realizing his own mortality, he begs her not to forget him.  Suddenly and without warning, he dies in her arms.

Schyler Sheltrown, Elizabeth “Baby” Doe

Schyler Sheltrown is a soprano who has received national recognition, gaining an encouragement award in the Michigan District of the Metropolitan Opera Council Auditions in 2015 and 2016 and first place in the Scholarship Division of the National Opera Association's solo voice competition (2014). She performed in Michigan Opera Theatre's productions of Carmen, Tosca and Le nozze di Figaro, and made her solo debut as The Page (Rigoletto).  Ms. Sheltrown lent her talents to The Library of Congress through the Comic Opera Guild for the first recording of The Free Lance by John Philip Sousa. Most recently, she made her debut with Opera Grand Rapids in The Magic Flute, as well as West Michigan Opera Project’s Susannah. While at Michigan State University, she performed numerous roles, including Romilda (Serse), Fiordiligi (Così fan tutte), Musetta (La bohème), and Pamina (The Magic Flute). Miss Sheltrown also had the privilege to travel with the MSU-China Project where she performed the role of Jin Zi in The Savage Land, entirely in Mandarin and under the stage direction of renowned baritone Haijing Fu. Madame Li Daochuan, wife of the late composer, attended Miss Sheltrown's performance in Beijing. Concerning her portrayal of the noted heroine, Li said, "'She is the best Jin Zi I have ever seen.'" A documentary of her experience can be found on the MSUToday YouTube channel.

Dan Ewart, Horace Tabor

Baritone Dan Ewart has sung a wide variety of roles. Most recently he sang Dancaïro in Carmen with Prelude to Performance in Manhattan where he also covered Escamillo in that production. Previously, Mr. Ewart performed the role of Owen Hart (Dead Man Walking) where he covered the leading baritone role of Joseph DeRocher with Shreveport Opera. He also sang Zuniga (Carmen) as well as covering Escamillo with the same company. Mr. Ewart has sung with several orchestras as a soloist ranging from Mozart to Bruckner and beyond. He was the bass soloist in Mozart's Great Mass in C Minor with the Texarkana Symphony Orchestra, and he was also a soloist in Handel's Messiah with members of the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Ewart has sung on several occasions with the Lansing Symphony Orchestra. He was the bass soloist in Schubert’s Mass in G as well as the baritone soloist in Bruckner’s Te Deum. He has also sung and hosted a variety show with the Lansing Symphony Orchestra's Linked-in concert series on multiple occasions.

 Lindsey Anderson, Augusta Tabor

American Opera singer Lindsey Anderson has been described by critics as a formidable presence and has been hailed for her “beautiful and powerful voice” as well as for her “commanding stage presence.” Ms. Anderson has performed in many opera houses and summer music festivals throughout the United States including Seattle Opera, Virginia Opera, Sarasota Opera, Winter Opera St. Louis, Des Moines Metro Opera, New Amsterdam Opera, Central City Opera, Union Avenue Opera, and Opera North. Recently, Ms. Anderson successfully debuted the full role of Lucrezia Borgia with great acclaim in the world premiere of Harold Blumenfeld's modern opera Borgia Infami with Winter Opera St. Louis. In 2019, Ms. Anderson looks forward to her Carnegie Hall, Stern Auditorium debut as the mezzo-soprano soloist in Ralph Vaughan Williams Magnificat produced by Distinguished Concerts International of New York.

 Alta Dantzler, Mama McCourt

Alta Dantzler, mezzo-soprano, is an active performer of opera and concert works, having appeared as a soloist at venues around the country including Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall.  She has spent six seasons with the Ohio Light Opera, the only company in the US devoted exclusively to the preservation of operetta.  She can be heard on many cast recordings on both the Albany Records and Operetta Archives Labels.   Her most recent recording with Albany Records was the role of Princess Marghanza in John Philip Sousa’s comic opera El Capitan. She holds degrees from Skidmore College, the Eastman School of Music and The University of Texas at Austin.  She is on the voice and theatre faculty at Oakland University where she teaches Diction, Opera Workshop, and the History of Musical Theatre.  Some of her previous roles with Toledo Opera include: Bertha (Il barbiere di Seviglia), Marcellina (Le nozze di Figaro), and Martha (Faust). Ms. Dantzler also serves as Director of Toledo Opera’s Summer Opera Camp.

 Alicia Russell, Samantha

Alicia Russell, soprano, has been singing throughout the United States since 2013, making her debut performance in her hometown with the Asheville Symphony Orchestra. Ms. Russell’s recent performances include The Great Gatsby (Daisy Buchanan), Service Provider (Charlene), Don Giovanni (Donna Elvira), Savitri (Savitri), Later the Same Evening (Elaine), Die Fledermaus (Rosalinda), and Die Zauberflöte (Pamina). She has also performed as the soprano soloist in Honneger’s King David, Handel’s Messiah, Mozart’s Requiem and Missa in C Minor, and Vivaldi’s Dixit Dominus rv. 807. Ms. Russell is the recent winner of the 2018 Northwestern University Aria/Concerto Competition, the Ginger Meyer Scholarship in the 2018 Musicians Club of Women Competition and was a semi-finalist in the 2017 Bel Canto Foundation Competition. She is a graduate of Northwestern University (Master of Music, 2018) and Furman University (Bachelor of Music, 2016). Her past summer residencies have included Seagle Music Colony, Boston University Tanglewood Institute, SongFest, CoOPERAtive, and the Brevard Music Center. www.aliciarussellsoprano.com.

