View Full Version : John Brown- the opera.

Old Cremona
05-03-2008, 04:49 PM
Tonight the Lyric Opera of Kansas City will give the world premire of a new opera entitled John Brown. I suspect they chose Kansas City for the premire because of the border-war legacy.


The Lyric has engaged several living historians to be on hand before the show and my band has been hired to play some period music on the front lawn for a couple of hours. I'm kind of looking forward to this gig and then we get to see the opera!

I imagine they will portray Brown as a martyr and a saint (I'm not sure, I haven't seen it yet). That's probably a modern PC view of him, but I wonder if it's fair to his contemporaries to portray him thusly.

05-03-2008, 08:47 PM
Nice, Carl........

Sounds like a good gig have!

Have fun.

05-03-2008, 08:48 PM
carl...please write later about this event. i was so looking forward to it...alas a bright blue arm cast would not fit well with the period and I,m not allowed to drive..... the struggle into formal clothes would be impossible, and an ivalid's wrapper wouldn't be appropriate...I look forward yo hearing all about this evening frm my friends
Vivian Murphy

05-04-2008, 03:33 PM
I was one of the fortunate few asked to be on-hand, in period "ready for the opera" impression, to welcome and interact with those coming to the premiere. It was a lot of fun, and at times personally entertaining, as most of these people probably had never dealt with a living historian and weren't sure how to react. Still, for the most part, they really seemed to enjoy the interaction. Carl, Dave and the b'hoys once again sounded stupendous, and a large portion of those attending stayed outside to listen to the music.

The opera? The music and singing were wonderful, although I am not certain how qualified I am to review them. The gentlemen portraying Mr. Douglas stole the show. I was disappointed with the historical accuracy of the storyline and not so much because of the choices to fill holes with things which never happened. It was more so the very hard slant, portraying not just the kansas settlers as innocent and the Missourians as bloodthirsty hooligans; it was the near sainthood bestowed on John Brown. He was painted almost similar to Jesus Christ. There was no mention of his deeds and attrocities, and when Potowatamie (massacre) was brought up, he merely said he killed no one and only ordered it, (which to the unindoctrinated leaves you wondering. To others who know, that night he and his sons took five men and boys from theif beds and hacked them to pieces with broadswords.)

So, yes the singing and score were wonderful. The clothing and footwear, were better than I expected, but I also know they were in regular contact with a friend of mine who is a consultant. However, if you truly want to see it for its historical value you will be greatly disappointed if not upset. If you want the best historical value and balanced information, get a copy of Bad Blood. It will be cheaper and you can see it more than once.


Old Cremona
05-04-2008, 04:27 PM
This was a deeply meaningful and pleasureable event for me on several levels.

It was great to be at a "high tone" affair like this in the company of our area's finest living historians. The large crowd before hand did seem to dig our music. That was fun, and I sang myself hoarse.

The opera itself is a challenge to listen to. It is "through-composed," meaning that phrases don't repeat in the famialiar verse/chorus pattern. I can't claim to be an expert on such "high falutin" music but I enjoyed certain parts immensely. As Jay said, the fellow playing Fredrick Douglass was outstanding. The scene where he sings a speech Douglas gave in London was particularly effective in scouraging the absurdity and evil of slavery. A later scene where a black man produces a letter from his wife who's still in bondage and she appears on stage to sing the letter reduced me to tears.

I realize this was a one-sided presentation, but at the end I didn't care. Brown was a man doing what he thought the bible told him to do and he loved his fellow man and his country enough to fight and die for it.

I suppose the costumes weren't perfect but they were darn near, better than any stage performance I've every seen. The sets and the lighting and scenery were incredible. Just blew me away.

If you ever get a chance to see it, I would unhesitatingly reccomend it.

Gary of CA
05-06-2008, 10:38 PM
I'm sure it will be better than Philip Glass's Appomattox. That opera had only two decent pieces of music of which one was a modified version of Tenting by the Old Camp Fire. They changed the word from tenting to camping.

05-07-2008, 09:58 AM
Jay And Carl
Thank You For The Wonderful Reports On This Historial Event. I'm Having Difficulty In Trying Not To Feel Sorry For Myself That I Was Forced To Miss This Great Opportunity:(.....it Was Good To Read About Your Thoughts And Impressions.
Please Excuse The All Caps...it's The Best Way I Have Of Managing To Type And Use Both Hands :) Yeh, I Do Now Have Some Limited Use Of My Fingers!!!
Best Regards..
Vivian Murphy