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More than a century after its publication, Louisa May Alcott's chronicle of growing up female in civil-war era New England remains a main dish in the smorgasbord of American popular fiction. Readers have devoured the adventures of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy in more than one hundred languages. In our own land and tongue, Hollywood has had to film the piece once every 20 years or so to slake the recurring appetite. The applause that hailed Little Women in its own century echoes in its steadily rising prestige at the close of our own; writers as diverse as Simone de Beauvoir and Joyce Carol Oates have claimed Alcott as a literary ancestor.
I read the book as a child, and loved it. And I recognized that Little Women itself solves certain problems for the opera composer. The novel itself part classic, part mass-culture perennial as well as its young, lively characters in their antique locale reminded me of opera itself these days: an art buzzing with new writing and thinking while still working with resources (the bel-canto trained voice, the acoustic orchestra) that stabilized one hundred years ago. I knew Jo's wild imagination, her haunting memories, would free me musically to range between abstract and tonal, poetic and vernacular, song and symphonic forms.
The conflict of Little Women is Jo versus the passage of time. Realize this about Jo: alone among adolescent protagonists in classic American fiction (Tom Sawyer, Holden Caulfield, Portnoy), she's happy where she is. Adored by her family, she adores them in turn. Not so poor as to starve, Jo is just poor enough to see in each small windfall gold to delight a Midas. Jo knows adulthood will only graduate her from her perfect home. She fights her own and her sisters' growth because she knows deep down that growing up means growing apart.
List of Performances
ALMA March: Soprano
JOHN BROOKE: Baritone
Additional Character Singers
Percussion I = Vibraphone, Chimes, Glockenspiel, Timpani, Bell Tree, Xylophone, Brake Drum, Crotale, Tam Tam, Temple Blocks
Percussion II = Tambourine, Triangle, Woodblock, Bass Drum, Ratchet, Snare Drum, Cow Bell, Brake Drum, Gong, Suspended Cymbal, Vibraphone (doubling on the Perc I instrument), Tam Tam, Tenor Drum
(Setting: Massachusetts during the Civil War)
The dark attic of the March house.
Jo, distraught, greets her friend Laurie. He's just married Jo's younger sister Amy; but has he only married Amy to stay near Jo? Worse: Laurie adores Amy nothing is as it was and the opera spirals back in time to show why Jo tried to keep it so.
Act I, Scene 1
The attic, two years ago.
Jo and her sisters Meg, Beth, and Amy make games of their chores. Laurie tauntingly tells Jo that his tutor, John Brooke, keeps Meg's glove because he loves her. Jo, alone, sketching a story, fearfully denies that Meg might love him too.
Act I, Scene 2
In front of the March house, weeks later.
Brooke courts Meg. Jo urges the family to reject him. Cecilia, the girls' aunt also scorns Brooke: but Meg, resolved, accepts him. Her family celebrates; but Jo accuses Meg of abandoning her.
Act I, Scene 3
The March garden, the following summer.
Meg and Brooke adapt their parents wedding vows. A feverish Laurie pleads for Jo's love. She spurns him; stung, he flees. Beth, secretly ill, collapses as Meg cries for help.
Act II, Scene 1
The offices of the Daily Volcano, a New York City fiction tabloid, one year later.
A triumphant Jo sells a story; back at her boarding house, she writes her increasingly atomized family. A new acquaintance, Fredrich Bhaer, invites her to the opera.
Act II, Scene 2
Simultaneously, Jo's boarding house; the March parlour; sunny Oxford lawn.
Jo and Bhaer engage in flirtatious debate while, in Oxford, Amy tests Laurie's feelings for Jo. Beth rages at the piano. Bhaer ardently recites Goethe to Jo: then Alma's desperate telegram interrupts them. Jo flees to Concord.
Act II, Scene 3
Beth's bedroom, three sleepless nights later.
Beth dozes as her family keeps vigil. Jo bursts in; Beth bids her family leave. Beth urges Jo to accept her impending death.
