Commissioned by the Koussevitsky Foundation of the Library of Congress for the bicentennial of Columbia University, The Ballad of Baby Doe has become one of the most popular American operas of the modern day. The opera's characters are based on historical persons, and the work premiered in the opera house in Colorado that is central to the opera's plot.
Cast of Characters
Horace Tabor,mayor of Leadville,bar
Mrs. Elizabeth ("Baby") Doe,s
Mama McCourt,her mother,c
William Jennings Bryan,presidential candidate,b-bar
Elizabeth Tabor,age 12,s
Silver Dollar Tabor,age 7,actor
Sarah, Mary, Emily, Effie,friends of Augusta
Sam, Bushy, Barney, Jacob,cronies of Tabor
Chester A. Arthur/Father Chapelle/Silver Miner/Hotel Clerk/Mayor/Stage Doorman,2 tenors
Meg/Grown-Up Silver Dollar/Samantha,ms
Washington dandies, dance hall girls, wedding guests, miners, etc.
In Leadville, Colorado, silver magnate and lieutenant governor Horace Tabor talks with some of his cronies outside the opera house he has built, at his wife Augusta's urging. She is angry that he refuses to give up his rough pioneer habits. As they are going back in after intermission, Horace meets "Baby" Doe, a young woman who has left her husband in Central City and come to Leadville. After the concert, they meet again, and Horace declares his love for her. Some time later, Augusta finds out about their affair; after warning Horace that he should stop speculating his fortune in silver mines, she determines to drive Baby out of town. Baby is about to leave because of the guilt she feels about loving Horace, but he convinces her to stay; Augusta learns that Horace is planning to divorce her and decides to cause a scandal. In Washington some months later, Horace, now a senator, marries Baby; their wedding is attended by the President, Chester A. Arthur, but Tabor's social standing is threatened by the scandal of Baby's divorce and his fortune is threatened by bimetallism.
At a party some years later, Augusta comes to warn Baby of the coming silver crash; she says that Tabor must sell the Matchless Mine, his most profitable mine, or he will be ruined. Baby, at first swayed by her argument, decides to trust Tabor and wait for silver to rise again. Tabor throws his lot in with William Jennings Bryan and is ruined in the elections of 1896. Baby's mother goes to Augusta to ask her to help the now-destitute Tabor, but she refuses; on the stage of his opera house, Tabor, sick and delirious, remembers his past life and thinks about his future. Baby enters, and as Tabor dies, Baby begins a long vigil for him at the Matchless Mine which ruined him.
World premiere Central City Opera House, Central City, Colorado July 7, 1956 Tabor: Walter Cassel (later Clifford Harvuat) Augusta: Martha Lipton (later Frances Bible) Baby Doe: Dolores Wilson (later Lenya Gabriele) Mama McCourt: Beatrice Krebs William Jennings Bryan: Lawrence Davidson (later Norman Treigle) Emerson Buckley, conductor Donald Oenslager, production designer Hanya Holm and Edward Levy, stage directors
New York premiere New York City Opera, New York, New York April 3, 1958 Tabor: Walter Cassel Augusta: Martha Lipton Baby Doe: Beverly Sills Mama McCourt: Beatrice Krebs William Jennings Bryan: Joshua Hecht Emerson Buckley, conductor Vladimir Rosing, stage director