Peter Morgan, William Jennings Bryan

Praised for his “powerful voice” and “swagger onstage,” bass-baritone Peter Morgan has quickly developed a reputation as a well-rounded and dynamic performer, amassing a steadily increasing repertoire in performances across the nation. Highlights include Leporello (Don Giovanni), Figaro (Le nozze di Figaro), Basilio (Il barbiere di Siviglia), and Raimondo (Lucia di Lammermoor). Mr. Morgan has also built up diverse credits in the world of new opera including the Midwest premiere of Dark Sisters by Nico Muhly, the American premiere of The Scorpion’s Sting by Dean Burry as well as the world premiere of Jason and the Argonauts by Gregory Spears, both with the Lyric Opera of Chicago. His recent engagements include Manon Lescaut and Norma with Sarasota Opera, Le nozze di Figaro with Charlottesville Opera, as well as La traviata and Don Giovanni with St. Petersburg Opera. For more, follow on Instagram - @petermorganbassbaritone.

Brian Skoog, Chester A. Arthur

A previous Toledo Opera Resident Artist, Brian Skoog made his Toledo Opera debut in 2017 as Don Curzio (Le nozze di Figaro). While in Toledo, he also sang the role of Tamino in the Opera on Wheels touring presentation of The Magic Flute. In the summer of 2018, he again performed the role of Tamino (Die Zauberflöte) for the Nina Odescalchi Kelly Family Matinee at Central City Opera, where he also sang the dual role of Larry/Matt (The Face on the Barroom Floor). Mr. Skoog recently made his Nashville Opera debut, singing the roles of Theseus (Hercules vs. Vampires) and Elder Hayes (Susannah). He also recently made company debuts with Utah Festival Opera as Mark Smeaton (Rex), and Jacey Squires (The Music Man), and Dayton Opera (Le Remendado (Carmen). In 2018, Mr. Skoog performed the role of Tebaldo in Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi with The Cleveland Opera. He has previously appeared in Cleveland as Tamino (Die Zauberflöte), Tito (La clemenza di Tito)Jenik (The Bartered Bride), and the Witch (Hänsel und Gretel). Earlier this season, Mr. Skoog appeared with the Toledo Symphony as the tenor soloist for Handel’s Messiah.

Gibran Mahmud, Father Chapelle

Indonesian-American tenor Gibran Mahmud has recently earned acclaim for his musical performances in the Los Angeles area. At home in opera, concert, and musical theatre, Gibran's recent credits include the West Coast premiere of Frank Martin's The Love Potion (Kaherdin), Pacific Overtures (The Fisherman/Dutch Admiral), and the world premiere of Hail Poetry! (George Power). Mr. Mahmud has also joined the Principal/Education Artists of Long Beach Opera and the company of Opera A La Carte, along with singing in the professional opera choruses of LA Opera, Cincinnati Opera, and Dayton Opera. He has sung with the summer programs of Angels Vocal Art, SongFest as a Professional Fellow and for The VOICExperience Foundation with Sherrill Milnes. Mr. Mahmud has placed in competitions and received awards from the Center Stage Opera Vocal Competition, Classical Singer Competition, and Buckeye NATS. Mr. Mahmud is an alumnus of USC Thornton School of Music (MM) and Miami University (BM). www.gibranmahmud.com

 Geoffrey Andrew McDonald (Conductor)

Geoffrey McDonald is lauded as a vibrant and versatile conductor already joining the ranks at the forefront of an evolving American opera scene. The New York Times describes him as “an agile conductor…whose pacing is sure in both reflective and restless passages", and the Observer has noted his "original and flexible musical imagination" in productions ranging from baroque to contemporary opera, in traditional venues as well as ambitious site-specific performances. Recently, McDonald made company debuts leading productions for Opera Philadelphia, Atlanta Opera, Wolf Trap, Opera Omaha, and Chicago Opera Theater. As Music Director of New York City's On Site Opera, he continues to marshal performances of the highest musical standard while adapting to immersive and logistically challenging settings. Maestro McDonald’s highlights from recent seasons include appearances as guest conductor with The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, collaborations with the International Contemporary Ensemble, and with the historical instrument ensemble Grand Harmonie. In the spring of 2017, McDonald made his German theater debut with Theater und Orchester Neubrandenburg/Neustrelitz, and led the West Bohemian Symphony Orchestra in Prague in a performance of Smetana's Ma Vlast. He is a regular workshop and assistant conductor with Opera Philadelphia, having participated in the development of new operas by Nico Muhly, Missy Mazzoli, Daniel Schnyder, and Kevin Puts.

 Scott Skiba (Director)

Award-winning Stage Director, Scott Skiba has led more than 60 new operatic productions earning recognition for his imaginative stage direction and dynamic physical approach to storytelling.  His recent production of A Streetcar Named Desire was praised for "first-rate stage direction... vivid and emotionally charged." Scott serves as Executive Artistic Director of Cleveland Opera Theater where he has directed critically acclaimed productions of Madama Butterfly, Le nozze di Figaro, La bohème, Tosca, La Rondine, Gianni Schicchi, Il Tabarro, Pagliacci, The Threepenny Opera, Amahl and the Night Visitors, The Pirates of Penzance, H.M.S. Pinafore, Il Segreto di Susanna, and the Cleveland premiere of the new vampire opera, Clarimonde.  A proponent of new opera, Mr. Skiba’s initiatives helped launch {NOW} Festival - Cleveland Opera Theater's annual event to create, develop, and produce new opera, which is developing an opera based on Garcia Lorca's final play, The House of Bernarda Alba, in collaboration with OBIE-Award-Winning Librettist, Caridad Svich (libretto) Griffin Candey (composer) and the Baldwin Wallace Conservatory of Music, among presenting numerous other new operas in various stages of development annually. Curious to explore contemporary approaches to producing opera, Mr. Skiba’s work includes directing and producing interdisciplinary collaborations in alternative venues that promote civic engagement and provide gateways to develop new audiences.

 

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