Rose in Flames: Synopsis

Audio samples of this opera are placed within the synopsis. Samples accompanied by piano (Dallas Heaton) were recorded at a workshop by Utah Festival Opera in 2015. Samples accompanied by orchestra are excerpts from the premiere of the opera’s first version (titled Sara McKinnon) by Doña Ana Lyric Opera in Las Cruces.

Act One

Scene 1. The American Southwest in the 1870s. Townspeople welcome John Wingate and his sister Rose to the town of Vida Nueva, where John has been hired to be sheriff. Rose is touched by a gift of flowers from Lucia Delarosa, a teenage girl. The mayor introduces John and Rose to Lucia’s father, Diego Delarosa, a widower who is the town’s doctor.

Most people leave to see John sworn in, but Diego stays behind. A slightly drunk Bud Treon bets him the new sheriff won’t stay long because his sister will hate the desert heat and beg him to move.
(Bud sung by Adrian Rosales)

Scene 2. John and Rose enjoy the evening air. When John prepares to go walk the plaza, Rose asks if she should back him up. John tells her he never wants her to wear a gun while he’s on duty. He acknowledges that she can handle a gun even better than he can, but he insists that being a sheriff is a man’s job.

When John leaves to walk the plaza, Rose recalls the Civil War violence that shattered her childhood dreams. When John returns, Rose retires to bed.

John hopes that with this move, Rose will be able to leave the past behind and begin anew.
(Sung by Brian Hupp, baritone)

Scene 3. At a town dance, Diego finds himself deeply attracted to Rose, but he was crushed by the death of his wife (Lucia’s mother) and he rejects the prospect of loving that deeply again. When John and Diego talk, John reveals they left North Carolina because their parents were killed in the war, and their family’s home burned to the ground. John is unwilling to say more.

Florentino Ralston, a menacing stranger, interrupts the dance for a closer view of Rose. When he turns his attention to Lucia, she begins to flirt, and John decides to intervene. John orders Florentino to leave. Florentino refuses, and shoots John in a gunfight.
(Sung by Quentin Oliver Lee, Jessica Medoff, Jessica Tisdale, and Brian Hupp)

In the chaos that follows, Florentino tells Rose that he has fallen in love with her and will return for her. Diego tries to save John's life, but fails.
(This audio sample is from the first version of the opera, Sara McKinnon. Note that in that version John was Sara’s husband, while in the reimagined Rose in Flames John is Rose’s brother. Sara (Rose) is sung by Juline Gilmore, Florentino by Patrick Mason, and Diego by George Dyer.)

Scene 4. At the cemetery John Wingate is buried. The Mayor offers Rose the town’s support, but she responds angrily that she doesn’t want it. Erupting in rage, she calls the men “pious cowards” who are unwilling to avenge her husband.

After Rose leaves, Lucia asks her father if it is her fault the sheriff was killed. Diego tells her it was not her fault, that Florentino wanted a fight. Lucia exits, hoping to talk with Rose.

Diego remains stunned by the intensity of Rose’s anger, and wonders about her past. Nonetheless, he feels hopelessly drawn to her.
(Sung by Jessica Tisdale and Mackenzie Gotcher)

Scene 5. The cemetery, late evening. At John’s grave Rose regrets convincing him to move away from their home. Now he is buried in a strange place, and she is alone in the world.

Florentino emerges from hiding and tells Rose she is never alone. He tells her she now belongs to him. Rose becomes enraged. She thinks Florentino insane to think she will ever stop hating him for killing her brother. Florentino insists she will forgive him for that, and that the two of them are twins of the spirit and belong together.
(Sung by Jessica Medoff and Quentin Oliver Lee)

When Florentino leaves, Rose, revitalized by anger, vows to kill him.

Act Two

Scene 1. In the town plaza, a drunken Bud holds Mayor Pickard at knife point, furious that the mayor has called him a thief. Certain this is a misunderstanding, Diego tries to calm Bud down. Rose suddenly emerges from the crowd and puts a gun to Bud’s head. Clearly willing to shoot him, she forces Bud to back down.

