Wednesday, January 30, 2013

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

Operatic Saint Louis continues its series of historical facts on the leading characters of Winter Opera Saint Louis' upcoming production of The Ballad of Baby Doe. The second in this series is Augusta Tabor, first wife of Horace Tabor.

Augusta Tabor
Facts on Augusta Pierce Tabor:
  • Born to William B. Pierce and Lucy Eaton in 1833 Augusta, Maine.
  • In her early twenties, she courted Horace Tabor, then one of her father's employees.
  • Married Tabor in 1857 before moving west to the Kansas Territory.
  • Gave birth to one son, Nathaniel "Maxcy" Tabor, during this marriage.
  • Moved with Horace to Denver on news of a gold rush, where she worked as a cook, laundress and postmistress.
  • Settled in Leadville, CO, where she shared in ownership of the Little Pittsburgh and Matchless silver mines, often cooking for and ministering to the miners.
  • Tabor built her a twenty-room mansion in Denver during his term as Colorado Lt. Governor.
  • After Tabor's scandalous affair with Baby Doe, she was divorced in 1883 and took up full residence in her Denver mansion, eventually running it as a boarding house. In 1892, she had moved across the the street to live at the Brown Palace Hotel, ran by her son.
  • Devoted her newfound single life to cultural and social philanthropy, with special attention to the Pioneer Ladies Aid Society and Unity Unitarian Church of Denver.
  • As Horace and Baby Doe lost their fortunes to the decline of silver, Augusta abandoned the trade and thus lived comfortably, if frugally, for the remainder of her life.
  • In need of a climate more conducive to her deteriorating health in the last years of her life, she eventually moved to Pasadena, California, where she died in 1895 at the age of 62.
  • Having died a wealthy woman, Augusta Tabor left her son Maxcy a fortune of $1.5 million.
  • Buried in Denver, Colorado. An inscription on her tombstone reads: "She came where there were no roads and left a path for us to follow. She came to a wilderness and made it a place of settlement. She fed the hungry and healed the sick, giving generously of those motherly gifts which settled rough mining camps. She came searching for gold and left behind the treasure of civilization."

Composer Douglas Moore sought a darker vocal color for Augusta Tabor, presumably to contrast the high lyric coloratura lines of Baby Doe. As such, the role has been performed by several Mezzo-Sopranos, chief among them Frances Bible (who recorded Augusta in the 1959 New York City Opera recording), Joyce Castle and Martha Lipton, creator of the role. The composer wrote several monologues and scenes that highlight and deepen the character's joys, anger, suspicions and pain. Act One, Scene Five (as seen in the video below) is an especially dramatic scene in which Augusta's friends venomously inform her of Horace's plans to divorce. She is resolved to ruin him. Taken from a recent Central City Opera production, the video below features Mezzo-Soprano Joyce Castle as Augusta:

You can learn more about Augusta Tabor and the other historical figures of the opera by visiting

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

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

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

This is the first in a short series of historical posts on the leading characters of Winter Opera Saint Louis' upcoming production of The Ballad of Baby Doe. The first in this series is the opera's leading man: the American prospector, businessman and politician Horace Tabor.

Horace Tabor
Facts on Horace Austin Warner Tabor:
  • Born 1830 in Holland, Vermont and worked in the quarries of Maine and Massachusetts as a teenager. 
  • Left New England for the Kansas Territory in 1855 to help draw anti-slavery settlers to the land. 
  • Married Augusta Pierce, daughter of a former employer in Maine; the couple had one son (Maxcy) during their marriage. 
  • In 1877, Settled with Augusta in Leadville, CO, where he ran several businesses before becoming Mayor. 
  • Partook of the Colorado Silver Boom by buying the immensely profitable "Matchless Mine" for $117,000 after selling earned interest on the "Little Pittsburg" mine for over $1,000,000. 
  • Used his great wealth to start newspapers, build a bank, and establish the Tabor Opera House, which still stands today in Leadville and figures prominently in the opera itself.
  • Served as Colorado Lt. Governor from 1878-1884; for three months in 1883, he temporarily served as a U.S. Senator. 
  • Secretly married Elizabeth "Baby Doe" McCourt before acquiring a legal divorce from first wife Augusta, then held a public marriage ceremony in Washington, D.C. the same year he served as Senator.
  • Had two daughters with Baby Doe: Elizabeth Bonduel Lily and Rosemary Silver Dollar Echo. 
  • Supported William Jennings Bryan in his first failed presidential bid in 1896. 
  • Made three unsuccessful bids for Colorado Governor.
  • Repeal of the Sherman Silver Protection Act in 1893 wiped out Tabor's fortunes, as silver was no longer required to be purchased by the U.S. Government.
  • Still respected despite his financial decline, he was appointed as Denver's Postmaster in 1898.
  • Died in 1899, leaving Baby Doe to hold onto the Matchless Mine until her death 36 years later.
  • Buried in Jefferson County, Colorado, next to Baby Doe.
Notable baritones that have sung Horace Tabor include Richard Fredericks, Norman Treigle and Walter Cassel, who performed in the 1956 premiere and recorded the role opposite Beverly Sills at New York City Opera in 1959. For the opera, Douglas Moore wrote several duets, ensembles plus two arias for Tabor. His first act aria "Warm as the Autumn Light," in which Tabor expresses his newfound enchantment with the vivacious Baby Doe, has emerged as a popular aria for baritones in the standard operatic repertoire. Below is a recording of Walter Cassel singing this aria:

You can learn more on Horace Tabor and the other historical figures of the opera by visiting

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

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Winter Opera Saint Louis Presents Local Premiere: "The Ballad of Baby Doe"

This coming February, Winter Opera Saint Louis presents the St. Louis Premiere of Douglas Moore's 1956 opera The Ballad of Baby Doe on 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, 63131 -- map here).

