Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Review of Winter Opera's "The Ballad of Baby Doe"

"The Ballad of Baby Doe", presented Winter Opera St. Louis at the Skip Viragh Center for the Arts. Pictured is Chloe Haynes (Young Silver Dollar) & Mark Freiman (William Jennings Bryan) and members of the Company. Photo by Ron Lindsey
So, opera fans, let’s consider Douglas Moore and John Latouche’s 1956 opera “The Ballad of Baby Doe.” Is it a classic that deserves its position as one of a small number of American operas in the standard repertory? Or is it a dated effort whose time has come and gone? Or perhaps a little of both?

If you had asked me those questions over forty years ago when I first saw the opera with the late, great Beverly Sills (the first to record the title role and still its best-known performer), I’d probably have gone with “American classic.” Now that I’ve seen what is, surprisingly, the St. Louis premiere, I’m more inclined towards “a little of both.”

Douglas Moore’s score, while conservative by 1950s classical music standards (we were still suffering the scourge of Serialism back then), is nevertheless right in the mainstream of what most people are accustomed to hearing and has provided a number of memorable and often-recorded arias, particularly for the title character. Many of the ensemble scenes, as well, have considerable dramatic impact.

John Latouche’s libretto, on the other hand, has not worn well over the last half century. Based on the real-life love affair between Elizabeth “Baby Doe” McCourt and Colorado silver magnate Horace Tabor in the late 1800s, the opera chronicles Tabor’s affair with Baby Doe, his divorce from his wife Augusta and subsequent marriage to Baby Doe, the damage the resulting scandal did to his political career, and Tabor’s eventual ruin when America went off the silver standard and the bottom fell out of his investments. Baby Doe stuck with him through it all, eventually dying in poverty in a cabin on the property of Tabor’s Matchless Mine, having promised her dying husband that she would never give it up.

Baby Doe’s “stand by your man” naïveté is historically accurate, and it’s clear that Latouche expects his audience to find her sympathetic. Back in the 1950s—when the popular view of a woman’s proper place in society hadn’t advanced that much from the 1890s—that might have been reasonable. Today, however, it’s hard to take a character who behaves like a doormat seriously, especially when the libretto tells us so little of her inner life and background.

There’s a similar problem with Horace’s character. Until the final scene, in which he hallucinates events from his past life, he’s little more than a stage cliché: the older man who falls for a younger woman and suffers for it. Up to that point, we have no idea why he did what he did, and by the time we find out, it’s too late to make his character truly tragic. Ditto Baby Doe, who remains something of a cipher to the end. Indeed, the most fully realized and most clearly tragic person in the opera is Horace’s divorced wife Augusta.

With that kind of baggage, a production of “The Ballad of Baby Doe” needs to have both solid musical and dramatic values and, frankly, plenty of money for lavish sets and costumes to work. You need real flash to compensate for what is, in my view, dated and theatrically clumsy material.

The Winter Opera production boasted some fine singing actors, especially in the central roles, but some of the cameo parts were noticeably weaker than the leads. The minimal set pieces served as a reminder that (as conductor Steven Jarvi pointed out in his curtain speech) this is a company operating on a small budget. Those small sets also forced stage director David Carl Toulson to cram his actors into smallish playing areas, and while he came up with some ingenious solutions to that problem, much of his blocking did not seem to be related to the dramatic shape of the scenes. I often felt that actors were moving just to avoid having them stand still. The sometimes ill-fitting costumes were also a distraction.

But enough of that. Musically, Winter Opera’s “Baby Doe” was mostly very impressive. In the title role, company Artistic Director Gina Galati was in generally good voice when we saw the show on Sunday, running into trouble only when she had to swoop up to a high note, at which point her voice sometimes became harsh and metallic. She was at her best in Baby Doe’s more lyrical moments and her final aria, “Always Through the Changing,” was very affecting.

