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The Captivation of Eunice Williams

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ensemble scene from the opera.
Top row: Alan Schneider, Hillarie O'Toole (née Stevens), Bert K. Johnson; bottom row:  Emily Ogden.

Overview of the Opera
The opera The Captivation of Eunice Williams dramatizes the life story of this girl. While the rest of her family was ransomed over the next several years, Eunice married a Native American man and spent the rest of her life in Kahnawake. Later, when given the opportunity to return to Deerfield, Eunice refused.

What caused Eunice to forsake her early Puritan years and become the Mohawk woman, A'onkáhte, "she who is planted"? She left behind no written records. The only knowledge of her life comes from others—a passage or two from her brother's diary and reports from English officers stationed near Canada. Yet the conflicts that played out through Eunice's tumultuous life—Native vs. Colonist, French vs. English, Catholic vs. Protestant—remain of vital concern in today's world.

In The Captivation of Eunice Williams, composer Paula Kimper (Patience and Sarah, Bridge of San Luis Rey) draws musical inspiration from the several cultures engaged in this struggle. The English colonists brought with them the rich folk music of the British Isles and the solemn hymns of the Puritan Church. The French brought a lively secular music and the soaring Roman Catholic Mass. The Mohawks had their own deep and powerful tradition of Iroquoian music and chant. Inspired by the 300th anniversary of the attack and captivation, this opera uses the power of music and theater to offer a fresh, unique, and compelling perspective on an extraordinary American story that speaks directly to the world in which we live.

Commissioned as one of a number of perspectives examining the complex legacy of 1704 by the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, The Captivation of Eunice Williams is not "accurate" in the sense that pleases academic historians. Although strongly informed by what is actually known, some historic characters have been combined or imagined, and some events have been creatively interpreted for dramatic purposes.

Eunice and Kariwiiosta.
Susannah Lowry and Christina Gagnon
  ensemble scene of singers in the Deerfield meetinghouse.
Bert K. Johnson

The Performers

susannah Lowery playing Eunice as a child.
Susannah Lowry

Kariwiiósta: Christina Gagnon
Kanenstenhawi: Elaine Valby
John Williams: Bert K. Johnson
Bruno Magog: Daniel Popowich
Child Eunice: Susannah Lowry
A'onkáhte/Eunice: Emily Ogden
Mother Eunice: Yvonne Field
Stephen: Alan Schneider
Esther: Hillarie O'Toole (née Stevens)
Arosen: Jay Salvi
Ensemble: Allan Briggs, Sarah Jordan,
Janet Larkin, Jennie McAvoy, Curtis Minns,
Tom O'Toole, Janet Ryan, Lawrence Valby

Composer: Paula Kimper
Librettist: Harley Erdman
Co-conceiver and co-creator, producer, and stage director: Linda McInerney

The Songs

1. Hymn/Sermon (duration 3:02)
2. The snows are drifting up (duration 3:21)

Windows Media Player format (file size: 817 KB)
Real Audio format (file size: 823 KB)
3. Are you there? This day (duration 1:53)
4. The planting moon (duration :51)
5. She hears me calling (duration 5:35)
Windows Media Player format (file size: 1.31 MB)
Real Audio format (file size: 1.32 MB)
6. Seventeen moons (duration 1:10)
7. Tell her/We survive (duration 2:53)
8. Once, many winters ago (duration 3:55)
9. Tsí'tha kí:ken (duration :20)
10. War song/dream (duration 1:54)
11. I once came falling (duration 2:28)
12. Contradance (duration 1:21)
13. John Williams' daughter (duration 2:10)
Windows Media Player format (file size: 881 KB)
Real Audio format (file size: 883 KB)
14. Ohne i'ke (duration 1:12)
15. Revelation (duration 2:57)
16. Dream quartet (duration 3:57)
17. Sermon (duration 1:16)
18. Condolence/one day (duration 3:38)

 

Credits

These songs were recorded by James LaGrand of LaGrandice Audio in collaboration with WFCR and recorded at the Reid Theatre at Deerfield Academy in Deerfield, MA on July 24, 2004. The audio files were engineered by Tony Jillson at Ratite Studios. For more information on the opera go to www.eunicewilliams.com.

 

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