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Photo: Walt Frerck
World Premiere by The Houston Grand Opera, 1976

Floyd, Carlisle

Bilby's Doll (1975)

Duration: 135 minutes
Opera in three acts, eight scenes

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

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- 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)

This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the world.

World Premiere
Houston, Texas
David Pountney, director
Conductor: Christopher Keene
Company: Houston Grand Opera


Silas, the tavern keeperbaritone
Deacon Thumb, a prosperous farmertenor
Titus Thumb, his sonbaritone
Jared Bilby, a former sea captainbass
Mr. Zelley, a clergymanbass-baritone
Goody Goochy, the village midwife-undertakercontralto
Town Criertenor
Hannah Bilby, Jared Bilby's wifemezzo-soprano
Doll Bilby, the Bilby's foster daughtersoprano
Mrs. Thumb, wife of Deacon Thumbsoprano
Sorrow, twin daughter of Deacon and Mrs. Thumbsoprano
Labour, twin daughter of Deacon and Mrs. Thumbsoprano
First Suitor, suitor of the widowed Hannah Bilbytenor
Second Suitor, suitor of the widowed Hannah Bilbybaritone
Mr. Kleaver, the village doctorbaritone
Captain Buzzey, the local constablebaritone
Mr. Increase Matherbass
A Young Boynon-singing
Goody Greenenon-singing
A Servant Boynon-singing
Judge Bridenon-singing
Judge Lollimournon-singing
People of Cowan Corners and Salem, Deputies, Judges' retinuenon-singing

Time and Place
1671-73, Cowan Corners, Massachusetts

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.


Dramatic, Tragic

Magic/Mystery, Relationships, Religion, Society, Literary

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