Baritone Adelmo Guidarelli was a first-rate Horace Tabor; not surprising, given that he’s one of the few opera singers who can lay claim to a MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs) award for a cabaret show. You don’t get that without some theatre smarts. Lindsey Anderson, who was such a fine Katisha in Winter Opera’s “Mikado” last year, turned out yet another outstanding performance as Augusta Tabor. Yes, she’s one of the few singers helped rather than hindered by the libretto, but it was still a nicely nuanced portrayal.

The rest of the singers ranged from excellent to adequate. The chorus sounded fine in the ensemble numbers as did the orchestra overall, despite the occasional intonation problem with the brasses.

In the final analysis, I think Winter Opera should be congratulated for bringing what is (at least) a historically significant work to town for the first time. If the result wasn’t entirely successful, the fault lay more with the material than with its presentation. Winter Opera is a welcome presence on the local music scene, and I hope they continue to prosper and take on risky projects as well as the more mainstream stuff.

Speaking of which, Winter Opera’s season continues with Puccini’s “Tosca” March 8 and 10. Performances take place at the splendid Skip Viragh Center on the Chaminade campus on Lindbergh just north of I-64. For more information:

Chuck Lavazzi is the senior performing arts critic for 88.1 KDHX, where this review originally appeared.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Critics on "The Ballad of Baby Doe"

Winter Opera Saint Louis' production of The Ballad of Baby Doe was met with critical acclaim over the weekend. Here's a sample of what Chuck Lavazzi of KDHX, Sarah Bryan Miller of the Post-Dispatch, and Gerry Kowarsky of Two on the Aisle had to say:

Chuck Lavazzi:
"[Gina Galati] was at her best in Baby Doe’s more lyrical moments and her final aria, “Always Through the Changing,” was very affecting...Baritone Adelmo Guidarelli was a first-rate Horace Tabor...Lindsey Anderson, who was such a fine Katisha in Winter Opera’s “Mikado” last year, turned out yet another outstanding performance as Augusta Tabor...a nicely nuanced portrayal...Winter Opera is a welcome presence on the local music scene, and I hope they continue to prosper and take on risky projects as well as the more mainstream stuff."
Sarah Bryan Miller:
"Lindsey Anderson was the most impressive in dramatic terms, imbuing Augusta with a rock-ribbed New England righteousness that had neither room nor sympathy for weakness, and singing with a dark tone entirely appropriate for the character...Gina Galati displayed a sweet, clear voice with well-placed high notes, and captured the essence of Baby...Adelmo Guidarelli’s Horace has a fine voice, but he was strongest in the acting department, the ex-miner’s earthiness peering out from behind the magnate’s frock coat...[B]ass-baritone Mark Freiman’s William Jennings Bryan and tenors Jon Garrett and Philip Touchette were standouts...Mezzo Sara Gottman is young (and slender) for Mama McCourt, but she did a fine job as Baby’s gaffe-prone mother."
Gerry Kowarsky:
"Adelmo Guidarelli projected the power of the self-made man in his heyday, the tenderness of his love for Baby Doe and the horror of his visions of the future after his downfall...Lindsey Anderson was a formidable presence as the spurned wife Augusta. The strength of Anderson's voice underlined the character's steely sense of purpose...The sweetness of Gina Galati's voice was a fine match for the arias in which Baby Doe expresses her devotion to Horace...The orchestra played well and in balance with the singers under Steven Jarvi's direction...David Carl Toulson's stage direction kept the action moving well on a utilitarian set design by Scott Loebl...A fine effort all around."
Winter Opera St. Louis' production has concluded, but their season continues this March with a production of Puccini's Tosca starring Metropolitan Opera Soprano Stella Zambalis on March 8th & 10th. Visit for more information.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

"The Ballad of Baby Doe" Opens Tomorrow Night

Gina Galati & Adelmo Guidarelli
Photo ©Ron Lindsey
Winter Opera Saint Louis continues its sixth season this weekend with the St. Louis Premiere of Douglas Moore's opera The Ballad of Baby Doe, the true story of an enduring romance between silver baron Horace Tabor and Elizabeth “Baby Doe” Tabor in 1880s Colorado. Made rich by the Matchless Mine in Leadville, Colorado, Horace Tabor has grown disenchanted with his stern wife Augusta and soon falls in love with the ravishing young Elizabeth Doe, a visitor from Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Their union endures divorces, scandal, political strife and the eventual ruination of Horace’s riches brought on by the gold standard. Hear ravishing melodies that have entered the standard operatic repertoire, including “Warm as the Autumn Light,” “The Willow Song,” and “Always Through the Changing.” 


