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Lizzie Borden
Composer:Jack Hamilton Beeson
Librettist:Kenward Elmslie
Based on the infamous Fall River, MA crime of 1890, the opera tells the story of the town banker, Andrew Borden, and his second wife, Abbie, who were found hacked to death, and the daughter who became the main suspect. The opera begins at a church choir rehearsal, where Lizzie is asked to make a contribution in support of her church. Her father, the richest man in town, disrupts the rehearsal and embarrasses Lizzie. Later that night, Abbie persuades her husband to buy her a new piano and to eliminate any traces of his dead wife, Evangeline. A family quarrel ensues. Jason MacFarlane and the Reverend visit the Borden home, and Jason asks Andrew Borden for permission to marry his younger daughter, Margret. Andrew refuses, mocks him, and insists that if he wants to marry a daughter, it will be Lizzie. Jason and Margret make plans to elope. Lizzie puts on the wedding gown of her deceased mother. Overcome by the image she sees in her mirror, Lizzie fantasizes that Jason will return for her. Abbie catches Lizzie in Evangeline's wedding gown and she threatens to tell Andrew. Lizzie sits listlessly while Jason packs up Margret's belongings. Jason and Lizzie embrace and Jason leaves. Abbie orders Lizzie to set the table for dinner and goes upstairs for a nap. Lizzie, still in her mother's wedding gown, snatches a weapon from the wall. She is seen entering Abbie's bedroom. The gown is now stained with blood and Lizzie imagines herself a young bride. Andrew returns, and Lizzie follows her father upstairs.

Epilogue: Even though she has been acquitted of the crime, the congregation of her church refuses to accept Lizzie's previously-made contribution. The opera ends as children circle her house, mocking her. Lizzie lives out the rest of her life in her father's house.

Click company name to view productions details.
Painted Sky OperaLizzie Borden9/26/2024 - 9/29/2024
Boston Lyric OperaLizzie Borden11/11/2013 - 11/23/2013
New York City OperaLizzie Borden3/3/1999 - 3/24/1999
Glimmerglass FestivalLizzie Borden7/7/1996 - 8/19/1996

OPERA America/ Grants Awarded
Click here to learn more about OPERA America granting programs.
The Robert L.B. Tobin Director-Designer Showcase 2015
New Works Exploration Grants2014
The Next Stage1998
Opera for a New America 1994

Title Information

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Approximate Runtime (hh:mm)

Number of Acts

Musical Style
Through-composed; modern and eclectic musical language; use of hymn tunes; some chromaticism with passages of atonality and tonality; expressive vocal lines

Vocal & Musical Forces
Dramatic Coloratura Soprano, Lyric Soprano, Mezzo-Soprano, Tenor, Lyric Baritone, Bass-Baritone, Small Children's Chorus

Original Cast
Brenda Lewis (Lizzie)
Anne Elgar (Margret)
Herbert Beattie (Andrew Borden)
Ellen Faull (Abigail Borden)
Richard Krause (Reverend Harrington)
Richard Fredericks (Captain Jason MacFarlane)

Technical Production Directory
There are 2 entries in the Technical Production Directory for this work.

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