November 8, 1983 | Virginia Opera
Harriet, the Woman Called Moses
Composer:Thea Musgrave
Librettist:Thea Musgrave
Asleep in the home of Thomas Garrett, Harriet dreams of her enslaved people, who are calling, "Moses! Moses! Lead us out of bondage!" Transported back in time to her earlier slave quarters, Harriet sings, "Go down, Moses...Let my people go!" She is whipped for singing this forbidden song. Josiah, a fellow-slave, enters and the two declare their love for each other. Preston, the son of the Old Master, has accrued large gambling debts and, in order to pay them off, asks his father to sell some of the slaves into the harsher slavery of the Deep South. In the next scene, Preston seduces Harriet. The Master decides to sell the slaves, and Josiah escapes. Harriet, in fear of becoming Preston's slave, takes flight when she learns that the Old Master has suffered a heart attack. Safely ensconced in Garrett's home, Harriet vows to return as a deliverer of her people. Act II: Harriet and Josiah meet again before Josiah is recaptured, then set free in the North. The vindictive Preston pursues them to the Canadian border, shooting at Harriet and hitting Josiah, who then dies.

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Title Information

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Approximate Runtime (hh:mm)

Number of Acts

Musical Style
Post-tonal; use of whole-tone harmonies; contains Negro spirituals and other types of American folk music; gospel rhythms; through-composed

Vocal & Musical Forces
Soprano, Mezzo-Soprano, 3 Tenors, 3 Baritones, 3 Basses; Chorus; 5 speaking roles

Original Cast
Original Cast: Harriet, Cynthia Haymon; Josiah, Ben Holt; Rit, Alteouise De Vaughn; Old Master, Jay Willoughby; Preston, Barry Craft; Ben, Raymond Bazemore; Benji, Damon Evans; Thomas Garrett, Peter Van Derick; Mr. McLeod, Michael Muziko; Edward Covey, Anthony Zbrzezny

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