Lindsey Anderson
Photo ©Ron Lindsey
Soprano Gina Galati, returning after singing Mimì in La Bohème last season, sings the leading role of Elizabeth “Baby Doe” Tabor, a role made famous by Soprano Beverly Sills. Making his company debut, Baritone Adelmo Guidarelli (artist with St. Petersburg Opera and New Jersey State Opera) portrays Horace Tabor. Having last sung as Katisha in The Mikado, Mezzo-Soprano Lindsey Anderson returns to sing the role of Augusta Tabor. Winter Opera veteran Mezzo-Soprano Sara Gottman, who recently sang the nymph Dryad in Ariadne auf Naxos, returns to sing the role of Mama McCourt, Baby Doe’s mother. Bass Mark Freiman, who directed and sang in last season’s La Bohème, sings the role of William Jennings Bryan, a role he recorded on a live Central City Opera recording of The Ballad of Baby Doe for Sony Newport Classics on the occasion of the opera’s 40th Anniversary in 1996.

Adelmo Guidarelli & Ensemble
Photo ©Ron Lindsey
Twenty-five local professional artists sing various supporting roles and comprise the ensemble in Winter Opera's largest production yet.


Mark Freiman & Ensemble
Photo ©Ron Lindsey
Stage Director David Carl Toulson, whose credits include Asheville Lyric Opera, Tanglewood Music Festival, Washington National Opera and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis makes his company debut. Winter Opera Music Director Steven Jarvi returns to conduct the orchestra. Erin Waters Ryan makes her company debut as production stage manager. Nancy Mayo, adjunct professor of piano and accompanying at Webster University and resident collaborative pianist with Winter Opera Saint Louis, serves as rehearsal pianist. JC Krajicek, who costumed last season’s La Bohème, returns as Costume Designer. Having most recently designed The Mikado, Scott Loebl and Sean Savoie return as set designer and lighting designer, respectively. Theresa Loebl serves as Production Manager.


Patricia Rice of the St. Louis Beacon penned an article on Winter Opera's efforts to mount this American opera. Sarah Bryan Miller of the Post-Dispatch published a brief interview with Gina Galati on the production. You may also read Operatic Saint Louis' Q & A with principals Gina Galati, Adelmo Guidarelli, Lindsey Anderson and interview with Stage Director David Carl Toulson.

The Ballad of Baby Doe opens tomorrow night, February 8th, at 8pm and continues Sunday, February 10th, at 3pm. Venue: Skip Viragh Center for the Arts at Chaminade located at 425 S. Lindbergh Blvd (map). Production sung in English with projected English supertitles. Tickets may be purchased by calling 314-865-0038 or visiting $10 Student Rush Tickets sold at the door; valid student ID required. For further information on the company, its future performances and special events, visit

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Interview with "Ballad of Baby Doe" Stage Director David Carl Toulson

David Carl Toulson
Operatic Saint Louis recently interviewed David Carl Toulson, stage director of Winter Opera Saint Louis' upcoming St. Louis Premiere of The Ballad of Baby Doe. No stranger to St. Louis, David has stage directed for both Webster University and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. This production marks his debut with Winter Opera.