Act II, Scene 4
Before the March house, the following spring.
Cecilia baits Jo with Amy's letter about loving Laurie. Jo wearily admits Bhaer may have abandoned her. Cecilia urges Jo to choose solitude; refusing, Jo retreats to the attic.
Act II, Scene 5
As in the beginning, Jo, distraught. Laurie, appearing, again reminisces; but now Jo rejects the past. Her sisters materialize as memories: Jo, in emotional exorcism, celebrates and releases them. Bhaer her future appears: Jo extends her hand to him.
Canadian Premiere With Adamo...even the simplest dialogue is shaped to find its point in rhyme (often with humour), with the added benefit that when the music moves to aria-like music, one senses no break, no lurch from narration to reflection.
...Little Women is actually filled with arias, duets, and ensembles. As the opera progresses, the gathering emotional force of the story is expressed in music that becomes increasing lyrical and powerful, the end a true conclusion of an emotional odyssey.
...In the end the opera holds up the mirror to what all of us have experienced, viewing personal growth through the lens of that special moment in life when what has been and what must be collide. The opera thus remains faithful to the larger narrative of the original novel, and provides a gloss or commentary upon its significance, a point perhaps not foregrounded in the book but the contribution of Adamo as librettist and composer.
...Any modern opera will prove a challenge to an audience, but the challenges encountered in Little Women are not so very many. The story is a strong one; the singing is uniformly good; and the production is intelligent.
The production, fully on par with other productions of modern opera, continues the company's worthy attempt to challenge and stimulate its audience. With traditional opera and modern theatre holding hands, the stage is increasingly filled with new works to fire the imagination. Little Women is one such work.
Kenneth Delong, Calgary Herald, 31/01/2010
A compelling opera in a fascinating performance...This music is modern, yet not difficult to absorb. Though this is a modern opera, it deals with classic themes, tracking the way each character deals with the challenge of adult intimacy: these are women who are not so little anymore... The capacity audience, which may have had a bit of trepidation about 'modern music', ended up thoroughly enjoying this fascinating contemporary performance.
Ona Binur, Maa'riv, 01/07/2008
[Little Women is] vivacious music-theatre of charm, wit and humor. Adamo brings considerable verve and freshness to Alcott’s story, with the result that this opera is never less than endearing: and his score leaves little doubt that he is a resourceful composer. Adamo’s musical ideas are coherent at every turn: his quartet writing for the sisters is ethereal and totally charming, and solos from Jo, Meg and Friedrich Bhaer possess wonderful, genuine emotional amplitude. Little Women is magically transporting.
Graham Strahle, The Australian , 23/05/2007
I urge you to see it, to assure yourself that beautifully proportioned small-scale American opera can still work if serious intelligences are involved. Adamo did his own libretto, and set it to vital, shapely music that, for once in the troubled annals of new opera, doesn't sound cribbed from half a dozen soundtracks. Not having made my way through Louisa May Alcott's enduring novel at any time in recent decades, I still get from this lithe and enormously attractive stage work a sense of closeness to the interlock of personalities that I missed in, for example, in the recent Winona Ryder film. Adamo writes arias, lots of them, and they really identify the people singing them. Better yet, he writes ensemble pieces with real operatic counterpoint...
For a first opera, by a composer still in his 30s, I would reckon Little Women a happy, even astonishing success.
Alan Rich , L.A. Weekly, 18/05/2001
Beautifully wrought, tightly executed and consistently entertaining, the local premiere of Mark Adamo's 1998 operatic setting of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, seen at the first performance Saturday night in the Irvine Barclay Theatre, is a joy in every way.
Opera in English, an old American musical ideal often forgotten, makes an impressive, reassuring reappearance here. Not surprisingly, the squeals of delight coming out of the Opera Pacific audience attested to the many joys and satisfactions still possible in that old concept.
A strong, poetic text, clearly delivered, married to music of charm and tunefulness and in the language of the audience, will always win over its listeners. And so did this one, the handiwork of librettist Adamo, in efficient and astute collaboration with himself.
