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Mid-Century American Operas for Today’s Audiences

By Nick Richardson in conjunction with the Douglas Moore Fund for American Opera

Why mid-century American operas now? American operas from the mid-20th century remain relevant today. Their stories address contemporary issues, and their music still resonates.
By staging mid-century American operas alongside today’s new works, we can present a more complete portrait of our shared American heritage in engaging and entertaining ways.


Click the slideshow below to check out production photos, performance clips, interviews, and more. Beneath the slideshow is a full list of the operas covered, each with its webpage with more details and content. Click on the titles to learn more.


  • Transatlantic (Antheil): A U.S. presidential campaign backed by a corrupt oil tycoon is riddled with campaign finance issues and illicit love affairs.

  • Cabildo (Beach/Stephens): A present-day tourist imagines what may have happened in a New Orleans jail cell during the War of 1812.

  • Four Saints in Three Acts (Thomson/Stein): A language piece depicting Saint Ignatius and Saint Teresa of Ávila holding court with other figures.


  • A Bayou Legend (Still/Arvey): Based on an American folk legend, a Christian community turns on a man accused of speaking with spirits.

  • Lost in the Stars (Weill/Anderson): In early-apartheid South Africa, a Black Anglican priest has a crisis of faith after his son kills a white member of his church.

  • Regina (Blitzstein): An Alabama matriarch goes to extraordinary lengths to secure a business deal for her family.


  • The Ballad of Baby Doe (Moore/Latouche): The true story of an American socialite who goes from rags to riches to rags again amidst a scandalous love triangle, a changing national economy, and a presidential election.

  • Six Characters in Search of an Author (Weisgall/Johnston): Characters from an unfinished opera interrupt an opera company’s rehearsal to stage the story of their own lives.


  • The Crucible (Ward/Stambler): A Puritan community in Colonial Massachusetts gets caught up in witch-hunting hysteria.

  • Lizzie Borden (Beeson/Elmslie, based on a scenario by Plant): Based on the true crime story, Lizzie is driven to murder as she realizes what little options she has for her future.

1970s and on

  • Mary, Queen of Scots (Musgrave): With three competing men in her orbit, Mary fights to defend her country, her crown, and her life.

  • Frederick Douglass (Kay/Dorr): The U.S. government plots to take down Douglass in his later years.

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