This production marks your debut with Winter Opera Saint Louis, but you are no stranger to this city, having worked for OTSL in recent years. What do you most enjoy about working in St. Louis?
I think the thing that impresses me the most about creating opera in Saint Louis is the sense of community that surrounds the art form. Winter Opera Saint Louis is the third organization I have worked for in the area, and in all of my experiences here I have found there to incredible support from the public. This blurring between the public and the producing companies is wonderful; it keeps opera from inadvertently becoming an ‘ivory tower’ art from and allows it to be a more organic and vibrant experience.
Whenever preparing twentieth century works like The Ballad of Baby Doe, do you feel the need to approach them differently than Mozart, Verdi, Puccini, etc., or do you find modern operas to be no different?
For me the initial approach is the same. I take a hard look at the characters to try to understand their desires and their motivations and let that be the basis for my stage direction. I then listen to the music to help me determine in what manner they go about acting on their motivations. If the music were atonal or very disjunct, it might affect the way I move people about the stage, but in the case of Baby Doe, the music is very lyrical which leads me to take a more naturalistic approach to the stage direction.
What aspects of The Ballad of Baby Doe—in terms of its score, libretto or both—did you find inspiring as you prepared your staging of the piece?
I am amazed at how theatrically the score is written. In preparing to direct the show, Moore’s and Latouche’s intentions as to mood and movement were very clear to me. Having such a solid framework to base my direction on has made the rehearsal process a pleasure.
What do you believe makes "Baby Doe" such an enduring story, especially for opera?
I believe the staying power of the Baby Doe story has two major aspects. The first is its basis in American history. Using an American theme for this opera helps to make it instantly accessible and relatable to an American audience. More importantly though is the universal struggle of the principal trio. The story of Baby Doe is the story of a love triangle. There are no villains in the opera. As the opera unfolds, we as an audience can relate to the difficult decisions they make and their struggles become our own.
Douglas Moore’s score and John Latouche’s libretto form a work of tremendous dramatic and emotional scale. In this regard, have there been any particular moments or scenes that you have found especially challenging during preparation?
I have to say, all of the scenes come with their individual challenges and rewards. The final scene is worthy of note in that in it Horace is looking back on his life. He causes snippets of the opera and other moments of his past to appear on stage. Stepping away from reality and trying to represent someone’s inner thoughts on stage is always a challenge. I hope you find my solutions credible.
Conversely, were there any scenes in which you knew exactly what you wanted to do?
I can’t say that anything came particularly easy, but when I prepare a scene, once I boil it down and find its core the ideas usually come. I find that if I am struggling when planning a scene, I usually haven’t yet discovered its central meaning. When that happens, I try to take a step back, reevaluate the scene, and then try again.
Latouche’s libretto calls for a variety of locales both interior and exterior and covers a specific era of American history: the 1880s and '90s in Colorado and Washington D.C. How has the “look” of the opera come to life through collaborating with scenic designer Scott Loebl and costume designer J.C. Krajicek?
When approaching the opera, as a design team we made the decision to make the physical production simple and elegant. The show has 11 different locations over the course of almost 20 years. To try to completely represent each location would have been an impossible task and would have ruined the flow of the piece. Since mining is a central theme throughout the opera, we decided that mining timbers would be the primary look for all of the scenery. The only time we stray from this is for Baby’s and Horace’s wedding in Washington, D.C. By changing the color palette for that scene we are helping identify the difference in location.
Moore’s score never lacks for gorgeous arias and ensembles. Among them, do you have any particular favorites?
I can’t really choose a favorite; all of the music is gorgeous and incredibly engaging.
What would you say to convince the “man on the street” to attend this production?
I commented to someone recently that I thought Baby Doe was one of the most beautiful operas that most people didn’t know. My hope is that potential opera goers will not dismiss this opera thinking that because it is 20th century opera, they won’t enjoy it. Baby Doe is a compelling American story with beautiful music. The characters are relatable and accessible and the story is heartbreaking.
Visit to learn more about Mr. Toulson and his career.

The Ballad of Baby Doe runs February 8th (8pm) and 10th (3pm) at the Skip Viragh Center for the Arts on the campus of Chaminade College Preparatory School (425 S. Lindbergh Blvd; map). Tickets may be purchased by calling 314-865-0038 or online at $10 Student Rush Tickets available at the door; valid Student ID required. For more information on this and future productions, visit

Monday, February 4, 2013

Q & A with Gina Galati of "The Ballad of Baby Doe"

Gina Galati
Soprano Gina Galati sings the role of Elizabeth "Baby Doe" Tabor in Winter Opera St. Louis' The Ballad of Baby Doe. She pulls double duty in this production, also serving as the company's Artistic Director. Operatic Saint Louis recently engaged her in a Q & A session where she offers a perspective on her role and the opera.

