The Singing Bridge

The Sining Bridge PosterTHE SINGING BRIDGE
A Down East Chamber Opera

Conceived & Libretto by Beatrix Gates
Music by Anna Dembska
World Premiere at the Stonington Opera House
Stonington, Maine
July 8, 9, 10, 2005
University of Maine at Machias
Performing Arts Center
July 16, 2006

Stage Director, Richard Edelman
Music Director, Peter Szep
Artistic Director, Judith Jerome
produced by Opera House Arts, Stonington, Maine
funded in part by Meet the Composer/ National Endowment for the Arts Commissioning Music/ USA; the LEF Foundation; The Davis Family Foundation; the Patsy Lu Fund of Open Meadows Foundation and the Maine Humanities Council.


libretto by Beatrix Gates

Down East Maine–1946 and 1960-64.
Coastal Communities of Stonington, Hancock and Sullivan in Hancock County.

CAPTAIN OBADIAH TRUE– 19th century Sea Captain and a voice of seafaring days; an inadvertant truth-teller who moves through time showing an appreciation of character and life-long knowledge of all natural elements. Great grandfather of ALICE TRUE and Great great grandfather of LIZZIE LIGHTSTONE who carries his compass, magnetically attracting him to her.

LUCILLE BLACK– A native Mainer, in 40’s in 1946, 60’s in 1960’s, devoted town historian of Hancock, cousin to HERBIE. LUCILLE is the Hancock Post Mistress, and a down-to-earth person, who believes in documentation and nailing down the facts. LUCILLE & HERBIE share a fine sense of humor.

HERBIE WIGHT– A native Mainer, in 30’s in 1946, 50’s in 1960’s, devoted town historian of Hancock, cousin to LUCILLE. HERBIE, a high school History teacher, keeps an ear open for any good story and wants to preserve and pass on all the juiciest gossip. HERBIE &LUCILLE share a fine sense of humor.

LILLIAN BLOOD– WASP Matriarch of Blood family and mother of EDWARD BLOOD, in her 70’s in 1960, 54 in 1946. Her morals & ambitions are defined by hard work, education & community service. A retired English teacher and a formidable presence in the old-fashioned sense.

EDWARD BLOOD– Son of LILLIAN BLOOD, 45 in 1960, 32 in 1946.Prominent Glaciologist. Real father of LIZZIE LIGHTSTONE, a well-guarded secret.

ALICE TRUE– 16 in 1946 & 30 in 1960. A Maine girl who becomes pregnant by EDWARD BLOOD and bears a child, LIZZIE. Although ALICE is LIZZIE’s birth mother, she is pressured into giving LIZZIE up for adoption.

LIZZIE LIGHTSTONE– A teenager of 14, unaware of her true lineage, when she comes to Maine in 1960 on a summer job to work for LILLIAN BLOOD, her grandmother, who she thinks is just a family friend.

BILLY– A native Mainer, 20-30, wormer, works with his uncle, HOMER, and befriends LIZZIE.

HOMER– A native Mainer, older fisherman, uncle to BILLY, becomes a friend of LIZZIE’S.

CHORUS– All characters are drawn from the CHORUS– neighbors, friends & relatives to each other–made up of working men & women, native Mainers and summer people of Hancock, Sullivan & Stonington.
The CHORUS sometimes sings the inner thoughts of major characters.


libretto by Beatrix Gates


CHORUS: My father was the keeper of the Eddystone Light
He slept with a mermaid one fine night
Of this union there came three
A porpoise and a porgy and the other was me.
Yo ho ho, the wind blows free, ah for the life of the rolling sea.

SCENE 1: AT THE FACTORY, 1946 Listen

Stillwell’s Fish Canning Factory, Stonington, Maine, Nineteen forty-six.
Cut the heads and trim the tail,
Lay ’em in the flashing tin.
Head to tail and tail to head
Get ’em nested wicked quick.
Them oval tins cut sharp and nasty!
Tape your lovin’ fingers good!
fours and sixes, sixes, eights,
Pack ’em in, quick as a flash.

Head to tail and tail to head
Lay ’em in, fin to fin.
Meet the quota, top the count,
feed your own, on time.
We deliver!

SISSY with a nod to the “new girl” ALICE TRUE: CHORUS: Tuna,
They’ll be callin’ this the Baby Boom! Bass,
Nineteen forty-six! Kingfish,
Everyone’s growing a belly, Weakfish,
making up for lost time, Puffer,
caught unawares, fish in the gill net. Pollack, Cod

ELLA: Shush up, why don’t you!
She’s one of the True family
CHORUS: True family?
ELLA: from down Hancock way.
CHORUS: How can you tell true family?
ELLA: Left school, come down here to work.
CHORUS: True family?
ELLA: Had to.

ALICE: Smells like death, these fish, CHORUS: Goosefish, Toadfish, Haddock,
Wide-eyed and wall-eyed, Hake, Menhaden, Lookdown, Flounder,
caught up in nets, Moonfish, Bluefish, Eel,
they end their life sealed in a can, Swordfish, Cusk, Mackeral, Herring,
served up in mustard sauce. Mullet, Monkfish, Halibut,
How can I do this alone? Gar, Salmon, Stickleback, Shark
That’s what he said. He’s a big help, in’t he?
An older man, Goddam f’’in
a man from away… no good friggin’ Jesus H. Christ!
We haven’t beat them back yet.
SISSIE to ELLA: I lost mine when I was twelve Beat them back!
to my own cousin Billy! Just try to beat them back!
I put a stop to it Beat them back!
and I used a skillet to do the job. Beat them back!

Head to tail and tail to head
Lay em in, make sure they’re dead.
Meet the quota, top the count,
feed your own, on time.
We deliver!


HERBIE and LUCILLE on deck of shipwreck Mabel Goss.
LU: History is never held in one person’s memory alone.
It’s in the historical record: brith, marriage, death.
HRB: You left out sex and money.
LU: History is in the bones in the ground.
HRB: Well, whose body, Lucille? Whose body?
Where, when, how and by whom?
Whose history speaks loudest, Lucille?
The written record or the whispered, passed on, overheard and barely known?
I was a red head among a flock of black curls,
and I had only to look over at Uncle Bart’s clan
to see the fair, freckled vein where I sprouted.
LU: And everyone knew but nobody said a word about it.
That old bachelor Togus Nunn of the big slow grin
fathered half the town in a summer’s season
But you won’t find his name on any birth certificate.
HRB: Audrey Beal’s son Archie, his eye roamed to Fosta Sweet.
And Fosta already engaged to a Peasley twin, Toddy.
Toddy’s twin Tinker and her husband, Fosta’s brother Sebert,
took in Fosta’s secret baby Avis,
so Toddy and Fosta had a lovely June wedding and all was forgot.
Alice True had a secret daughter by Edward Blood who had her adopted away,
not good enough here for her to stay,
now back Lizzie’s come to help Lillian Blood,
drawn home like a magnet.

© Copyright 2024 Beatrix Gates