January 23, 2002 | Lyric Opera of Kansas City
Somebody's Children
Composer:Susan Kander
Librettist:Andrea WarrenSusan Kander
The opera begins in St. Joseph, Missouri at a hoedown, with an onstage fiddler. We meet the Children, Eliza, their young teacher, and Tom, her sweetheart. Tom asks Eliza to marry him, and though she adores him, she makes him promise not to enlist in Lincoln's Army if war breaks out. Having been an orphan herself, she cannot imagine marrying someone who will leave her. Tom insists it is his duty to enlist, this war must be fought but Eliza insists just as strongly that this war has nothing to do with them. Stunned, she forces herself to accept a mission with the Children's Aid Society to chaperone a group of orphans being sent to start new lives with new families in the west. Furious, but still in love, they part. Alone in the train east, Eliza mourns her loss of Tom while the train itself (children) sings of "Crossing America" and the route overland. Eliza collects her orphans and starts back on the train. Having been one of the first orphan train riders herself, she is filled with sympathy and anxiety for her young charges. The first morning en route the Conductor announces that war has broken out. Eliza, who thinks the war will never affect her, finds an escaped slave named Markus hiding, terrified, in their train car and in the ensuing events finally understands why Tom has enlisted, indeed, must enlist. The train arrives in St. Joseph, the frightened orphans take their places for The Viewing, not unlike slaves on the block. Eliza worries both about her orphans and their futures and whether or not it is too late for her and Tom. Tom appears, ready to board this same train for the nearest Union fort. Elated, Eliza tells him she understands his point of view now, she will marry him now. Since Tom fully expects to be back before harvest, they adopt the two remaining boys. Finally happy, Tom boards the train, where he meets Markus, now in Union uniform, as the orphans re-enter with new parents yet isolated, alone, displaced. The train takes up its song of towns again, this time, however, a litany of Civil War battle sites that goes on and on.

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Lyric Opera of Kansas CitySomebody's Children1/1/2002 - 1/1/2002

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