Amoskeag, a new American opera, is the brainchild of writer Marisha Chamberlain, who has developed the libretto in collaboration with stage director and dramaturg Luigi Salerni. This Website will track the unfolding process of creation, as this full-length opera comes into being. To create Amoskeag, Chamberlain and Salerni are joined by composer Marc Mellits, conductor, Michael Ellis Ingram, and designer Alex Bascom Koch.
Set in New Hampshire in the early 1900s, Amoskeag will blend folk with classical music forms. In a story that is character based and emotionally direct, we will slip into the dense, urban life of the textile mills of Manchester, New Hampshire, and also travel, with the characters, 30 miles upstate to the bucolic Shaker colony at Canterbury, New Hampshire.
The idea for the opera began in Chamberlain’s girlhood, when, working as a waitress in s restaurant that overlooked the old mill yard and the brick row houses where the mill girls had lived, she waited on tables and wondered about their lives. A visit to the Shaker Colony at Canterbury, years later, led her to ponder how life in the mills might have contrasted with the Shaker life. The yearning to rise out of poverty and make one’s way in a bustling city has a strong pull on young people today. The contrasting desire for spiritual community and the longing to return to the land continues to exert its power in our culture. Labor history and immigrant experience also come into the story, as our protagonist, Felicity, and her mother, Marguerite, enter the country as French Canadian immigrants, in search of livelihood in the mills, and later, as the mills are engulfed in a labor dispute that would put them out of business.
Please follow with us as we create this piece. Blog posts and photo albums of the artists and the story’s locales are in the works. Come along!