Abigail Stone

Opera in Two Acts

1999

110 minutes

Libretto: Randall Shinn

3 sop, 2 mez, 1 ten, 2 bar, chorus
Orchestra: 2.2.2.2,4.2.3.1, perc, strings

[Not currently available for performance.]

Composition Notes: The story I wrote for this opera dramatized a conflict between a fundamentalist preacher (Elias) and his daughter (Abigail). Abigail sang in her father’s church. An out-of-town theater director heard her sing, auditioned her, and offered her a role in a play. Because Elias saw the theater as a world based on pretense and lies, he forbade Abigail from taking the role. Standing up to her father, Abigail accepted the offer and left home despite Elias’s efforts to stop her. He disowned her.

I wrote more than one version of the story for the second act. In the first version, Abby returned years later, but Elias had had a stroke and was senile. He didn’t remember he had a daughter and didn't recognize her. In the second version (the one that I set to music), Abigail visited him in his church as a successful singer-actor, and the two of them argued vehemently. When Abigail referred to Elias’s church as “his stage,” he became enraged and stabbed her with a wood chisel. She died in his arms.

The music for that version was completed in 1999. While orchestrating the final scene, I was offered a commission to write the opera Sara McKinnon, with a libretto by playwright Mark Medoff. I set Abigail Stone aside. Then came an opportunity to create Beautiful Princess Available for Rescue.

Seeing Things Differently

When I looked again at Abigail Stone, I was dissatisfied with the story. By then, I had met and talked with individuals whose parents had disowned them for religious reasons, sometimes resulting in lifelong estrangements. When children go against their parents’ views concerning essential life choices—such as whom they should marry, what career to follow, religious interests or lack thereof, and other major lifestyle decisions)—the resulting conflicts can endure for decades, even lifetimes.

In this story, Abigail made her choice, but Elias never accepted her choice or her right to make it. I don’t see them ever reconciling. If I ever return to this work, I would probably go back to my first idea for the final scene. But for the moment, this opera remains on the shelf.