Silver Queen of Colorado Continues to Shine in Popular Opera

Opera soprano Aislef Willmer, right, will sing the role of the infamous "Baby Doe" at Brevard Music Center.

Opera soprano Aislef Willmer, right, will sing the role of the infamous “Baby Doe” at Brevard Music Center.

She excavated her own precious metals, scandalizing even hardened miners during the propriety-laced Victorian era. She was called a homewrecker – but also “the best-dressed woman in the West.”

And you think today’s celebrity baby names are bizarre? Well, this woman blithely christened her younger daughter “Silver Dollar.”

Elizabeth McCourt Tabor tore up the eureka town of Leadville, Colorado, in the 1880s. She liberated the affections of much-older silver magnate Horace Tabor, who left his wife of 25 years for the Irish-descended upstart. (“Lizzy” was already one marriage down when she met Tabor; she’d gained a nickname that stuck, “Baby Doe,” after a brief union to the rakish Harvey Doe.)

Sadly, Baby Doe’s wave of fame crashed along with her second husband’s fortune, and she spent her later years in penniless disgrace (not that the townspeople had much warmed to a divorced Catholic suffragette in the first place). Refusing to leave the Wild West, she was found frozen to death in her cabin, bequeathing a wealth of journals and a fascinating legacy.

One of the few American, English-language operas in the standard repertory, Douglas Moore’s The Ballad of Baby Doe, released in 1956, still enjoys frequent production – in large part because its titular heroine left behind such a treasure of a tale.

Brevard Music Center presents the opera on July 30 (7:30pm) and August 1 (2pm), starring soprano Asleif Willmer in the lead role. Scott Concert Hall at the Porter Center. $45.

(See our article on stage director Dean Anthony, “The Tumbling Tenor.”)


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