The Ballad of Baby Doe represents a couple of “firsts” for Winter Opera: the first local premiere of a celebrated opera as well as the first opera by an American composer—Douglas Moore. How did you and Musical Director Steven Jarvi come to choose this piece for your sixth season?
We wanted to produce our first American opera and realized that The Ballad of Baby Doe had never been done previously in St. Louis. Plus, we thought the opera would present a nice challenge for the company.
Which aspects of the real life Elizabeth Doe—as well as Latouche’s rendering of her in the libretto—intrigued you the most in preparing the title role?
What intrigued me the most is her strong character and dedication to Horace Tabor even though it causes her ruin. Her vows and strong unconditional love also appealed to me. Elizabeth could have moved on and secured a better future, but she gave her life to him and his passions instead.
The role of Elizabeth Doe provides musical lines and phrases both gorgeous and challenging for a coloratura soprano. What particular musical challenges did the role present to you as a singer?
The most challenging parts of the role are the large interval leaps in the melody which come out of nowhere sometimes. Also, vocal entrances can be tricky at times because Douglas Moore's choices in tonality are not always the obvious ones.
You have sung several roles from the Italian repertoire, notably Puccini, Verdi and Donizetti. How does the American Elizabeth Doe compare to the women you have previously portrayed onstage?
I feel that Elizabeth Doe is the first character I have played that actively makes the decisions that bring on her demise. She was not sick. She made her own way through life because of her vows. It was nice playing a real American woman, too!
What musical moments in the opera are some of the most affecting and rewarding for you?
I think the last aria"Always Through the Changing"is very beautiful and any person, especially those who have lost a loved one, can identify with the words. I also love the Silver Aria ("Gold is a fine thing...") with its beautiful accompaniment which nicely describes the beauty of silver as well as Baby Doe's ability to make peace between groups quarreling. Her really admirable qualities come out in this aria.
Visit to learn more about Ms. Galati and her upcoming career.

The Ballad of Baby Doe runs February 8th (8pm) and 10th (3pm) at the Skip Viragh Center for the Arts on the campus of Chaminade College Preparatory School (425 S. Lindbergh Blvd; map). Tickets may be purchased by calling 314-865-0038 or online at $10 Student Rush Tickets available at the door; valid Student ID required. For more information on this and future productions, visit

Q & A with Adelmo Guidarelli of "The Ballad of Baby Doe"

Adelmo Guidarelli
Baritone Adelmo Guidarelli sings the lead role of Horace Tabor in Winter Opera St. Louis' The Ballad of Baby Doe. This production marks his company debut. Operatic Saint Louis recently engaged him in a Q & A session where he offers his perspective on his role and the opera.