When Bud leaves, Diego berates Rose for her reckless interference. She counters that someone had to do something. Rose says that if she were a man, she would ask to be sheriff. She tells the townspeople that she is better with a gun that her brother was, and she plans to avenge her brother’s death.

Bud returns wearing a gun and drunkenly challenges Rose to draw. She easily shoots his gun away, but Bud questions her ability to face a killer. Rose replies that she has killed men before and can do it again, shocking the crowd. She challenges Florentino to come face her in a gun fight, and vows that one way or another, she will put him in the ground.

When Rose exits, the townspeople are filled with dread. They fear that Rose’s challenge will anger Florentino, causing him to kill Rose and perhaps some of them as well.

Scene 2. A few weeks later, in Diego’s office, Lucia (with Rose’s support) convinces Diego let her buy material for a new dress. Lucia rushes off to choose materials, and Diego thanks Rose for spending time with Lucia.

Bud enters briefly to ask Rose for instructions. Rose feels Bud has the gumption to back her in a showdown, and she has made peace with him and hired him to make repairs on her home.

After Bud leaves, Diego brings up an upcoming celebration, and mentions he hopes they might dance together. Rose tells him he is welcome to ask.

Feeling more comfortable, Diego asks how her parents died in the war. Rose becomes upset, and demands to know know how much John told him. She then reveals that they were killed when marauders attacked their farm.

Pressing further, Diego asks if the marauders hurt her. Rose reluctantly reveals that the marauders found her hiding place and abused her. Then they tied her in their barn, and set it on fire. Returning home from town, her brother John arrived in time to save her.

Rose and John tracked the renegades to their camp, and at first light the two of them shot and killed them all. Diego is stunned to hear their savage revenge.

Rose says it was just, and her fate now is to avenge her brother’s murder and then live her life alone. Diego tells her she is wrong, that their fate is to love each other. Rose waivers, then leaves, saying that the nightmare of her life can only be undone by vengeance.
(Sung by Mackenzie Gotcher and Jessica Medoff)

Scene 3. Diego’s office, night. Florentino enters Diego’s office and warns Diego to stay away from Rose. Otherwise he will kill him and leave Lucia an orphan.

Rose unexpectedly enters, and Florentino holds a gun on Diego, forcing Rose to disarm. Florentino tells Rose that soon they will begin their life together. Rose replies, “Never.” Florentino says defying him must be punished and threatens to kill Diego. Rose begs him not to. Florentino says that if he spares Diego, then when he comes for her, she must obey him. Holding Diego hostage, he exits.

Rose is terrified that Diego will be hurt or killed. She realizes her growing interest in Diego puts his life in danger. But she would rather die than submit to Florentino. She is now certain that either she or Florentino must die.

Diego returns unharmed, but shaken. They are drawn to each other and embrace. They dream of a time when it would be safe to see each other, but agree that for now they must stay apart. Rose says goodbye ominously.

Scene 4. During a town celebration, Florentino appears, holding Lucia at gunpoint. Florentino forces everyone to disarm. He tells Rose that unless she comes with him, he will take Lucia in her place.

Bud is able to slip Rose a gun, and when Lucia manages to break free of Florentino’s grasp, Rose shoots him. Wounded, Florentino tries to shoot Rose, but Diego risks his life to prevent this, twisting Florentino’s gun away.

Rose steps forward, intent on killing Florentino. Diego begs her to let justice take its course. Rose says she has sworn to kill Florentino, and Lucia becomes distraught. She still believes that her flirting caused the gunfight in which John was killed. Rose says the fault is entirely Florentino’s—he is an evil man who must be executed.

Florentino dares Rose to kill him so that they can meet again in Hell, but Lucia’s impassioned pleas convince Rose to stop. Rose tells Bud to lock Florentino in jail after the doctor tends his wound. Rose and Lucia exit to mend Lucia’s dress, which was torn in her struggles with Florentino.

Later that day, with calm restored, Rose and Diego meet again. No longer wearing a gun, Rose reminds Diego that he said he would ask her to dance. Impetuously, Diego asks her permission to court her. To the delight of Lucia and the townspeople, Rose agrees.
[The subsequent love duet is sung here by George Dyer and Juline Gilmore, as heard in the premiere of Sara McKinnon, the first version of the reimagined Rose in Flames.]