The opera presents vignettes relating the stories of three women, their lives, and their losses at the foot of the Black River. Clara, preoccupied with the memory of her infant son's death by drowning in the Black River, twelve years earlier, sews a quilt and dulls her despair with the aid of a cocaine-based medicine. Lucy, her step-daughter, is engaged to marry a man she does not love. Pauline, living in the state mental hospital, mourns the passing of her career as an opera singer and the estranged relationship between herself and her son. Soon after Lucy and Ben are married, Ben dies, leaving Lucy, who has just begun to love her husband, alone and pregnant. Their wedding is transformed into a funeral. Pauline reconciles with her son and leaves the hospital and Black River Falls forever. Lucy also departs, in hopes of finding a better life elsewhere. Clara, having finished her quilt, takes it to the banks of the river, saturates it with kerosene, and sets it and her body on fire.
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Approximate Runtime (hh:mm)
Eclectic tonal style; use of popular idioms
Vocal & Musical Forces
Two flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, 4 percussion, 2 keyboards, harp, strings; 2 sopranos, 3 mezzo-sopranos, 4 tenors, 5 baritones; 2 choruses
Original Cast: Clara Gary, Janis Hardy; Pauline l'Allemand, Barbara Brandt; Lucy Gray, Margaret Smith; Reverend Woods, Michael Riley; Ben Holland, John Brandstetter; Horace Gray, Phil Jorgenson; Dudley Gray, Daryl Erickson; Mrs. Dudley Gray, Margaret Johnson; Frank Holland, Christopher Smith; Mrs. Frank Holland, Linda Wilcox; C.C. Pope, Vern Sutton; P.H. Howell, Yale Marshall; Jacob Spaulding, LeRoy Lehr; Polly Wing, Janis Hardy; Little Clara Wing, Muffy Hardy; Mr. Vaudry/Dr. Krohn, Vern Sutton; Leo Delibes, Yale Marshall; Henri l'Allemand, Michael Riley; Miss Dorothy Snite, Holly Callen; Helen Foster, Margaret Johnson.