As you found your way into this role, what aspects of the real life Horace Tabor and Latouche’s vision of the man were most fascinating and helpful to you as a singing actor?
For me, Horace is a man's man, like the venerable John Wayne, and I think Latouche did a great job of bringing that out in Horace. The emotions that Horace feels during the opera are emotions that everyone in the audience has felt at some point in their lives, which makes him a tangible character. To access those emotions as an actor was not a challenge for me. The challenge for every actor is in the art of believably conveying those feelings to everyone in the theater.
How does the role of Horace Tabor compare to your previous repertoire? Have there been any unique challenges in preparation?
I am usually cast as the happy-go-lucky guy, like Marcello in La Bohème or Figaro in Le Nozze di Figaro--gentlemen who are, for the most part, one or two dimensional characters. This is my role debut as Horace so when I began digging into him I quickly learned that he is a more complex character and the arc of his journey is huge. He begins the opera a wealthy, married man. His marriage is appropriately comfortable for the time period and his station in life, but he is not romantically drawn to his wife. A roller coaster ride of events begins when his marriage tarnishes upon meeting a sparkling new woman with whom he unexpectedly falls in love. He soon gets a divorce, fathers children, and becomes involved in an ill-fated struggle against the establishment for a cause he wholeheartedly believes in. This chain of events leads him to ultimately lose everything and die alone. Having personally experienced some of those situations in my own life, gave me a wealth of senses to draw from. The learning curve I worked hardest to tackle was within the complexity of the music. In my usual Italian repertoire the vocal line most always sits within the cord structure but in this score there are so many accidentals, modifications to the notes to add drama and meaning to the text, that the learning process was a bit longer than average. Usually when a composer creates a note, or a cluster of notes, outside of the chord there is a dramatic meaning to his thinking so deciphering those intricacies added a measure of fun to the undertaking. Yes, singing opera is fun!
As the opera begins, we soon learn that Tabor has grown distant from his wife Augusta. From where do you believe this disenchantment stems? What qualities in Elizabeth turn him away from Augusta?
Augusta is a chaste New England woman who doesn't really know how to deal with their sudden wealth and so her idea of how they should behave as middle-aged wealthy people is completely different than that of Horace. When Elizabeth and Horace first meet in the opera Horace has just been scolded by Augusta outside of the Opera House in front of all of their friends while dancing around with the saloon girls he employs. Horace embraces the freedom of the American West and the fun their wealth allows but Augusta can't bring herself to be part of it. I think this rift puts him in a vulnerable and lonely place when he meets Elizabeth for the first time. Her obvious free spirited zest for life entices him to make the choice to leave Augusta and live the full menu of life available to a man of such means.
Throughout the opera, Horace Tabor makes many choices that others find risky and potentially destructive—especially ignoring the impending the silver crash. Yet, he doesn’t seem to care about others’ warnings. What do you think causes him to be so steadfast in his actions?
Hope and determination are key qualities in Horace. He is a "stick to your guns till death" kind of guy.
What musical moments in the opera are some of the most affecting and rewarding for you?
The aria "Warm as the Autumn Light" has been the aria that I have offered as my English piece at every audition since college so to finally be able to sing it with an orchestra is well worth the wait! Also, the duet between Horace and Augusta that springs from her confrontation about his dalliance with Elizabeth is a moving and telling moment in the opera. He tells Augusta that Elizabeth is a beautiful and generous woman who fills his heart with love and that her own coldness has made him feel that he is going through life as a dead man. Musically, it is one of the most beautiful moments in the score. The other moment that comes to mind is the final scene at the Tabor Opera House. Elizabeth has been told that Horace is there and appears to be ill. She finds him on the stage and he asks her if she has come to tell him that he has failed her. It has been hard to stay in character while singing this line; it brings me to tears. This is the lowest point for Horace in the entire show. He is completely broken and certain that Elizabeth will tell him that he is a failure. To go to that dark and isolating place as an actor and try to stay in the moment without thinking, “How am I going to sing when my throat is closing with tears?” is the hardest part of my portrayal of Horace Tabor. So, on opening night, the audience will hear and see the reality of that moment for me as an actor. I always allow whatever happens in that moment in time to happen naturally. I am a student of the Sanford Meisner technique of acting and if I am to stay true to myself, the scene and the character, I have to free myself and let the moment evolve on its own. I am honored to be chosen to bring Horace Tabor to life here at Winter Opera St. Louis for its St. Louis premiere. The task is great but the reward is even greater.
Visit to learn more about Mr. Guidarelli and his upcoming career.

The Ballad of Baby Doe runs February 8th (8pm) and 10th (3pm) at the Skip Viragh Center for the Arts on the campus of Chaminade College Preparatory School (425 S. Lindbergh Blvd; map). Tickets may be purchased by calling 314-865-0038 or online at $10 Student Rush Tickets available at the door; valid Student ID required. For more information on this and future productions, visit

Q & A with Lindsey Anderson of "The Ballad of Baby Doe"

Lindsey Anderson
Mezzo-soprano Lindsey Anderson sings the leading role of Augusta Tabor in Winter Opera St. Louis' The Ballad of Baby Doe. This production will be her second with Winter Opera, having made her company debut as Katisha in The Mikado last November. Operatic Saint Louis recently engaged her in a Q & A session where she offers a perspective on her role and the opera.

