HARRIET, THE WOMAN CALLED MOSES: OPERA BY THEA MUSGRAVE

Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman

HARRIET, THE WOMAN CALLED MOSES – This opera, with music and libretto by Scottish composer Thea Musgrave, was first performed March 1st, 1985 at the Virginia Opera in Norfolk, VA. The conductor was Musgrave’s husband Peter Mark. 

Regular readers of Balladeer’s Blog will remember my articles about Thea Musgrave’s 1979 opera version of A Christmas Carol. I consider Musgrave one of the few genuine giants of opera from the late 20th Century. (Yes, I’m so boring I’m even into opera.) 

Of Republican Harriet Tubman, the famed former slave who worked with the Underground Railroad to lead other slaves to freedom, Musgrave said “Harriet is every woman who dared to defy injustice and tyranny. She is Joan of Arc, she is Susan B Anthony, she is Anne Frank, she is Mother Teresa.”

Harriet, The Woman Called Moses is a two-act opera which uses a non-linear narrative structure, jumping back and forth in time while highlighting powerful episodes in Tubman’s life. A chorus representing slaves remains on stage for the entire performance.

In 1990 Thea Musgrave did a revised, shortened version of this opera and later oversaw a concert version of the work titled Remembering Harriet

This opera’s singing roles include a soprano as Harriet Tubman and in support a mezzo-soprano, two baritones, three tenors and three bass singers along with the aforementioned chorus.

Act One of the opera recaps Tubman’s horrific experiences as a slave and ends with her decision to return to slave soil to help other slaves escape to freedom. Act Two deals with the experienced and notorious “Moses” undertaking one last mission to rescue family members.

Thea Musgrave has also written operas about Mary, Queen of Scots and Simon Bolivar.

FOR MY LOOK AT HER CHRISTMAS CAROL OPERA CLICK HERE 

4 Comments

Filed under Neglected History

4 responses to “HARRIET, THE WOMAN CALLED MOSES: OPERA BY THEA MUSGRAVE

  1. Cara

    You’re awesome, that’s what!

    An opera with a chorus of black voices must be so soul stirring and amazing. I’m so culturally deprived I have never heard a black voice singing opera. It must be wonderful.

    (All I’ve ever seen on the topic is Amistad and I loved it.)

    P.S. I think Amistad would be amazing as an opera! There’s a funny scene in it when the Quakers come and sing for the slaves and the slaves ask each other why the Quakers are so sad. That would be so funny on stage as part of an opera.

    • Thank you very much for the kind words! Yes, the use of the chorus in Musgrave’s opera is very effective. I agree with you that Amistad should be done as an opera! That scene with the “sad” Quakers would be great!

  2. Cara

    P.S. I meant, “All I’ve seen on the topic of slavery is Amistad.”
    I’ve also seen a Thai ballet on ‘Uncle Tom’s cabin’ in the movie, ‘The King and I’.

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