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Beeson: Lizzie Borden revival

(September 2012)

Beeson’s acclaimed operatic retelling of the infamous and dramatic American tale is performed at Eastern Carolina University

Jack Beeson’s acclaimed 1965 drama, Lizzie Borden, is celebrated as one of the greatest American operas, and is staged anew at Eastern Carolina University. The opera is a gripping tale based on the infamous 19th-century ax-murder mystery, combining fact and myth with intrigue. This new production of the intense dramatic work is presented by the School of Music’s Opera Theater program and takes place November 1, 2 and 4, 2012 in Greenville, North Carolina.

Beeson is often remembered for this particular work, one of ten operas that he composed during his career. The opera, which unfolds over three acts, dramatically recounts the story of Andrew Borden and his second wife, Abbie, who were found brutally hacked to death in Fall River, Massachusetts in 1892, a crime unsolved to this day. The title character, their daughter Lizzie, was charged as the main suspect, but later acquitted of the accused murders, only to live out her life in solitude. A nursery rhyme was told for generations to come, mocking Lizzie, immortalizing the tale. The dramatic arc of this family portrait is complemented by an eclectic range of musical styles composed by Beeson, highlighted by passages of chromaticism and atonalism, with uses of early American hymns and folk songs. Beeson’s opera features a libretto by Kenward Elmslie, after a compact scenario by Richard Plant.

Lizzie Borden is recognized as one of the most significant mid-century American operas and unique in that it depicts a purely American story. The work was premiered in 1965 by the New York City Opera and televised in 1967 by the National Education Television network with the original cast, a landmark moment for the arts on television in the United States. A 1996 revival at Glimmerglass Opera was also presented at City Opera in 1999 and broadcast on national television again as part of the "Live from Lincoln Center" series. This new staging at Eastern Carolina University comes after other recent college-level productions, such as a 2008 production at Washington University in St. Louis.

> Further information on work: Lizzie Borden
> Synopsis of work: Lizzie Borden
> Listen to excerpt of Margaret's Garden Aria

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