This novel is perfectly suited for operatic treatment, and the author-composer uses its dramatic and comedic high points with care, affection and abundant clever touches.
The two opening scenes tell the story of the four sisters compellingly and with bracing economy. From the start, each character is drawn in detail, but without overstatement. Alcott's characteristic sanguinity is the motor that drives this plot, and it never fails; Adamo draws upon its power and intelligence throughout.
Daniel Cariaga , Los Angeles Times, 14/05/2001
With Adamo's skillful shaping, Alcott's story takes on deeper levels of significance. The composer is an adept librettist, with an ear for the clever phrase -- Adamo's powers of compression work extremely well -- and the composer creates a whole world of musical details that amplify the action onstage.... The best yardstick of Little Women's success as an opera is that after watching it once, I wanted to see it again.
Elaine Guregian, Akron Beacon
An emotionally charged, highly psychological version of the classic.... Alcott's inspiration is clear, and the piece itself -- about the demands of family, resistance to change, and the need to live a creative life -- finds a clear and powerful expression in the music, haunted as it is by lovely melodies.
Marilyn Mason, Christian Science Monitor
A moving treatise on change, growth, and love...At a time when prosaic pundits proclaim the death of classical music, the August 29  PBS premiere of composer-librettist Mark Adamo's 1998 opera Little Women has the potential to shame the little darlings into silence. Adamo's writing is so good, and the production so strong, that Little Women is likely to earn a chance at the title of "greatest American opera."
Jason Serinus, Advocate.com
Goes straight to the heart, in more ways than one...There is, first of all, the story itself, told with an inviting blend of sentiment and high spirits. Adamo's libretto mines Louisa May Alcott's classic novel for its air of quivering nostalgia, and his fragrant, highly melodic score -- lush but transparent, full of arching vocal phrases and deftly blended ensembles -- makes each of the four March sisters a distinctive presence...Anyone with an interest in the fate of contemporary opera must be cheered by the speed and ease with which this two-act work has established itself in the repertoire.
Joshua Kosman , San Francisco Chronicle
A major promise on the opera scene...(Adamo) writes more striking and enjoyable phrases than just about anybody in opera today, (and) his libretto from the Louisa May Alcott novel is excellent. Much to his credit, Adamo doesn't sound like anybody else...A masterpiece may yet emerge from where Little Women came from.
Janos Gereben, San Francisco Classical Voice
Already a repertory piece...ostensibly a story for young girls, it appeals on an adult level as well and has feminist overtones that ring true in modern times. Adamo writes accessible music that is at the same time substantial and illustrative of the dramatic situations...utterly engaging.
Robert Croan, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
...in a bold move designed to open up a potential second venue for chamber-scaled works, Opera Pacific is presenting Little Women at the 650-seat Irvine Barclay Theatre in Irvine through Sunday.
The company is to be applauded for its effort. The Barclay is ideally suited to chamber opera. Applause also goes to Adamo for not giving up when faced with adapting a book most people have labeled as a quaint example of American literature.
Adamo's libretto approaches the story as a memory play -- a flashback in the mind of the March family's oldest, and most outspoken daughter, the would-be writer, Jo...
The action transpires as a series of reveries, in which the passionate, poignant, painful and precious events of the past years are relived like excerpts from Jo's autobiography...
The real star of the opera is Adamo: a rising talent to watch, who has created a score that flows seamlessly between astringent atonalities, elegant tonal orchestral writing, and unabashedly melodic lines worthy of a Broadway musical: it's Sondheim, Schoenberg, Rodgers and Hammerstein all rolled, with impressive effectiveness, into one.
But the cleverest touch is that each character has their own aura of tonality and melodic flavoring that sets them apart. It's a score worthy of several listenings.
Little Women is a noteworthy enterprise, in every sense of that phrase. It works as a drama, with a sense of intimacy only a small theater can provide. The music is accessible and challenging, with an abundance of emotional arias and duets.
