Friday, April 19, 2013

Chelsea Opera's 'A Distant Love' Highlights Abolitionist Letters of Abigail Adams to John Adams

Chelsea Opera presents the Manhattan premiere of A Distant Love: Songs of John and Abigail Adams

by Gary Fagin and Terry Quinn
Fri June 14 at 7.30pm and Sat June 15 at 3pm
with the Chelsea Opera String Quartet
The work is based on letters exchanged between John Adams and his wife, Abigail, with whom he shared his aspirations, accomplishments and frustrations as he worked to secure financial support from the Dutch for the new nation emerging from a revolution.  Abigail, his “dearest friend”, was not demure about expressing her feelings on things political, economic or domestic.
She was an early feminist (“Don’t forget the women,” she wrote to John while the founding fathers were drafting the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia), abolitionist, mother and farm manager during John’s long absences.

AfriClassical wrote to Lynne Hayden-Findley of Chelsea Opera to ask if any performers of African descent are included in the cast.  She replied:

Dear Bill,

There are none in this production but wanted you to know about it anyway.

As you may know, Abigail and John were opposed to slavery when it wasn't a
popular belief.  Abigail wrote of this to John quite often.

"I wish most sincerely there was not a slave in this province. It always
appeared a most iniquitous scheme to me--to fight ourselve s [sic] for
what we are daily robbing and plundering from those who have as good a
right to freedom as we have."

One of the songs the character of Abigail sings is titled:  SLAVERY.  Here
is the text (c) Terry Quinn...should you print it:

And all of us ... That we might all stand free ...
Oh were there not one slave in this province, John.
Oh how I would rejoice should every colony renounce
the sin of bondage.
We don our righteous armor, yes, to fight for what?
For a godly gift we snatch away from souls
whose very bodies we have bought ...
Whose labor we daily plunder.
We’ll vow to die before we cede our freedom,
then turn and clap another’s wrist in chains.
What do you call this, husband? I call it shame ...
I call it shame.
What if the arm of violence and treachery now lifted over us
should be but Heaven’s punishment for brash hypocrisy?
We trumpet to the world our store of virtue,
and in the shadows fritter it away ...
In the shadows fritter it away ......
And we know that the last hold back on approval of the Declaration of
Independence was the clause abolishing slavery.  John later wrote that he
saw this as a inevitable battle that would divide the country, and his
premonition was sadly quite accurate, as we know.  #

So perhaps in that context, you can salute these two Americans.
Best regards and with much appreciation,

No comments: