Commissioned by Loudoun Lyric Opera company in honor of the Civil War Sesquicentennial, NORTON follows the unique experiences of Union soldier Oliver Willcox Norton as he struggles to answer what was worth living and dying for during America's greatest conflict.
Supported in part by a Project Grant from the Virginia Commission for the Arts, NORTON's music was written by composer David E. Chávez, with a concept and libretto by Meredith Bean McMath. This powerful new work features high caliber vocalists, live orchestration, Civil War costuming, and screen images of rarely seen Civil War-era drawings from the Becker Collection (Courtesy of Boston College). The first weekend of performances will also feature a presentation of "Taps" by Jari Villanueava. Click HERE to read a synopsis.
Friday, April 4, 8pm
Saturday, April 5, 8 pm
Sunday, April 6, 3 pm
Friday, April 11, 8pm
Saturday, April 12, 8 pm
Sunday, April 13, 3 pm
Franklin Park Arts Center
36441 Blueridge View Lane
Gregory Stuart – Col. Strong Vincent
Bryan Jackson – Sgt. Jackson
Simon Charette – Charette
Margaret Anne Helmick – Hattie
Hillary LaBonte – Jenny and Libby Cover
Victoria McGrath – Mary
Matt Curtis – Anderson
Broderick Brown – Union Aide
Scott Tousley – Patterson and Union Officer
Tolaya Andrews - Ensemble and Sarah Cover
Sarah Sylvia Johnson - Ensemble and Hattie Cover
NORTON ARTISTIC STAFF
Meredith Bean McMath and David E. Chávez
Composer David E. Chávez is currently completing his D.M.A. in Music Composition and was awarded a 2013 Artist Residency from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in order to work on the NORTON score. NORTON's concept and libretto were created by prize-winning playwright and award-winning historian, Meredith Bean McMath and based on letters and diaries of soldiers and civlians, military records and news reports, and the WPA interviews with ex-slaves. The Managing Director of Run Rabbit Run Productions, Inc., McMath holds a BA in History from The College of William and Mary an MS in Arts Management from Shenandoah University. On Friday, August 8, 3 pm, Meredith, David, LLO President Pamela Butler and selected vocalists will do a presentation on the creation of this work as part of Week 7 - Ken Burns Week at Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, New York.
Stage Director – Meredith Bean McMath
Music Director – David E. Chávez
Producer – Pamela Butler
Stage Manager - Seraphine Terryberry
SYNOPSIS of NORTON: A Civil War Opera
The opera opens in a Union camp, as newly-minted soldiers of the 83rd Pennsylvania happily tell their loved ones why they signed up and how quickly the business will all be over (Ensemble: "Two months in the army").
But the troop's bugler, Oliver Willcox Norton, pulls away from tentmates Henry and Dennison to tell his sister he doesn't believe the war will be easily won. Libby replies she wishes she could join him in the fight and promises to keep supporting the Underground Railroad - as they'd done together before the war (Aria: "A thousand letters in my mind"). We then follow Norton as he prepares for battle and meets a Virginia slave named Sarah. Sarah tells him the story of of her husband, Thomas, who was whipped for refusing to build Confederate forts at Leesburg and then dragged away. As she conjures the memory, Thomas steps forward to speak of life on a Virginia plantation and the night of the Nat Turner Rebellion (Aria: "Scrape the handles clean"). In the next scene, Norton helps Col. Butterfield work out notes to a new bugle call for "Lights Out," (Aria: "The bugle's all in all"), and soon afterward Norton's unit heads into their first true fight: the Battle of Gaines Mill (Ensemble: "This fearful dream"). But Norton's tentnatmes, Henry and Dennision, do not return. Act One ends as the 83rd hears they are heading to Gettysburg.
As the second Act open, families wait anxiously for news of the great battle in Pennsylvania (Ensemble: "Let me hear from you"), and we soon move to the fields at Gettysburg. While there, we meet a group of Confederates just before "Pickett's Charge" (Aria: "Run, Hare, Run...") and move on to Norton and his new commander, Col. Strong Vincent, as they wait below Little Round Top ("The Titans would be happy there..."). Norton is there to hear Vincent make the critical decision to support the hill, and the battle ends as Norton faces a Condederate Soldier named Dortch, who speaks of Death as though he knows him well (Aria: "Shall I meet Death?"). After Gettysburg, Libby seems to come looking for Norton there, calling out to him, and an exhausted Norton finally replies (Duet: "And you live"). Having survived Gettysburg, Norton's gains an interest in "making a little something of himself," and seeks and secures an appointment as a Lieutenant to the 8th U.S. Colored Troop. In the camp, we meet Thomas, Sarah's husband - now a newly minted member of the 8th (Duet: "The road to freedom"). Soon after the 8th USCT heads into their first battle, and Norton gets an entirely new perspective on the war (Ensemble: "Stronger than we've ever been"). A while later, the Peace is declared, and the war is over (Ensemble: "You live a life"). And Norton's past is left to inform his future.