Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Sunday, July 7

"The Ballad of Baby Doe"

Synopsis

On today’s date in 1956, one of the most successful of all American operas had its first performance at the Center Opera House in Colorado. “The Ballad of Baby Doe” was created by composer Douglas Moore and librettist John Latouche, and was based on a real-life tale of love and loss that had played out in that state.

Elizabeth McCourt Tabor, better known as “Baby Doe,” became the second wife of the Colorado prospector, businessman, and politician Horace Tabor in 1883. Tabor's messy divorce and remarriage to the young and beautiful Baby Doe was a major scandal at the time. Tabor was immensely wealthy, and had built an Opera House that bears his name and still stands in Leadville, Colorado, where he met Baby Doe. In 1899, Tabor had lost his entire fortune, and after his death, Baby Doe lived on in a poor miner’s shack near Leadville, where she was found frozen to death in 1935.

And it was on a cold winter’s day—a year before the premiere of their new opera—that Moore and Latouche paid a visit to Tabor’s Opera House in Leadville, and stood on its stage for inspiration. A witness of their visit recalled: “I was intensely aware of a great and eerie silence that suddenly came over the building. If ever there were ghosts of the past in the Tabor Opera House I could believe that they were there at that moment!”

Music Played in Today's Program

Douglas Moore (1893-1969) The Ballad of Baby Doe Jan Grissom, sop; Central City Opera Orchestra; John Moriarty, cond. Newport Classics 85593

Additional Information

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