Opera Based on the Life of Lady Bird Johnson
Project Director: Dr. Samuel Mungo, Assistant Professor, School of Music, Texas State University
Community Partners: Texas State Opera Theatre, Texas Hill Country Opera and Arts Festival, Rock-Jensen Foundation, and private donations to the Texas State Opera Theatre
Funding Organization: National Endowment for the Arts
Amount Awarded: $15,000
The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) awarded Samuel Mungo to co-comission the World Premiere opera, LADY BIRD, on the life and accomplishments of Lady Bird Johnson. The opera is co-commissioned with the Texas State Opera Theatre, via Texas State University and Texas Hill Country Opera & Arts Festival.
Texas State Opera Theatre contracted the illustrious American composer Henry Mollicone and the Pulitzer Prize winning lyricist Sheldon Harnick about an opera featuring this iconic Texan, and they are committed to honoring Lady Bird Johnson’s contribution to America, as the woman who stood witness to the historical magnitude of her husband’s term as President of the United States and rode down bigotry as a daughter of the South.
It is this last experience on which the opera will be focused. In 1964, as LBJ struggled to get the Civil Rights Act passed, many Southern congressmen were balking due to opposition back home. Lady Bird, as a daughter of the South, took it upon herself to board a train and canvass the southern United States, in an attempt to persuade the people to support the historic bill. In the face of people calling her a traitor, catcalling, and death threats, she won the people over as she crisscrossed the country. It is due to her dedication that eight crucial southern congressmen voted for the Bill.
This project culminated in the World Premiere performance in April 28 - May 1, 2016 in the new Patti Strickel Harrison Theater in the Performing Arts Center at Texas State University.
See review by Classical Voice North America, Journal of the Music Critics Association of North America.