Portrait of the courageous African-American freedom fighter Harriet Tubman and her fight against slavery.
This monodrama sketches a portrait of the African-American freedom fighter and former slave girl Harriet Tubmann (around 1822-1913). This chamber opera was composed for two voices, percussion, violin, guitar and electronic instruments. In the libretto (Mayra Santos-Febres & Lex Bohlmeijer) Harriet (sung by McFadden) tells her life story to her young protégé Alice (Naomi Beeldens).
In the first company we learn more about her childhood as a slave girl and she tells how as a young girl she sustained a head injury caused by violence. The music refers to the religious vision that it gave her and how that offered her a way out.
Another important aspect of drama building is her rescue of slave families and friends, which she was able to free thanks to her network of anti-slavery activists known as the Underground Railroad. She became head of it under the name Moses of her people. Because she was illiterate like most slaves, she used music to give directions to the fugitives.
The music in the second act refers to the melodies that transmitted coded messages to the refugees. These melodies are interwoven like a code in the dramaturgy of music. Shortly after she bought a home in New York, Harriet went back to Maryland again and brought back an eight-year-old black girl with light skin, named Margaret.
The third company is about the unanswered question as to whether Margaret was possibly the daughter of Tubman, because they had an unusually close bond. Alice, Margaret's youngest daughter, spent a lot of time with Harriet as the old woman, telling her stories. In the fourth act, we hear the story of the struggle it waged during the civil war, such as the Combahee River battle, and how it was named General by John Brown, a militant advocate of abolition of slavery. We also learn more about Nelson Davies, a young soldier who became her second husband.
The play constantly refers to her thoughts as recorded by various sources, and at the end of the fourth company we hear her message to President Lincoln. The epilogue is a message of hope about its ongoing fight against slavery and racism.