A one-act christmas opera from the composer of The Ballad of Baby Doe, with parts for children and chorus, The Greenfield Christmas Tree provides an alternative to Amahl and the Night Visitors for amateur groups.
Cast of Characters
Grandfather John Frothingham
Toby,age 11, his grandchild
Prudence,age 8, his grandchild
Susan,age 6, his grandchild
Samuel,the hired man
Chorus of neighbors and friends
In Greenfield, Massachusetts, a chorus of John Frothingham's neighbors sing a Christmas carol. It is Christmas, 1873, and Frothingham is a stern Massachusetts puritan, opposed to "pagan customs" such as gift-giving, mistletoe, and Christmas trees. His grandchildren, his hired man, Samuel, and Brita, their Norwegian housekeeper all try to convince him that a tree would be harmless, but Frothingham declares that he will not have one in his house.
The children, done with their chores, are disappointed that the first Christmas since their parents' death will not be celebrated in any way. After Frothingham leaves, Toby, the oldest child, tries to give Samuel the present the children had made for their grandfather, a wicker birdcage. Samuel refuses, and Brita distracts the children with a colorful Christmas dress and by telling them about traditional Norwegian Christmas celebrations in Minnesota. Together, they pretend to decorate an old broomstick as if it was a Christmas tree.
Samuel and Brita leave, after Brita tells the children that the animals are said to talk on Christmas Eve. At midnight, the animals in the barn do sing, but when Frothingham returns he doesn't believe his grandchildren. The singing voices tell the children to open the barn door, and inside the barn they see a fully decorated Christmas tree. Samuel explains to Frothingham that he only forbid a tree in the house, and this one is in the barn. The Reverend Flood arrives, and tells Frothingham he should be proud to have the first Christmas tree in the state of Massachusetts, and Frothingham reluctantly agrees to let it stand there with the door open. The Reverend distributes apples to the children as all sing a Christmas chorus.
World premiere Hartford Symphony, Bushnell Memorial Auditorium, Hartford, Connecticut December 8, 1962 Fritz Mahler, conductor