Given some of the libretto’s text, it might be easy to write off Augusta Tabor as a serious, cold woman. In your preparation, what have you discovered about Augusta through the libretto or other sources in order to present a well-rounded, three-dimensional character?
Augusta is, indeed, a very serious and proper woman, but after spending all of this time with the character, I found it is truly just the tip of the iceberg. She leads with a harsh facade but this coldness is simply the result of years and years of trials and hard work. Augusta and Horace were pretty much opposites in all respects. This great contrast between them may have caused Augusta to lean too far in hopes of positively influencing Horace's sense of responsibility. She was a woman that got too caught up in details of business and propriety and forgot how to enjoy life. She truly is very tender and loving--she just has a hard time showing it.
Augusta, in the opera, seems very shrewd without a shred of gullibility. Do you believe that she ever doubts the rumors of her husband’s infidelity?
You're very right in saying that Augusta is certainly not a gullible woman. Although she is intelligent and a true realist, she is still a woman whom I believe to be quite a romantic at heart. Who else, other than a romantic, would forge the frontier to support their husband's big ideas? There is a soft side to Augusta, but she doesn't show it and I find that her concealment of it makes her all the more vulnerable. I'm sure she was hurt deeply with every rumor of Horace's infidelity and although she knew them to be true, she no doubt hoped that they were not.
During Act Two, Augusta warns Elizabeth, and thus Horace, to beware the silver crash and get out of the trade altogether. Why do you believe she makes this warning, given her previous vow to ruin Tabor?
This scene comes as quite a surpise. The last time the audience heard from Augusta she was (with inspiration from her friends) making grand plans to ruin Horace's name. But time has passed and wisdom permits her to realize that it would only hurt herself to hold onto feelings of anger and vengeance. I believe she was very lonely when she reached out to help Elizabeth and Horace. She knew her health was deteriorating and saw no logical point in trying further a feud.
Frances Bible, an early interpreter of Augusta, claims that Douglas Moore initially wrote the role in the high register for a Dramatic Soprano, but decided he wanted a darker sound and designated the role for a Mezzo Soprano…yet he didn’t rewrite a single note. As a Mezzo, do you find the role’s more vocally demanding than the rest of your repertoire?
This role which is quite demanding vocally. I just finished singing the role of Sister Helen Prejean in Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking. It was an absolutely beautiful piece and another very strong woman to portray. I was on the stage for the whole 2 hours and 30 minutes but it was a different type of role from Augusta in that it intermixed heavier singing with lighter, more delicate moments. Augusta is a character which has a bit less stage time, but all that she says is poignant and very dramatic. She is decisive with her words but they are packed with a punch! In addition to the vocal demands, the music of Augusta is just as complex as the character. Douglas Moore did an amazing job capturing the many layers of Augusta with unpredictable, complex melodies and rhythms.
What musical moments in the opera are some of the most affecting and rewarding for you?
There are many moments that I find very affecting, but Augusta's Aria, "Augusta! How can you turn away?" is by far the most moving moment for me. It combines a lifetime's worth of emotions into 5 minutes and it is absolutely heart-wrenching. Although very late in the opera, it is definitely the crux of Augusta's character development. It is emotionally and physically exhausting to sing, but few arias touch me as deeply as this one.
Visit to learn more about Ms. Anderson and her upcoming career.

The Ballad of Baby Doe runs February 8th (8pm) and 10th (3pm) at the Skip Viragh Center for the Arts on the campus of Chaminade College Preparatory School (425 S. Lindbergh Blvd; map). Tickets may be purchased by calling 314-865-0038 or online at $10 Student Rush Tickets available at the door; valid Student ID required. For more information on this and future productions, visit

Historical Facts: Elizabeth "Baby Doe" Tabor in "The Ballad of Baby Doe"

Elizabeth "Baby Doe" Tabor
Operatic Saint Louis concludes its series of historical facts on the leading characters of Winter Opera Saint Louis' upcoming production of The Ballad of Baby Doe. The final historical figure in this series is Elizabeth "Baby Doe" Tabor. Be sure to read all about Baby Doe's small historical connection to St. Louis!

