John Adams Project

John & Abigail Adams pic I
My Dearest Friend 

Opera for Soprano, Baritone and Orchestra

America’s first “power couple,” John and Abigail Adams shared a correspondence of over 1,100 letters from 1762-1801 that detailed some of the most significant events in American history. Their personal accounts of America’s political tensions with Great Britain and their unyielding determination to design a new independent nation are beautifully nuanced with descriptions of domestic life in Boston, and underscored with Abigail’s tremendous personal sacrifices to support her husband’s political career. A progressive thinker in her own right, Abigail was John’s greatest supporter and adviser from the time John left his family in Boston for the First Continental Congress through the completion of his term as the second President of the United States. Despite John’s 27 years of public service, including many years away from his wife and children in Braintree, time and distance could not break the extraordinary bond of love between this husband and wife. 

As I poured over hundreds of their letters in my research, I wanted to design a work that encompassed the span of John and Abigail’s entire relationship from early courtship and married life in the 1760s, to their active roles in major political events, and ultimately to Abigail’s death in 1818. Since John retired to the family farm, Peacefield, in Braintree (renamed Quincy) and was with Abigail when she died, I chose to use an earlier letter from John to Abigail (May 1776) as the final aria in this cycle to express his feelings over Abigail’s passing. John’s letter is so full of admiration and longing for his wife – a letter, I believe, poignantly expressed similar sentiments of both nostalgia for simpler times in their marriage, and the loneliness he felt upon her death. My main goal for this whole work was to carefully choose letters that not only highlight this dynamic partnership which steered the course of American history in a bold new direction, but also demonstrate Abigail’s great influence on John Adams. Her keen political insights, intelligence, love and unwavering devotion to her husband contributed greatly to his accomplishments which would, in turn, benefit an entire nation.

The music I scored to these letters evokes both patriotism, and the Adams’s personal family sacrifices which were necessary for shaping a new America. My Dearest Friend was first premiered as a song cycle on October 3, 2014 at Jordan Hall in Boston, featuring soprano Wendy Bryn Harmer as “Abigail” and baritone John Moore as “John,” led by Sean Newhouse and a Boston orchestra. This song-cycle-turned opera had its premiere on July 2, 2016 at the Adams’ home at Peace field, (now the Adams National Historical Park) in Quincy, MA, with Wendy Bryn Harmer reprising her role and featuring Charles Taylor as “John Adams.” The opera is approximately 1 hour long and is appropriately titled “My Dearest Friend,” which was John and Abigail’s salutation to each other in their numerous letters.

My Dearest Friend is dedicated to John and Abigail’s daughter Susanna (1768-1770).

 

John Adams Theme – Introduction to My Dearest Friend

How Lonely Are My Days? From My Dearest Friend – Wendy Bryn Harmer, soprano

Prayer for the New President and the New White House From My Dearest Friend – Wendy Bryn Harmer soprano; John Moore, baritone

3 thoughts on “John Adams Project

    • Dearest Patricia and company,
      We just attended the premiere of Dearest Friend at PeaceField…..John and Abigail’s beloved home until only death parted them again.
      We were all left in tears and speechless. We believe the message of love you strived to convey through your beautifully written music was most definitely achieved! Not only love for each other but love of family and of country.
      I have never seen our group so mesmerized! The vocalists, conductor and musicians were the best! It was an honor to be a part of the premiere and on such a special date!
      BRAVO to all ! and thank you !
      Sincerely, Michelle and members of the Abigail Adams Reading Group as well as Weymouth Historical , Massachuetts Historical and Abigail Adams Historical Societies…..and frequent visitors to ANHP events!

      • Dear Michelle,

        Wow – what a beautiful review of my concert! I am so honored that you and your group were moved by the music and the outstanding performances by the singers, conductor and orchestra. YES it was LOVE that became the undercurrent of this work – and I am thrilled that you received that message so clearly! Thank you for making my day! I hope that this story gets many future performances – fingers crossed!

        Warmest regards,
        Patricia

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