Jack Beeson: Lizzie Borden
Liner Notes   Cat. No. NWCR694     Release Date: 1995-01-01
Andrew Borden, the father (bass baritone): Herbert Beattie
Abigail Borden, the step-mother (soprano - spinto with coloratura): Ellen Faull
Elizabeth Andrew Borden, the elder daughter (mezzo soprano): Brenda Lewis
Margret Borden, the younger daughter (lyric soprano): Ann Elgar
Reverend Harrington (tenor): Richard Krause
Captain Jason MacFarlane (lyric baritone): Richard Fredricks

More than a century after the acquittal of Lizzie Borden, it is still not certain who murdered her father and stepmother. The opera (which makes use of only some of the “facts” in the case) seeks to explain why our Lizzie, given the frustration of her strong passions, was led to do so. The action of the opera is simple, even plain. The cast is small, their varied characters reflected in their music: Mr. Borden, from a “good” family is self-made rich, a throwback to an early New England divine; his only redeeming virtue is his almost illicit passion for his younger second wife, Abbie. She, once the seamstress in the house, is able to inveigle whatever she wants from her doting husband. In some respects the Borden story is a latter-day New England Elektra story, with the parents switched, the “evil stepmother” in place of Klytemnestra. Accordingly, our troubled heroine becomes the older sister of Margret, who yearns for a peaceful life away from the oppressive house and its sterile garden. Against her father’s wishes she looks forward to marrying Jason MacFarlane, a sea- captain invented by us.

In real life Lizzie found the only outlet for her energy and ambition in the church, represented in the libretto by the Rev. Harrington and the children’s chorus, which she is rehearsing in a hymn as the curtain opens. The spine of the opera is a series of intermittent scenes of ever-increasing intensity in which Lizzie’s wishes and desires are denied, each deprivation leading her further into fantasy and madness. Her success in arranging the elopement of Margret and the Captain will leave her alone with her parents; when she dons the intended wedding gown and imagines the Captain making love to her, she is seen by Abbie and draws blood, her own, at the broken mirror. When Jason returns briefly, her attempt to seduce him is also seen by the taunting Abbie, who orders her out of the house. The murders follow, one after the other, off-stage.

These events are prefigured in the prelude to the opera, repeated as the prelude to the second act and (with a cymbal crash and extension) as the orchestral climax of the work. Andrew, disappointed by the birth of a daughter, christened Lizzie Elizabeth Andrew. In the brief Epilogue “some years later,” it is therefore fitting that she is at his standing-desk working on the accounts, as he had in the first scene. The Reverend comes for a visit but is curtly dismissed after bringing news of Margret’s growing family and returning Lizzie’s donation, unacceptable to the congregation, though she has long since been acquitted of the murders. As she locks the doors for the night, children's voices off-stage —or in her imagination—sing to the opening hymn- tune, “Lizzie Borden took an axe...” — Jack Beeson, 1995

This title, originally issued on the CRI label, is now available for order from New World Records as an on-demand CD (CD-R). It can also be downloaded in MP3/320, FLAC and/or WAV format(s).

Brenda Lewis

Jack Beeson: Lizzie Borden

MP3/320 $15.99
FLAC $15.99
WAV $15.99
2xCD $31.98
Lizzie Borden, Act I: Prelude
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Lizzie Borden, Act I, Scene 1: "Toiling early in the morning"
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Lizzie Borden, Act I, Scene 1: "It is almost finished"
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Lizzie Borden, Act I, Scene 1: Andrew's Aria
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Lizzie Borden, Act I, Scene 2: Margret's Garden Aria
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Lizzie Borden, Act I, Scene 2: "The House Watches"
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Lizzie Borden, Act II: Prelude - Abbie's Bird Song
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Lizzie Borden, Act II: Unpleasantries and Introductions
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Lizzie Borden, Act II: Two Quintets
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Lizzie Borden, Act II: More Unpleasantness
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Lizzie Borden, Act II: "What am I forbidden now?"
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Lizzie Borden, Act II: Lizzie's Mad Scene
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Lizzie Borden, Act III, Scene 1
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Lizzie Borden, Act III, Scene 1: Jason's Song, Duet, Trio
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Lizzie Borden, Act III, Scene 1: Lizzie's Dressing Scene
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Lizzie Borden, Act III, Scene 1: "Bravo!" - The Bitch Scene
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Lizzie Borden, Act III, Scene 2: "Kill Time," Scene, and Murder
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Lizzie Borden, Act III, Scene 2: Seduction Scene
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Lizzie Borden, Act III, Scene 2: Second-Murder Interlude
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Lizzie Borden, Act III, Scene 3: Epilogue
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