Dark Mission
Composer: John D. Nugent
Librettist: Charles Deemer
Premiere Date: Not available.
Description: The Cayuse are a strong, proud people living in the Walla Walla Valley (scene 1). Into their homeland come missionaries, led by Marcus and Narcissa Whitman, who establish a mission as a base in their efforts to convert the Cayuse to Christianity (scene 2). The Cayuse find the strangers to be very strange indeed. Marcus is overwhelmed by the task ahead (scene 3). The missionaries begin by trying to teach the Cayuse how to farm but without much luck. One Cayuse Chief, Five Crows, is especially attracted to the young white woman, Lorinda Bewley (scene 4). When Cayuse children become sick, a Medicine Man who cannot cure them is banished, as is the tribal custom (banishment or worse). Marcus, also a medical doctor, comes forward and helps the children get well (scene 5). In a dream, Narcissa misses her cultured life in Boston. Their task here is so hard (scene 6). Chief Timothy is very curious about Christianity, especially since Marcus gives credit to Jesus Christ for his ability to make the Cayuse children well again (scene 7). Narcissa has trouble sleeping. Marcus tries to comfort her (scene 8). Chief Timothy becomes the first Cayuse to convert to Christianity (scene 9). But Joe Lewis warns the Cayuse that Marcus is a fraud, that the true “white religion” is Catholic, as espoused by priests who have arrived in the area for the first time. Marcus fears that their arrival will make the missionary task even harder (scene 10). Cayuse children are sick again. This time, Marcus cannot help them. White children recover from this measles epidemic but Cayuse children are dying. Some chiefs want to hold Marcus responsible as a medicine man giving bad medicine (scene 11). [Intermission] Marcus realizes the Cayuse blame him for the death of Cayuse children. Narcissa tries to comfort him (scene 12). All chiefs but one believe it is time to confront Marcus. Five Crows tries to talk them out of it. He is smitten by Lorinda Bewley and wants to take her as his wife (scene 13). The chiefs confront Marcus at the mission and murder him, Narcissa and others. Five Crows does not participate but takes Lorinda off with him (scene 14). The chief woos Lorinda, treating her with respect, but fails to win her heart. He finally lets her return to her people. In the meantime, the chiefs are captured and convicted of murdering the missionaries (scene 15). The Cayuse chiefs defend their innocence by arguing that it was the Cayuse way to make a medicine man pay the consequences of bad medicine. They are hung anyway. The Cayuse wars begin (scene 16). In heaven, Marcus feels like their mission failed. Narcissa disagrees and comforts him (scene 17). The Cayuse, banished to reservations, seeing their resources depleted as more and more white people settle in the west, maintain their innocence to the end (scene 18). [Curtain]
Character List (Major): Narcissa Whitman(s)
Musical Style: 20th century classical
Contact: John D. Nugent
E-mail Address: john@oregonliteraryreview.org or neoimpressionist@hotmail.com or wvthcomp@comcast.net
Phone: 423-743-4678
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