Thea Musgrave Looking at 'Harriet Tubman'

Thea Musgrave Looking at 'Harriet Tubman'
The 150th anniversary of the civil war occurs in 2011, and as such, there has been renewed interest in the remarkable and inspiring life of abolitionist Harriet Tubman. A devout Christian, humanitarian, Union spy, and suffragette, Ms. Tubman rescued over three hundred slaves in nineteen missions to the South using the Underground Railroad.

In 1984, Thea Musgrave wrote an opera freely based on Tubman's life: Harriet, the Woman Called Moses. Performed at the Virginia Opera to rave reviews, this "is an opera of immediate and powerful impact… in fact so clear is the emotional geography and so clear are most of the words that matter, the plot consistently makes its point. Each development of the story, as in conventional opera, brings a musical plum, with ideas to latch into the mind and positively to attract the listener."

Edward Greenfield, The Guardian

"Musgrave doesn’t merely quote these songs [spirituals]. She combines and recomposes them… arrives at a collage of multi-layered new music in a spiritual style… For that matter most of the opera is brand-new music in Musgrave’s by now well-practiced style: lyricism for the post-Britten era. Operas of this fiery quality don’t come around often these days."

Leighton Kerner, The Village Voice

Read more about Harriet Tubman in The New York Times' recent tribute by clicking here. photo: Harriet Tubman, circa 1885
H. Seymour Squyer, photographer

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