"Sheltering the Creative Spirit"

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Taos, New Mexico USA




              The Woman at Otowi Crossing Opera



Frank Waters wrote the first draft of The Woman at Otowi Crossing in 1956. After submitting his fourth draft in 1965, it was published by Alan Swallow in October of 1966.

The Opera Theatre of St. Louis commissioned Stephen Paulus in 1991 to write an opera based on novel  The Woman at Otowi Crossing. The world premier on June 15, 1995, coincided with the twentieth anniversary of the Theatre and coincidentally with the 50th anniversary of Hiroshima.

Paulus was drawn to the book because the story was  “ a love story with strong characters and good dramatic situations. While reading the book, I began to hear musical ideas, began to get to know the characters and put a musical stamp on them.” The libretto was written by Joan Vail Thorne and the staging and casting was under the direction of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis Director Colin Graham.

The production included thirty-two voices in the chorus and a forty piece contingent of the Saint Louis Symphony.  The premiere occurred twelve days after the death of Frank Waters, who had looked forward to being in attendance. NPR broadcast the opera in September 1995.

 David Noble reported in the Santa Fe Reporter, “I expect that The Woman of Otowi Crossing will end up in the varied category of American Classic, and that we will hear it again-one hopes in New Mexico, at least.”

Craig Smith in the New Mexican, reported, “The Woman at Otowi Crossing proved to be an interpretation of a rich human personality,” … “heart-wrenchingly beautiful music.”  … “seems to be a good candidate for a place in the contemporary repertoire.”

On hand to celebrate this operatic interpretation of Frank’s novel were Barbara and many  friends and admirers. Remembering Frank’s thoughts when asked about his novel becoming an opera, he said, “I can’t imagine how they will do it.” Charles Adams said of the performance, "I think in essence it captured what the book is about. I think Frank would have been pleased."

We can only hope that someday it will be performed by the Santa Fe Opera Company, a fitting tribute to both the writer and composer, and just within earshot of Otowi bridge, Los Alamos, and the San Ildefonso Pueblo.

by William Farr


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