Jim Farber , The Daily Breeze
If we are entering a Silver Age of new operas, Houston Grand Opera is the silversmith....[Little Women] with its introspective, Benjamin Britten-like score, struck a harmonious chord with audiences, so HGO has revived it with new sets by stellar Austin designer Christopher McCollum.
Adamo's music and libretto often split the singers and action among multiple locations -- throughout the March household, in the garden, at Jo March's New York boardinghouse, in Europe -- with performers simultaneously clattering the family gossip or singing Adamo's gorgeous, touching arias.
Michael Barnes , Austin American-Statesman
A fairly radical re-shaping of Alcott's book. The characters are all there, and the setting remains that of New England during the Civil War: but Adamo, for whom this is a first opera, and a most auspicious one, trims most of the novel's incidents, focusing instead on Jo and her refusal to let go of the past. "Perfect as we are" and its opposite, "things change," are threads out of which the whole tapestry of the score is woven, building to what is almost a vocal symphony in the sextet that closes Act One and referred to again in the opulent quartet for the four sisters that closes the opera...New operatic works tend to be admired rather than loved, which has turned "Little Women" into something of a sensation in the opera world: well-structured as theater and carefully developed as music.
Michael Anthony, Minneapolis Star-Tribune
Brilliant: an evening of masterful storytelling and stirring music-making, in a nearly faultless production at Glimmerglass Opera...Though at times Adamo's characterizations depart from the novel, he makes good use of melody to draw characters and pull on emotions and his orchestra becomes a toybox of sounds when the children are at play...Adamo proves to be as masterful a playwright as he is a composer, for this is a work of vivid characters and ingenious musical narrative.
Joseph Dalton, Times-Union (Albany)
Defines the state of modern opera... Adamo combines music of symphonic weight with the more sophisticated narrative flow of theater. His mellifluous and ingratiating arias are generally set against the backdrop of some fairly dissonant and jagged connecting themes: above all, he's given his characters a thoroughly modern spin...Not since Nixon in China has an American opera so captured the public's imagination.
John Pitcher, The Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester)
The cherished 1868 "girl's" novel by Louisa May Alcott might seem an unlikely source to illuminate a young composer's genius in the 21st century. Nevertheless this is unquestionably the case with Mark Adamo's poignant, masterfully realized first opera, Little Women.
[Little Women] is a remarkable achievement, especially considering the dilemma of the modern opera composer: to write memorable "tunes" and be branded a hopeless reactionary, or to toe the postmodernist line and "reinvent" opera, inevitably alienating the majority of your audience. Adamo miraculously charts a third course.
What Adamo has done is create a wonderful drama that is enhanced with interesting music and thrilling singing. His brilliant libretto, lovingly and poetically adapted from the novel, recasts the story of four sisters growing up in post-Civil War America into a drama that has universal appeal.
Adamo uses a small orchestra (16 players) to cunningly create a wealth of orchestral effects that suggest Adamo's intimate familiarity with film composers like Elmer Bernstein and Bernard Herrmann. His writing for the voice is unmistakably modern, but it is so consistent and idiomatic that it falls most pleasingly on the ears after just a scene or two, and the singers obviously relish its bravura requirements.
The Civic Opera Theater's production was first-rate....The first-act wedding scene, in which the Marches recall their original wedding vows to their daughter Meg, is as musically and dramatically exciting as anything in Verdi, with Beth collapsing across the keyboard to bring the act to a conclusion.
Little Women is no little achievement for the talented Adamo. I hope to hear more from him soon.
Mickey Coalwell , Kansas City Star
A brilliant adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's novel...as fine an opera as any American has written.
Paul Horsley, Kansas City Star
Maximum dramatic impact... The libretto, also written by Adamo, is cleverly crafted, balancing sentimental drama with icebreaking humor to match the score. And the score alone is worth coming to hear. Adamo's music incorporates a variety of musical styles to emulate the mood of the characters and the scenarios. Hand in hand with the action onstage, the music is at times melodic and at other times completely dissonant and unpredictable...A brilliant American opera.
