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Little, David T.

JFK (2016)

Duration: 120 minutes
Grand opera in two acts

Libretto by Royce Vavrek (E)

2(II=picc).2(II=corA)2(I=E-flat, II=bcl).1.dbn-2.2.2.btbn.1-timp-perc(2)-harp-keyboard 1 (pft).keyboard 2 (cel, synthesizer with volume pedal)-optional onstage rockabilly banda (piano, bass, drums)-onstage harmonica in F- Keyboards and percussion should be set up in close proximity to one other in pit to help with nuanced ensemble passages.
Abbreviations (PDF)

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

World Premiere
Bass Hall, Fort Worth, TX
Thaddeus Strassberger, director
Conductor: Steven Osgood
Company: Fort Worth Opera


John F. “Jack” Kennedy, President of the United StatesBaritone
Jacqueline “Jackie” Bouvier Kennedy, The First LadyMezzo Soprano
Clara Harris (Clotho, the spinner), present as a hotel maidSoprano
Henry Rathbone (Lachesis, the allotter), present as Secret ServiceTenor
Atropos, the cutter (optional)Silent Role
Rosemary Kennedy, Jack’s sisterSoprano
Nikita Khrushchev, Prime Minister of the Soviet UnionTenor
Jackie Onassis, a dream manifestation near the end of her lifeMezzo Soprano
Lyndon Baines Johnson, Vice President of the United StatesBass Baritone
Billie Sol Estes, Texas Business Man, “Wheeler-Dealer”Tenor
Ralph Yarborough, United States SenatorBaritone
John Connally, Governor of TexasBaritone
Raymond J. Buck, President, Ft. Worth Chamber of CommerceBaritone
Jim Wright, Texas CongressmanBass

Time and Place
1963, Fort Worth, Texas

Composer Notes
JFK delves into the hours President John F. Kennedy spent in Fort Worth, Texas immediately before his assassination in Dallas, exploring the inner life of the President and Mrs. Kennedy during their final moments together. While we conducted extensive background research into these figures and events, the opera is not a historic document and does not depict the assassination. As with our chamber opera, Dog Days, this work departs as far from reality as the truth requires.

Restless in the Presidential Suite at the Hotel Texas in Fort Worth, as two of the three fates guide the Kennedys toward the impending tragedy—a third fate awaits in Dallas—they drift into sleep. In vivid dream states—both natural and narcotic—the opera explores the subconscious of this complicated couple, examining their physical and emotional pain, their joy and love, and their metamorphosis into American myth.

Drawing on real details of the Kennedys' final night, the opera uses dreams to create an imaginary time and space, allowing the couple to revisit those who helped to shape their personal and political lives. Jack travels to the moon with his sister Rosemary, where he spars with political rivals, and relives his courtship of the demure Jacqueline. Jackie sings a duet with her future self, Jacqueline Onassis, who dresses her in her iconic pink Chanel suit, assuring her that she has a part to play in the day’s proceedings. Time is flexible in this drama; fate is not.

JFK is a portrait of a precipice. The fleeting moments of hope before a cosmic page turned, optimism faltered, and America was forced into a new and uncertain era. The opera is a portrayal of the man as we project our hopes, dreams and fears upon him. It explores the sense of profound loss we still feel. It presents the innermost struggles of a fragile human, fated to an early demise, as time presses ever forward. And though the opera identifies with the emotions of President and Mrs. Kennedy, it is also our story. Drawing us ever closer to our destinies, and to that final moment, real or imagined.

—David T. Little and Royce Vavrek

Dramatic, Poetic, Tragic

History, Relationships, Politics, Society

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