Little Women (opera)

Little Women
Opera by Mark Adamo
LibrettistMark Adamo
Based on
March 13, 1998 (1998-03-13)

Little Women (1998) is the first opera written by American composer Mark Adamo to his own libretto after Louisa May Alcott's 1868-69 tale of growing up in New England after the American Civil War, Little Women. The opera also includes text by John Bunyan (Beth's setting of The Pilgrim's Progress), Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (Dr. Bhaer sings "Kennst du das Land"), and Alcott herself (an excerpt of one of her thrillers at the beginning of Act II, which is spoken and mostly omitted on the audio recording).

Performance history

Commissioned by the Opera Studio of Houston Grand Opera (HGO), then under the guidance of General Director David Gockley, Little Women was first performed on March 13, 1998 in a smaller scale production.[1] The success of this first production prompted Gockley to pronounce it "destined to be an American classic" and scheduled the opera for a mainstage premiere of ten performances in March 2000 — making it the first of HGO's twenty-some commissions to be so revived.

G. Schirmer published the opera in May 1998; National Public Radio broadcast the recording of the premiere the following September; and there have been more than 35 distinct productions, professional and academic, domestic and international, since the world premiere, ranging from established American stages (Minnesota Opera, New York City Opera, Opera Pacific), to newer, more progressive companies (Fort Worth Opera, Opera Columbus) from American summer festivals (Glimmerglass Opera, Central City Opera, Chautauqua Opera, Opera in the Ozarks at Inspiration Point), to international venues (Teatro de la Ciudad in Mexico City, World Expo in Tokyo and Nagoya, Japan), and to conservatories (Indiana University at Bloomington, Anderson University (Indiana) (two of this cast died in a small plane crash in Bloomington a few years later), Westminster Choir College, New England Conservatory of Music, Oberlin College Conservatory of Music, Rice University, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, University of the Philippines College of Music, Depauw University.)

The American television premiere took place on August 29, 2001 on PBS's Great Performances (a co-production between Houston Grand Opera and Thirteen/WNET New York), and the world premiere recording of the HGO production was released on Ondine on August 28, 2001.

Little Women had its Australian premiere in May 2007 at the Adelaide Festival. The opera premiered in Israel in July 2008, in Tel Aviv. Little Women had its European Premiere in Bruges, Belgium on August 1, 2009. The performers were participants in the Intermezzo Foundation's Young Artist Program.[2] The Canadian premiere took place on January 30, 2010, performed by the Calgary Opera.http://www.musicsalesclassical.com/composer/work/23697

In 2017, Adamo's, Little Women saw the big stage again in Houston for the first time since the televised production by the HGO in 2001. This time it would be performed at the Opera in the Heights and directed by Dashiell Waterbury. Little Women was Waterbury's professional debut.[3]

Critical reaction

While some critics have argued that the score's reach exceeds its grasp — Opera News suggests that "the nontonal pages never quite mesh with the arias' flights of aching, Bernsteinian lyricism" — critical consensus has largely followed that of John Rockwell of The New York Times, who, on the occasion of the March 2003 New York City Opera premiere, called Little Women a "masterpiece".


Role Voice type Premiere Cast, March 13, 1998[1]
(Conductor: - Christopher Larkin)
Televised Cast,[4] August 29, 2001
(Conductor: - Patrick Summers)
Jo mezzo-soprano Stephanie Novacek Stephanie Novacek
Laurie tenor Chad Shelton Chad Shelton
Meg mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato Joyce DiDonato
Beth soprano Laura A. Coker Stacey Tappan
Amy soprano Jennifer Aylmer Margaret Lloyd
John Brooke baritone Daniel Belcher Daniel Belcher
Cecilia March mezzo-soprano/contralto Katherine Ciesinski Katherine Ciesinski
Alma March mezzo-soprano Tiffany Jackson Gwendolyn Jones
Friedrich Bhaer bass-baritone (or mezzo-soprano) Edward Scott Hendricks Chen-Ye Yuen
Gideon March bass-baritone Christopher Scott Feigum James Maddalena
Dashwood bass-baritone Christopher Scott Feigum Derrick Parker


  1. ^ a b usopera.com
  2. ^ http://www.intermezzofoundation.org Archived 2014-01-09 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "Little Women". Opera in the Heights. Retrieved 2020-11-21.
  4. ^ pbs.org

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