An Original Opera for Young Performers and Adults

Music and Libretto by Judith C. Lane
All music and lyrics copyright © Judith C. Lane.  All rights reserved

Time: 1840s

Setting: Lowell, Massachusetts 

Synopsis:  Callie and her little sister Maggie both work 14 hours a day at the cotton mills in Lowell, Massachusetts.  They have no family but each other, and Callie feels the weight of her responsibility to take care of  Maggie.  She works hard at the mill, and also learns to read, hoping this new ability will help her find another job.  She attends meetings of the Female Labor Reform Association and bravely signs a petition for the 10-hour workday.  But just when the workers are planning to strike Maggie becomes deathly ill, and Callie must decide between joining the strike or continuing to work in order to pay the doctor bills and keep a roof over their heads.

           When the leaders of the strike are suddenly fired, the strike is postponed.  But Callie learns that all the workers involved in planning the strike will be docked their day’s pay.  So she makes her decision, stopping her loom and calling others to do the same.  En masse the workers join her in the strike, successfully bringing the huge mill to a standstill.

           In an Epilogue we see Callie and Maggie, fifteen years later.  Callie reads with a small child in front of a bookstore that she now owns, as Maggie enters excitedly with a newspaper.  The cover story announces that the 10-hour workday is now law.  The whole company joins in a reprise of the worker’s anthem.

Photos by John Karidis

The Cast:

(NOTE:  Role doubling of many characters is possible. 
All characters are also members of choruses. Chorus sizes are flexible.)

 
Callie...................a young Mill Girl, 11 years old Mr. Brick ....................................Mill  Manager
Maggie................Callie's little sister, 8 years old Mr. Pinch.....................................Mill Paymaster
Mrs. Calendar...............runs the boarding house Lady Hallenbrook ..................a wealthy woman
Jake...............................an elderly book peddler Older Callie....................................28 years old
Ted...............................a 13-year-old schoolboy Older Maggie.................................25 years old
Ella............................................a sickly Mill Girl Child...............................................Callie’s child
Alicia & Nan..........older Mill Girls, organizers of Child Worker Chorus
                                  the 10- hour day movement Adult Worker Chorus
  Townspeople Chorus

Music Excerpts:

1.  "Someday Soon" 6.  "The Mill Cough"
2.  "Hey, Mousey!" 7.  "So Many Children"
3.  "Six Days a Week" 8.  "Lift and Shift"
4.  "Please, Sir..." 9.  "Fifty-Two Cents"
5.  "Reading Lesson"

10.  "Ten  Hours"


Performance Notes:

Running Time:  80 Minutes (can be performed with or without intermission)
Instrumental Ensemble: Piano, violin I, violin II, cello, bass, flute, clarinet, piano, synthesize and percussion.  The piece may also be performed with just piano and percussion.

Stage Set:  Cots that convert into looms

The Mill Girl was commissioned by the 
Children’s Opera Company of Ossining.
The commission was funded in part by grants from The Glickenhaus Foundation,
The Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation, and the Harburg Foundation.
 World Premiere Performance:
April 1998 - The Children’s Opera Company of Ossining, NY

 

"Lift  and Shift"  was selected as a Finalist in the
KidSing2000 Composers Competition