• 3332/4331/timp.2perc/hp/str
  • chorus
  • Soprano, Mezzo-soprano, 3 Tenors, Baritone, 3 Bass-baritones, 2 Basses
  • 2 hr 7 min
  • Libretto by the composer.
  • English

Programme Note


The opera details the events leading up to and surrounding the abortive attempt by John Brown, a charismatic abolitionist, to destroy American slavery by force of arms. However harsh and single-minded his struggle for black freedom, Brown’s story concerns issues key to the historical development of America and perhaps still central to its fate. Following an unsuccessful attack in 1859 on the US arsenal in Virginia, Brown, who had confided to Frederick Douglas that he, like Moses, was chosen by God to lead the slaves to freedom, is sentenced to execution by hanging. As the opera closes, Douglas proclaims, ‘You cannot bury him! As long as men love freedom, John Brown will never die.’


operas by Kirke Mechem
Act I
Act II