This week on the Lyric Stage we have selections from the New York City Opera's 1958 production of Douglas Moore’s The Ballad of Bay Doe, featuring a name synonymous with the City Opera, Beverly Sills.
Baby Doe was part of a season of contemporary American Opera presented by the company in early 1958. It is based on a true story of the married Elizabeth Doe and the married Horace Tabor falling in love, divorcing their spouses, their years of happiness, and the tragic end to the story. Tabor left Vermont to seek his fortune in the silver mines of Colorado. He found it many years later, and lost it because he bet on William Jennings Bryan and silver, not William McKinley and Gold. Baby Doe stayed with him through social snubs, good times, and his financial downfall. Following his death, she clung desperately to the hope that his Matchless Mine, the source of his original wealth, would someday again make millions.
The opera follows these events closely. The highlights we’ll hear begin on the evening of the opening of Tabor’s Opera House, a lovely evening and a lovely evening for gossip about Baby Doe. Baby Doe laments her broken first marriage in the “Willow Song”; Tabor overhears her and is completely smitten. Doe later resolves to stay with Horace in spite of her guilt about the relationship. We hear their wedding in Washington DC attended by President Arthur, and then Horace’s stubborn clinging to the hope of silver even after McKinley’s election, and his descent to a penniless nobody hallucinating scenes from his past and the pitiful fate of their daughter on the stage of the opera house he once owned. Baby Doe finds him there, and he dies in her arms.
The music is by Douglas Moore and the libretto by John Latouche. Beverly Sills is Baby Doe, Walter Cassel Horace, Frances Bible Amanda, Horace’s wife, Beatrice Krebs is Baby Doe’s mother, Mama McCourt, other principles and the chorus and Orchestra of the New York City Opera. Emerson Buckley is the conductor