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The Sacrifice

opera in three acts

Music by Frederick Shepherd Converse
Libretto by the composer and John Albert Macy
after Los Gringos, or an Interior View of Mexico and California, with Wanderings in Peru, Chile, and Polynesia by Lietenant Henry Augustus Wise, writing as "Harry Gringo"
About The Sacrifice

Converse's opera, on a Western theme, was the first opera by a Boston composer produced in Boston.

Cast of Characters
Chonita, a young Mexican lady, s Captain Burton, an American officer, bar
Bernal, a Mexican officer, t Tomasa, an old Indian servant, c
Pablo, Bernal's servant and son of Tomasa, bar Padre Gabriel, a Mexican priest, b
Corporal Tom Flynn, an American soldier, b Little Jack, an American soldier, bar
Marianna, a yound Indian servant, s Magdalena, an Indian girl, s
A Gypsy Girl, ms Senora Anaya, aunt of Chonita, mute
American and Mexican soldiers and Spanish and Indian girls

In southern California in 1846, Chonita, a young Mexican lady, is courted both by Bernal, a Mexican soldier, and Captain Burton, an American officer. She loves Bernal, but needs the protection of Burton and the soldiers at his Mission. Bernal, hidden in the woods, sees Burton declare his love for Chonita; later, he swears vengeance on him. Bernal and Chonita sing of their love for each other and their fears for the future before Bernal leaves for an attack on the Mission.

In a ruined church the next day, a group of American soldiers talk about their victory in the previous night's battle. They are visited by an Indian flower-seller and a troupe of dancing Gypsies. While the soldiers are outside watching the Gypsies dance, Tomasa and Chonita arrive. Burton tells Chonita about the battel, and she learns that Bernal has been killed. Burton, realizing he has killed her lover, is devestated; he begs for her forgiveness. She sends him away, and Bernal enters; he has only been wounded after all. Burton returns, and Chonita throws herself between the two men as they fight and is wounded on Burton's sword. The Americans drag Bernal off.

The next morning the wounded Chonita, resting in her aunt's house, prays for safety. Padre Gabriel sends Tomasa to bring Burton and Bernal, to tell the Captain that Chonita wishes for a last word with her love. They come, and Chonita begs Burton for Bernal's life. As Burton asks how he can reconcile his love for Chonita with his duty, the Padre's soldiers attack, and Burton, to save Chonita, allows himself to be killed. The Mexican soldiers take Chonita and Bernal away as the final curtain falls.

Performance History
World premiere
Boston Opera House, Boston, Massaschusetts
March 3, 1911
(also March 8, 13, 18)
Chonita: Alice Nielsen
Tomasa: Maria Claessens
Marianna: Grace Fisher
Pablo: Constantino Stroesco
Burton: Ramon Blanchart
Bernal: Florencio Constantino
Flynn: John Morgan
Padre Gabriel: Carl Gantvoort
Magdalena: Bernice Fisher
Little Jack: Howard White
Gypsy Girl: Anne Roberts
First Soldier: Frederick Huddy
Second Soldier: Pierre Letol
Wallace Goodrich, conductor
Discography Search for recordings of The Sacrifice at Amazon.com

Frederick Shepherd Converse: Chonita's Prayer from The Sacrifice


Souvenirs from American Opera

CD / IRCC 818 (1998)

Last update: January 1, 2009