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