Facts on Elizabeth McCourt Tabor:

  • Born Elizabeth Bonduel McCourt in 1854 Oshkosh, Wisconsin to Irish immigrants.
  • Married Harvey Doe in 1877; moved with him to Central City, Colorado that same year.
  • Earned the name "Baby Doe" in the years her husband owned and ran the Fourth of July gold mine.
  • Grew disenchanted with Harvey Doe, likely due to his alcoholism and financial troubles, and went to Leadville, Colorado, where she met silver baron Horace Tabor, who left his first wife Augusta, to spend time with her.
  • Divorced Harvey Doe in March 1880; became established in fancy hotel suites in Denver and Leadville with financial support from Tabor.
  • Went with Tabor to St. Louis in September 1882 to be married in secret. (More on this below!) 
  • Augusta Tabor, long steadfast in refusing to grant a divorce, finally relented in January 1883.
  • Two months later, Baby Doe (28) and Tabor (52) were married publicly at the Willard Hotel in Washington D.C. during Tabor's brief tenure as U.S. Senator.
  • After performing the ceremony, the Catholic priest learned both husband and wife had been divorced and refused to sign the marriage license, an action that set off a scandal which tarnished the Tabors' societal standing.
  • Gave birth to two daughters: Elizabeth Bonduel Lily (1884) and Rose Mary Echo Silver Dollar (1889). 
  • Promised to fulfill her husband's dying wish that the Matchless Mine--their motherlode of fortune--be held onto, which she managed to do until ultimately losing the mine in 1927 to satisfy a debt.
  • Despite loss of the mine, the owners allowed Baby Doe to live in the cabin near the mine shaft.
  • In Winter 1935, neighbors discovered her body in the cabin, frozen to death on the floor.
  • In contrast to the size of Augusta's estate (more than $1.5 million), Baby Doe's possessions were auctioned off to souvenir collectors for a mere $700. Buried next to Horace in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. 

Baby Doe and Horace Tabor have a small historical connection to the city of St. Louis. In the book The Legend of Baby Doe: The Life and Times of the Silver Queen of the West, author John Burke describes Horace Tabor's maneuvering to placate Baby Doe, who desperately wanted to get married despite Horace's difficulty securing a legal divorce from Augusta:
"Without having papers served on Augusta, Horace quickly obtained a divorce, garlanded with fraud and perjury though it was. He and Baby then journeyed secretly to St. Louis, where they were married by a justice of the peace. Technically, they were now living not in sin but in a state of bigamy. He promised that they would be married in a Catholic ceremony once the legal obstacles were cleared.

Baby was pacified for the moment--at least she had a marriage certificate to fondle--but a secret marriage was almost as unsatisfactory as the previous arrangement. She was getting awfully tired of wearing that heavy veil whenever she and Horace ventured into public view; of tripping over curbstones and blundering into lampposts. Furthermore the disguise wasn't fooling people anymore."
The role of Baby Doe in the Douglas Moore opera is a veritable gold-- or shall we say silvermine of arias for lyric coloratura sopranos. Baby Doe sings five arias throughout the opera: the Willow Song, the Letter Aria ("Dearest Mama..."), an aria sung to her romantic rival Augusta ("I Knew It Was Wrong"), the Silver Aria ("Gold is a fine thing...") sung to make peace between gold- and silver-standard supporters, and "Always Through the Changing," sung to her dying husband at the conclusion of the opera. Listen to an interpretation of the Willow Song by soprano Beverly Sills, who sang the role in its 1958 New York City Opera premiere.

The Ballad of Baby Doe runs February 8th (8pm) and 10th (3pm) at the Skip Viragh Center for the Arts on the campus of Chaminade College Preparatory School (425 S. Lindbergh Blvd; map). Tickets may be purchased by calling 314-865-0038 or online at $10 Student Rush Tickets available at the door; valid Student ID required. For more information on this and future productions, visit