J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Monday, June 27, 2016

“My Dearest Friend” Opera in Quincy, 2 July

On Saturday, 2 July, Adams National Historical Park will host a free performance of Patricia Leonard’s opera My Dearest Friend.

These songs will feature soprano Wendy Bryn Harmer as Abigail Adams and baritone Charles Taylor as John Adams. The lyrics come from the letters the Adamses exchanged during their separations.

My Dearest Friend is several years in the making. Back in 2014 the Boston Globe profiled Leonard and her project, which grew out of a conversation with Harmer.

This isn’t the first operatic portrayal of Abigail and John Adams. In 1987 federal judge Richard Owens staged his Abigail Adams. Last year the park hosted the Chelsea Opera’s A Distant Love by Gary S. Fagin and Terry Quinn, parts of which date to 2004.

Adams herself came to enjoy the operas she saw in Paris, though as a New England minister’s daughter she felt she shouldn’t. In 1785 she wrote to her sister Mary Cranch:
Shall I speak a Truth and say that repeatedly seeing these Dances has worn of that disgust which I first felt, and that I see them now with pleasure.

Yet when I consider the tendency of these things, the passions they must excite, and the known Character, even to a proverb, which is attached to an opera Girl, my abhorrence is not lessned, and neither my Reason or judgment have accompanied my Sensibility in acquiring any degree of callousness. The art of dancing is carried to the highest degree of perfection that it is capable of; at the opera. The House is neither so grand, or Beautifull architecture as the French Theater, but it is more frequented by the Beau Mond, who had rather be amused than instructed. The Scenary is more various, and more highly decorated, the dresses more costly and rich. And O! the Musick vocal and instrumental, it has a soft persuasive power and a dying dying Sound.

Conceive a highly decorated building filled with Youth, Beauty, Grace, ease, clad in all the most pleasing and various ornaments of Dress which fancy can form; these objects Singing like Cherubs to the best tuned instruments most skilfully handled, the softest tenderest Strains, every attitude corresponding with the musick, full of the God or Goddess whom they celebrate, the female voices accompanied by an equal number of Adonises. Think you that this city can fail of becoming a Cytherea and this House the temple of Venus?
The performance of My Dearest Friend in Quincy is free. It’s scheduled to run from 2:00 to 4:00 P.M. on the lawn of the Beale Estate, 181 Adams Street. There is limited street parking and a free trolley from the park’s visitor center.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for publicizing my new John and Abigail Adams opera!

Please keep up the great work as you share this wonderful history forum!

Warmest regards,
Patricia Leonard
composer of MY DEAREST FRIEND opera