Ashley Hassebroek, Omaha World-Herald
...a vigorous yet seductive debut opera. Its first act is filled with kinetic energy; its second is relaxed and more moving because of several beautiful and ingenious arias and set pieces.
Charles Ward , Houston Chronicle
The terms "new opera" and "Encore!" don't often go together. But Mark Adamo's Little Women is full of numbers...[that] bear repeating. It is the first of Houston Grand Opera's twenty-five commissioned works to be brought back, since the company began commissioning operas in 1974. And the revival's upcoming PBS telecast will permit unlimited replays.
Adamo's score, which can soar exhilaratingly, is dotted with singer-showcasing arias, duets and ensembles.
William Albright , Opera News
In his opera [Little Women] based on the 1858 novel, Mark Adamo liberates the quartet of adolescents, distilling from their lives a perspective relevant to today....There is something poignantly Straussian in Jo's desire that time might have a stop. Yet the very urgency of her wish hints that the perfection she sees in the protective cocoon of family is illusory. A dark undercurrent in Adamo's well-wrought score makes growing fissures in its structure evident....
An eclectic idiom very much of his own making reflects Adamo's love for fioratura vocal writing, pan-chromatic harmony, and American theatre song. In a two-hour score he provides each of the ten in the cast with a major challenge, including a touchingly Barberesque lied that he makes of Goethe's "Kennst du das land" for Jo's German beau Bhaer....HGO executive director David Gockley predicts that Adamo's opera is destined to be a classic: his conviction is confirmed by the choice of the HGO production for a Great Performances telecast on public television next season and a broadcast on National Public Radio.
Wes Blomster , Opera Now
A wonder of the American opera world...a tight, universal tale, [in which], as in the best operas, the stage drama is fused, irresistibly, with the music. The stage action is clear and fast-paced, the characters sharply etched, the unfolding story captivating. This is no postmodern, camp or ironic -- and thus dismissive -- view of the beloved girlhood classic novel. No, Adamo shows great sympathy for his characters (he fashioned his own libretto, respectful of Alcott) and sees the basic conflict of the story as Jo in a hopeless battle against time, fighting against her own maturity. The story is told in a few key episodes -- Meg's wedding, Jo's move to intellectual New York, Beth's death -- and is thankfully thin on schmaltz.... The music is smoothly melodic, written lyrically for the voice, ingratiating on the listener's ear. The two-hour opera is as fit for first-time readers of Little Women as for adults who've experienced its poignant themes firsthand.
Pierre Ruhe, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
American composer Mark Adamo's Alcott-based opera, Little Women, proved itself that enviable rarity -- a new opera that appears likely and worthy to become a standard repertory piece.
Musical motifs that stick in your head, characters that come to life both dramatically and musically, superbly managed orchestral resources, a story that millions already know and love, and a soul-searing philosophical theme derived from that familiar story make this new opera look and sound like a winner.
Adamo matches the literary accomplishment of his libretto with an equally impressive musical score, convincingly -- sometimes arrestingly -- shifting from pungent atonality to flowing lyricism in the vein of Samuel Barber.
Wayne Lee Gay , Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Bright and clever...[Adamo's] dialogue is well spiced with wit....He gives singers lines and phrases that show them to great advantage, and he uses the orchestra colorfully and expressively....Little Women is an impressive first opera.
Scott Cantrell, The Dallas Morning News
A grand success...networks of motives knit the opera together, and the score, like the characters, accumulates memories as it goes along, and ponders them.
Most promising of all, Adamo has a real sense of the theater, of dramatic effect, and of stage time. There's no question that Little Women connects to its audience, and what makes the connection is Adamo's identification with the feelings of his characters, especially Jo. It is the "Cinderella" of recent American operas: an opera that hits the bull's-eye of its own ambitions.
