Kentucky Opera invites you to join us for the Louisville premiere of Jake Heggie’s contemporary opera, THREE DECEMBERS. This 90-minute chamber opera is taking the opera world by storm, and will star internationally acclaimed mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, Nichole Joseph, and Carlton Ford.
THREE DECEMBERS peers into the off-stage life of Broadway diva Madeline Mitchell, and her two children, Bea and Charlie. We meet the emotionally neglected siblings in 1986 as they commiserate over the phone by trashing their absent mother’s annual Christmas letter and comfort one another with memories of their departed father. Daughter Bea reaches out to her mother, unsuccessfully trying to get the attention and support she needs. Meanwhile, on the West Coast, Charlie copes with the imminent death of his partner to AIDS. This sad Christmas season ends with the two young people mourning their lost childhood and the seemingly uncaring attitude of their mother.
When next we see Madeline, Charlie, and Bea, it is 1996 and Charlie is grieving the death
of his partner, Burt. Bea, at her home, and Madeline, in her New York City apartment, conclude a phone call and all three characters join in a beautiful trio that reprises the treasured lullaby Charlie and Bea’s father created for his children. The bonds of family and love begin to glimmer through the years of loneliness and loss. Attention then shifts to Madeline, who receives word of her most recent Tony nomination, and the children, cherishing their newfound closeness, decide to support their mother at the awards ceremony. Unfortunately, Bea’s insecurities rear up as the three prepare to attend the event, revealing an unfaithful husband, alcoholism, and mounting internal conflict. The suppressed emotions of all three erupt, leading Madeline to reveal the crucial family secret. Although she had protectively told her children that their father had died in a car accident, he had actually committed suicide. The news devastates Bea and Charlie, but Madeline has to leave for the awards ceremony.
A third December, another decade later, finds that Madeline has died in her sleep after writing her final Christmas letter. Bea and Charlie eulogize her at her funeral, and Madeline’s voice joins in to explain the importance of ‘connection.’ Bea acknowledges both her parents’ souls and the service closes with a few lines from Madeline’s last Christmas letter: “All in all isn’t life simply grand? I’m awfully glad I showed up for it.”
Called “…a modern masterpiece,” and, “…sharp and witty and poignant,” THREE DECEMBERS is one of opera’s most beloved contemporary operas, and has been enjoyed by audiences of Chicago Lyric Opera, The Atlanta Opera, and Central City Opera to name a few. Our upcoming production will feature, for the first time, an all-African American cast, chosen by David Roth before his tragic death in July, 2015.
THREE DECEMBERS was composed by Jake Heggie, a Guggenheim Fellow and composer of other modern opera classics, including MOBY-DICK, DEAD MAN WALKING, and TO HELL AND BACK. His operas have been produced on five continents, and he has served as a mentor for the Washington National Opera’s American Opera Initiative.