Set to a libretto by John Latouche, The Ballad of Baby Doe tells 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.”

Soprano Gina Galati portrays Elizabeth Doe, a role made famous by Beverly Sills. Baritone Adelmo Guidarelli sings the role of Horace Tabor. Mezzo-Soprano Lindsey Anderson, returning after her company debut in The Mikado, sings the role of Augusta Tabor. Bass Mark Freiman portrays failed presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan. Winter Opera Music Director Steven Jarvi returns as musical director and conductor. Stage Director David Carl Toulson makes his company debut.

Tickets may be purchased by calling Winter Opera Saint Louis at 314-865-0038 or online at $10 Student Rush Tickets sold at the door; valid student ID required. 

Operatic Saint Louis will be previewing this local premiere production in the coming weeks with artist interviews and stories on the historical figures in the opera. For more information on this production, visit

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis Offers Opera Fans Worldwide the Chance to Win VIP Tickets and Travel Packages with New Video Competition

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has launched Opera Stories Revealed: Share Your Story and Win, a new competition designed to inspire audiences, artists, and fans to share their excitement about opera, in partnership with KMOX radio. The grand prize winner of the competition will receive VIP tickets to the opening night of Opera Theatre’s world premiere opera-in-jazz Champion, as well as a music travel package to New Orleans to hear Champion’s composer Terence Blanchard perform at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

Opera lovers of all ages and all backgrounds have moving, surprising, and funny stories about opera. Through this contest, Opera Theatre and KMOX 1120 AM encourage those fans worldwide to share a personal video of one of those stories here.

Videos can be captured on a smartphone or standard digital video camera and uploaded directly to the competition’s webpage. The story might be that of a first experience with opera, a favorite opera memory, falling in love with opera, how someone fell in love because of opera, or any other experience with opera that surprised or delighted. For inspiration, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has prepared a series of videos featuring the stories of current singers, staff members, and board members, which can also be viewed here.

Contestants will be able submit videos starting now through March 3, 2013. Through March 3, the public will be able to rate each video, helping to select the top ten finalists. From March 6-March 19, 2013, through online voting, audiences will be able to vote on their favorite video from among the top ten -– with one vote permitted per day per email address. A grand prize winner and two runners up will be selected March 20, 2013.

Grand prize winners will receive not only a VIP experience at the opening night of the world premiere of Terence Blanchard and Michael Cristofer’s Champion in St. Louis on June 15, 2013, but they will also enjoy the opportunity to hear five-time Grammy Award winner Terence Blanchard perform live at the 2013 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

The New Orleans travel package features round trip air fare to New Orleans, two nights hotel accommodations, two days’ access to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and a pre- or post-concert meet and greet opportunity with Terence Blanchard. Two runners up will also receive a pair of tickets to the world premiere of Champion, and all top ten finalists will receive an autographed Champion poster signed by Mr. Blanchard.

Opera Stories Revealed: Share Your Story and Win was developed in partnership with KMOX radio. As part of New Voices for Opera, a program designed to grow and deepen engagement in opera, the competition is generously funded with grants from Opera America’s Opera Fund and PNC Arts Alive. The support from PNC is part of a multi-year initiative to support visual and performing arts groups with the goal of increasing arts access and engagement in new and innovative ways.

“The PNC Foundation has a long history of providing grants to organizations that strengthen and enrich the lives of our communities,” said Rick Sems, the Regional President of PNC Bank. “We understand that a rich arts community is a significant driver of our economic success, providing employment, boosting tourism, and making the region attractive for businesses, residents, and visitors.”

Single tickets to Opera Theatre’s 2013 Festival Season go on sale to the general public on Saturday, February 23, 2013. Subscriptions are currently available to all four operas in the season: The Pirates of Penzance, a double bill of Pagliacci and Il tabarro, the world premiere of Champion, and The Kiss.

About Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is one of the leading American opera companies, known for a spring festival of inventive new productions, sung in English, featuring the finest American singers and accompanied by members of the St. Louis Symphony. As of 2012 Opera Theatre has presented 22 world premieres and 23 American premieres –- which may be the highest percentage of new work in the repertory of any U.S. company.

Described by the Sunday Times of London as “one of the few American companies worth the transatlantic fare,” Opera Theatre of Saint Louis annually welcomes visitors from nearly every state and close to a dozen foreign countries. Although the size of the theater typically limits box office income to less than a quarter of the budget, the company has consistently produced work of the highest quality while never accumulating a deficit.

Opera Theatre also has a long tradition of discovering and promoting the careers of the finest operatic artists of the current generation. Among the artists who had important early opportunities at Opera Theatre are Christine Brewer, Susan Graham, Nathan Gunn, Patricia Racette, Thomas Hampson, Jerry Hadley, Dawn Upshaw, Sylvia McNair, Erie Mills, Dwayne Croft, Kelly Kaduce, and Lawrence Brownlee.

Opera Theatre has always been known for distinguished leadership: founding general director Richard Gaddes was succeeded in 1985 by general director Charles MacKay, with famed British stage director Colin Graham as artistic director and Stephen Lord (1992 – present) as music director. Timothy O’Leary was named general director in October 2008 with acclaimed stage director James Robinson succeeding Colin Graham. For more information, visit