Richard Dyer , The Boston Globe
Stunning in its inventiveness, craft, and downright beauty...Adamo also penned the well-thought-out libretto, but it is his seamless music that gives the piece its power. He careens from high, searing melody (such as the repeated "perfect as we are" motif) to atonal, incisive bite as the drama dictates. This remarkable American opera deserves to be heard and here is a recording that does it proud. Adamo has composed a truly American piece, and it is, both musically and theatrically, an impressive (and maybe even important) contribution.
Daniel Felsenfeld , andante.com
A major miracle of success: [and] the PBS telecast amply reveals why the opera has taken flight...an assured sense of structure, and genuine arias supported by wonderfully deft instrumentation: haunting and dramatically conclusive...Mr. Adamo declares that "art is entertainment: done so well, so truthfully, with such precise execution, such generosity of intent that we want to return to it over and over again." To judge by Little Women, he achieved that goal.
Barrymore Laurence Scherer , The Wall Street Journal
A prototype of a future genre... Little Women has stumbled upon a disarmingly simple truth: Just because opera is grand doesn't mean it has to be self-important. (Adamo's) music has underlying modernist tension but also emotional outpourings: the death scene of sister Beth is the work of a first-class dramatist, and the orchestration constantly pricks the ear with its color and invention. Dramatically speaking, Alcott's episodes are skillfully knit together by a narrative line: sister Jo's agonized emergence into adulthood from the safe, loving but dispersing family circle... alongside La Boheme and Carmen, Little Women settles with uncommon comfort into the opera repertoire.
David Patrick Stearns, The Philadelphia Inquirer
A beautifully crafted work: shows remarkable confidence, [and] does a brilliant job of molding Alcott's tale into operatic form. Adamo is a spirited, fast-witted composer: like Britten, he can turn on a stylistic dime, running the gamut from open-throated Broadway song to serpentine twelve-tonish writing, mak[ing] fascinating music from the simplest possible material....I suspect that in five or ten years' time Mark Adamo will be greeted with ovations on the stage of the Met.
Alex Ross, The New Yorker
A striking debut -- a crackling adaptation of the Louisa May Alcott classic that both distills the tale's most powerful elements into a two-act drama of cinematic fluency and gives it the sweetly mythic dignity of an old family album. Big arias -- or half-arias -- soar suddenly out of skittering dissonances; effusions of giddiness, yearning, impatience and pathos jostle pell-mell with one another. At times, ghostly offstage voices provide a supernatural chorus, like wind whistling through a graveyard. And somehow, because of what is manifestly Mr. Adamo's deep-felt enthusiasm for the book, this kaleidoscopic approach feels just right for evoking the passage of four 19th-century American sisters from tightly bonded, hermetic girlhood into the separate, expansive state of womanhood...(Jo) is as complex a character as I have seen in a contemporary opera, and although Mr. Adamo has given sharply sketched dimensions to her parents, sisters and suitors, she dominates the piece as completely as does the title character of Tosca. The recurrence of her eerily adamant aria, "Perfect as we are," is the opera's most telling motif. Yet it's a testament to Mr. Adamo's dramatic instincts that the single most resonant moment in the piece is given not to Jo but to her German suitor, Friedrich Bhaer, when he widens her horizons by singing a Goethe poem ("Do you know the land where the lemon trees bloom"). It is set to an arching, angular melody that Brahms might have written if he'd ever visited New England...Charm is not a word that can be often applied to opera, but it's a quality that Mark Adamo's Little Women has in abundance, and the audience -- who rewarded him with a standing ovation -- seemed to savor every minute of it.
Charles Michener , The New York Observer
Fiercely true to Alcott's spirit as he understands it, Mr. Adamo has treated the letter of her novel with the ruthlessness that distinguishes the artist from the mere adapter. Star-caliber young mezzos are sure to find Jo irresistible: and the opportunities for the rest of the cast are juicy, too... Though hardly the first of the Houston Grand Opera commissions to have an afterlife on other stages, Little Women may well go down as the most fortunate.
