Patience & Sarah is the first opera by composer by Paula M. Kimper. Set in Connecticut in the winter of 1816, the opera tells the powerful story of two young women who meet, fall in love and resolve to devote their lives to each other. The artist Patience White, sister to a middle-class Connecticut landowner, and tough-minded, adventurous Sarah Dowling, the daughter of a poor farmer, share a mutual dream of leaving behind their repressive lives to go pioneering together, defying their families’ attempts to prevent it.
The libretto by Wende Persons is based on the 1969 novel by Isabel Miller, which in turn was inspired by the true story of two 19th-century women, the painter Mary Ann Willson and her companion Florence Brundage. Today Willson is recognized as an outstanding primitive artist; her paintings may be seen in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts, and the Folk Art Museum in Cooperstown, New York.
Commissioned and developed by American Opera Projects, the opera’s sold out premiere at the Lincoln Center Festival, July 1998, was lauded by The New York Times, Opera News, New York Magazine, The Village Voice, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Out Magazine, The Advocate, and others. The musical style is richly lyrical, with soaring vocal lines that have been likened to Richard Strauss and Puccini, and beautiful, evocative orchestral colors.
Other productions of the opera include: Denver Opera Company, 2000; Balliwick Repertory Theater, Chicago, 2000; Hebdon Bridge Arts Festival, England, 2002; First Unitarian Church of Oakland, CA, 2007.
Mary Ann Wilson at the Folk Art Museum