The Mother of Us All
Composer: Virgil Thomson
Composer Bio: Virgil Thomson (November 25, 1896 – September 30, 1989) was an American composer and music critic. He was born in Kansas City, Missouri and was a prodigious child, later studying the piano work of Erik Satie at Harvard. After studying for a year in Paris on a fellowship he returned to the city from 1925 – 1940 where he became friends with many prominent figures including James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, e.e. cummings, Aaron Copland, Igor Stravinsky, Pablo Picasso, Orson Welles, and others. He studied with Nadia Boulanger. After publishing his book The State of Music he lived in New York working as a critic and composer for theatre and film. He became a mentor to a new generation of tonal composers including Ned Rorem, Paul Bowles, and Leonard Bernstein though pointedly ignored female composers. He received many awards during his life and was known as a modernist and neoclassical composer.
Librettist: Gertrude Stein
Other Artistic Personnel: Otto Luening (Conductor)
John Taras (Set Designer)
Paul Dupont (Costume Designer)
Original Cast: Dorothy Dow, Bertram Rowe
Premiere Date: May 07, 1947
Producing Company: Columbia University
Description: Set in the United States of America in the 19th century without too much restriction as to decade (ca. 1870).

Epilogue: some years later in the Halls of Congress, Washington, DC. Story of Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906), who pioneered political rights for American women. The opera is in pageant form. Some of the characters are historical, others imaginary. All are shown, through poetic license, as associated or acquainted with the heroine, whether or not they existed in the same period. The opera traces Anthony's career from her initial struggles to her final victory; Other historical characters that appear include: U.S. Grant, Daniel Webster, and Andrew Jackson (also two characters identified as Virgil T. and Gertrude S.)
Character List (Major): Susan B. Anthony (s)
Daniel Webster (b)
Jo, the Loiterer (t)
Constance Fletcher (mz)
John Adams (t)
Anne (con)
Gertrude Stein (s)
Virgil Thomson (bar)
Indiana Elliot (con)
Angel Moore (s)
Gloster Hemming (bar)
Lillian Russell (s)
Character List (Minor): Chris, the Citizen (bar)
Thaddeus Stevens (t)
Anna Hope (con)
Jenny Reefer (mz)
Ulysses S. Grant (bb)
Andrew Johnson (t)
Anthony Comstock (b)
Donald Gallup (bar)
Herman Atlan (bar)
Isabel Wentworth (mz)
Indiana Elliot's brother (bb)
Bit Parts: Henrietta M. (s)
Henry B. (bb)
Negro Woman (speaking)
Negro Man (speaking)
A.A. & T.T. (4 basses)
Reviews: The New York Times, Harold C. Schonberg, 1-29-67; The New York Times, Harold C. Schonberg, 4-1-64; The New York Times, Donal Henahan, 8-2-71; The New York Times, Allen Hughes, 11-10-71; The New York Times, Hughes, 11-28-71; The New York Times, Hughes, 7-3-72; The New York Times, Clive Barnes, 11-27-72; Time, 8-23-76; The New York Times, Shirley Fleming, 7-18-76; The New Yorker, 12-15-86; High Fidelity, January, 1977; The New York Times, Peter Davis, 2-13-77; Stereo Review, June 1977; High Fidelity, Conrad L. Osborne, July 1977; The New York Times, John J. O'Connor, 7-5-77; The New Yorker, Alan Rich, 6-20, 1977; The New York Times, John Rockwell, 10-3-82; The New York Times, John Gruen, 3-13-83; Los Angeles Times, Albert Goldberg, 5-15-65; Opera, 12-76, p. 1138; Musical America, 12-76, p.21; Opera, 7-83, p. 744.
Length: 01:44
Total Acts: 2
Chorus: SATB Chorus
Orchestration: 1 fl(picc), 1 ob(Eng Hrn), 2 cl(bcl), 1 bsn - 2 hrn, 2 tpt, 1 tbn - perc, hp - pf - str; Alt: tpt, perc, pf(cel), org[hmn], vln, vc
Musical Style: A quilt of American folk tunes, gospel hymns, marches, and sentimental ballads. The piece is tonal, triadic, and tuneful.
Contact: G. Schirmer, Inc.
Address: 257 Park Avenue South, 20th Floor
New York, NY 10010
E-mail Address:
Phone: 212-254-2100
Publisher Web Site:
Schedule of Performances Listings
The Mother of Us All (Thomson)
Saturday, September 6, 2003 - San Francisco Opera
The Mother of Us All (Thomson)
Sunday, March 19, 2000 - New York City Opera
The Mother of Us All (Thomson)
Monday, February 22, 1999 - Juilliard Opera Workshop
The Mother of Us All (Thomson)
Saturday, July 18, 1998 - Glimmerglass Festival
The Mother of Us All (Thomson)
Saturday, August 15, 1992 - Music-Theatre Group
The Mother of Us All (Thomson)
- Music-Theatre Group
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