Matthew Gurewitsch , The New York Times
Passionate elegance...The composer's staging, eschewing the realism of the original Houston Grand Opera production, instead placed the narrative in a surreal world of flashbacks illuminating Jo's psychological plight. The result was a spare, emotionally direct production in which past and present melded seamlessly; and Adamo's score, a keen blend of serial elements and vibrant lyricism, sounded affecting and smart...Lyric Opera Cleveland landed a big coup with Little Women.
Donald Rosenberg , Opera Magazine
"Some sort of masterpiece..." Mr. Adamo's libretto, built in rhymed couplets of seemingly effortless naturalness, proceeds with amazing sureness for a first opera. We come to love the complexity of Jo's character but can still be appalled by her selfish cruelty. Her sisters are all limned surely, as are the three men who come as agents of inevitable change. Mr. Adamo's music mixes modernism (actual 12-tone rows) with tonal lyricism, the former usually to advance the action or for humor, the latter for the big effusions. And yet the two styles blend effectively, the modernism not rigorously alienating and the lyricism genuine and heartfelt. Nearly all the big moments in the opera work: Jo's arias, those for her sisters and for the older German teacher (who eventually, maybe, melts Jo's heart) and his recitation of Goethe in both German and English... If you have any interest in new opera, or just want to enjoy yourself, you should make every effort to go.
John Rockwell , The New York Times
Masterly, and often poetic: Jo and her sisters are touchingly drawn, often with humor, and Mr. Adamo's sense of timing is nearly perfect. The score is invitingly lyrical, but not unsophisticated: many of its themes and recurring motifs are derived from 12-tone rows. Good tunes propel the arias and ensembles, with skillful orchestration supporting them. [Little Women] does everything an opera should do. Not least, it leaves an audience moved.
Allan Kozinn , The New York Times
I can't think of another opera that begins to portray family life so vividly and in such deep dimension. In one remarkable scene, sickly daughter Beth plays the piano and sings her new composition; her parents discuss household finance, inquire after Beth's health and comment on her music; suitor John begs sister Meg to marry him; Jo tries to break them up; and sister Amy subtly counters Jo. Adamo wraps it all up in a compelling rhythmic and harmonic flow that gives an uncommonly complex scene a big contour you can hold in your mind...Bits of counterpoint crop up and harmonies converge at cadences, but mostly the voices sing in lively exchanges. This isn't just recitative or droning arioso. Adamo writes singing lines, in many cases variations or reprises of melodies we've heard earlier, so it expands on character and resonates emotionally. In this scene, you can get almost every word and you want to. Adamo's wordplay can be brilliant, and we want to get to know these people, the girls especially and Jo most of all.
These sisters can make a clever courtroom ritual of laundry folding, complete with opening and closing hymns to the legal system. Coached, naturally, by Adamo the stage director, their acting appears artless. You don't think about it during the show - you're just watching these people live their lives. They're funny and passionate, but then no character in Little Women is a cipher. The girls, their suitors, their aunt, their parents - all have dimension. We learn more about them every time they sing, and that's why the opera engages from start to finish.
Tom Strini, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Powerful stuff...Adamo didn't simply take Alcott's words and set them to music; he examined the personalities of the book's characters as well as their relationships with one another and found a thematic anchor that has universal resonance. The music defined the inner life as well as the interpersonal relationships of the characters, saying — as great opera does — what the text leaves out...Little Women gives us everything we ask of an operatic experience.
Carol Simmons, Dayton Daily News
The last operatic masterpiece of the 20th century... Fort Worth got its first taste of Little Women in a production that clearly demonstrated why it has already become the most frequently performed of new American operas. Adamo's inspired handling of textures ranges from heart-stopping moments of silence to soaring melodies and piercing dissonance. In short, he proves that opera still has a magic that neither cinema nor the mainstream theater can match...(Little Women is) a moving epitomization of the American experience as real in the 21st century as it was in the 19th.
Wayne Lee Gay , Fort Worth Star-Telegram