MRS. WILLIAMSON: Mezzo-soprano
MR. WILLIAMSON / MAGISTRATE: Spoken
WILLIAMSON GIRL: Soprano
BOY SAM: Tenor
ARMOUR WREN / ANDREW: Bass
Chorus of slaves, from which are drawn:
VIRGINIA CREEPER: Soprano
OLD WOMAN: Contralto
A slave owner in the pre-civil war American South walks across his field and disappears, in plain view of his family, his neighbors and his slaves, forever altering the relationships among them. Everyone around him has his or her own sharp view of what that disappearance means, of why it had to happen, and of what will happen now that there is a "hole" where a man used to be. Based on a one page story by the writer Ambrose Bierce, The Difficulty of Crossing a Field
was commissioned by Carey Perloff and the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. It was intended to cross between opera and theater worlds, mixing arias with spoken text, emotional melodies with intense drama. It is written for 5 principals and a chorus of 6 or more slaves, and the accompaniment is for string quartet on stage, both as the "orchestra" and as part of the set.
The original production was 22-24 March 2002 at the Theater Artaud in San Francisco, starring Julia Migenes as the wife of the missing planter and 2004 Tony-award winning singer Anika Noni Rose as the leader of the slave chorus, with music performed onstage by the Kronos Quartet.