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Libretto by the composer, based on the novel `A Mirror of Witches' by Esther Forbes (E)

Scoring

Major roles: 2S,M,C,2T,Bar,BBar,B; minor roles: S,T,2Bar,
3 speakers; chorus
2(II=picc).2(II=corA).2(II=bcl).2-4.2.2.1-timp.perc(4)xyl/vib/SD/TD/BD/tamb/susp.cym/crash cym/ant.cym/ant.chimes/stone wind chimes/chimes/tpl.cl/wdbl/chinese tpl.bl/gong/bells/bell tree/whip/vibraslap-harp-cel-
pft-strings

Abbreviations (PDF)

World Premiere
27/02/1976
Houston, Texas
David Pountney, director
Conductor: Christopher Keene
Company: Houston Grand Opera

Roles

Silas, the tavern keeper baritone
Deacon Thumb, a prosperous farmer tenor
Titus Thumb, his son baritone
Jared Bilby, a former sea captain bass
Mr. Zelley, a clergyman bass-baritone
Goody Goochy, the village midwife-undertaker contralto
Town Crier tenor
Hannah Bilby, Jared Bilby's wife mezzo-soprano
Doll Bilby, the Bilby's foster daughter soprano
Mrs. Thumb, wife of Deacon Thumb soprano
Sorrow, twin daughter of Deacon and Mrs. Thumb soprano
Labour, twin daughter of Deacon and Mrs. Thumb soprano
First Suitor, suitor of the widowed Hannah Bilby tenor
Second Suitor, suitor of the widowed Hannah Bilby baritone
Shad tenor
Mr. Kleaver, the village doctor baritone
Captain Buzzey, the local constable baritone
Mr. Increase Mather bass
A Young Boy non-singing
Goody Greene non-singing
A Servant Boy non-singing
Judge Bride non-singing
Judge Lollimour non-singing
People of Cowan Corners and Salem, Deputies, Judges' retinue non-singing
Time and Place

1671-73, Cowan Corners, Massachusetts

Synopsis

Bilby's Doll, based on the novel "A Mirror for Witches" by Esther Forbes, is the story of Doll Bilby, a French orphan girl whose spirituality and imagination collide with the hostility and practical ideals of the Puritan colony where she is raised by foster parents.


Doll was brought to Massachusetts from France by Jared Bilby, her foster father.  She declines a marriage proposal from Titus Thumb, a young ministerial student, saying that her natural parents were burned as witches in France and she worries that she might also become a witch.  Instead, she meets and marries a man who pretends he is an authentic demon, but who is later revealed to be the estranged and opportunistic son of the minister Zelley, Doll's friend and supporter.


Although she is at first devastated by the revelation of her lover as a mortal, Doll's belief that her husband is a demon is restored as she dies giving birth in a jail cell.


 

Moods

Dramatic, Tragic

Subjects

Literary, Magic/Mystery, Relationships, Religion, Society

Recommended Recording
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