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September 7 & 8, 2018

7:30 PM

Kranzberg Arts Center- Studio Theater

501 N Grand Blvd 

St. Louis, MO 63103

About Three Decembers

Sung in English with English supertitles.
Total run time: Approx. 1 hour and 30 minutes - no intermission


Jake Heggie’s deeply moving opera explores the emotional shrapnel, secrets and hard truths that take place over three decades in the life of a Broadway diva, who has long ignored her (now adult) children as she pursues her career.  Her daughter is struggling with a failing marriage, and her son is facing the death of his partner.  The beautiful score highlights the tangled emotions of this family as they come to grips with the secrets which have shaped their relationships.​​

About the composer & librettist:

Jake Heggie is the composer of the operas Dead Man Walking, Moby-Dick, It’s A Wonderful Life, Great Scott, Three Decembers, Out of Darkness: Two Remain, and the choral opera, The Radio Hour, among others. He has also composed nearly 300 songs, as well as chamber, choral and orchestral works. The operas – most created with writers Terrence McNally or Gene Scheer – have been produced on five continents. Moby-Dick (Scheer) was telecast throughout the United States as part of Great Performances’ 40th Season and released on DVD (EuroArts). Dead Man Walking (McNally) has received nearly 50 international productions and has been recorded twice. Three Decembers has received nearly 20 international productions. The composer was recently awarded the Eddie Medora King prize from the UT Austin Butler School of Music, and the Champion Award from the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus. A Guggenheim Fellow, Heggie has served as a mentor for the Washington National Opera’s American Opera Initiative and is a frequent guest artist at universities, conservatories and festivals throughout the USA and Canada. He and Gene Scheer are currently at work on If I Were You, based on the Faustian story by Julian Green, for the Merola Opera Program’s 2019 season.

Gene Scheer’s work is noted for its scope and versatility. With the composer Jake Heggie, he has collaborated on many projects, including the critically acclaimed 2010 Dallas Opera world premiere, Moby-Dick, starring Ben Heppner as Captain Ahab; Three Decembers (Houston Grand Opera), which starred Frederica von Stade; and the lyric drama To Hell and Back (Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra), which featured Patti LuPone. Other works by Scheer and Heggie include Camille Claudel: Into the fire, a song cycle premiered by Joyce di Donato and the Alexander String Quartet. Mr. Scheer worked as librettist with Tobias Picker on An American Tragedy, which premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in 2005. Other collaborations include the lyrics for Wynton Marsalis’s It Never Goes Away, featured in Mr. Marsalis’s work Congo Square.  With the composer Steven Stucky, Mr. Scheer wrote the oratorio August 4, 1964, for the

Dallas Symphony Orchestra. The work was nominated for a Grammy in 2012 for best classical composition. In 2015, Mr. Scheer collaborated with Joby Talbot on the opera Everest, based on the doomed 1996 Everest expedition. With Jennifer Higdon, Mr. Scheer wrote an operatic adaptation of Cold Mountain, which premiered in the summer of 2015 at the Santa Fe Opera. This work won the International Opera award, presented in London, for the best World premiere in 2015. Recently, along with Ms. Higdon, Mr. Scheer was nominated for a Grammy for his work on Cold Mountain for best classical composition. In December of 2016 Mr. Scheer and Jake Heggie premiered an operatic adaptation of It’s a Wonderful Life for the Houston Grand Opera. Also a composer in his own right, Mr. Scheer has written a number of songs for singers such as Renée Fleming, Sylvia McNair, Stephanie Blythe, Jennifer Larmore, Denyce Graves, and Nathan Gunn.  The distinguished documentary filmmaker, Ken Burns, prominently featured Mr. Scheer’s song American Anthem (as sung by Norah Jones) in his Emmy Award-winning World War II documentary for PBS entitled The War.

Cast and Creative Team

-Click Artist's photo to for Artist's Bio-

Stephanie Ruggles

Madeline Mitchell

Emily Truckenbrod


Aleksandar Dragojević


Curtis Moeller

Collaborative Pianist

Kurtis Shoemake

Stage Director & Designer

Second Pianist

Three Decembers Synopsis



Madeline (Maddy) Mitchell: A famous, glamorous and beloved American actress and singer.
Beatrice (Bea): Maddy’s daughter; married to Syd with whom she has two children. They live in Hartford, CT.
Charlie: Maddy’s son; a gay man who lives in San Francisco with his partner, Burt.


Based on the play Some Christmas Letters by Terrence McNally


Part I, 1986


Charlie and Bea read their mother’s annual Christmas letter while talking on the phone. Their mother, Madeline (Maddy), writes that she wishes she could be with them for Christmas. As fortune has it, she is working in the Caribbean for the holiday. They share laughs and unapologetic sarcasm over their mother’s writing style, attempting at glossing over their often strained relationship with her.  Maddy writes about Christmas with their father before they were born; Bea admits that she hardly remembers their dad, as she was just seven and Charlie five when he died, but they miss him nonetheless. Maddy announces that she will be starring in her first Broadway musical, which Charlie refuses to attend. Maddy concludes the letter with goodbyes; however, she mistakenly addresses Charlie’s partner as Curt. Charlie becomes increasingly upset, having hoped that after five years with Burt, his mother would have at least remembered his name. Bea admits that she envies the love Charlie and Burt share. 


A well-dressed Bea joins Maddy in her dressing room after a performance of Maddy’s new Broadway show, Daybreak. Bea praises her mother’s performance as she instinctively helps her mother with the post-show dressing room routine.  Bea is very concerned for Charlie and Burt, as Burt’s health deteriorates. She accuses Maddy of being an absent parent, unsupportive of her children. Defending herself, Maddy claims she was only away from her children because she had to provide for the family as a single mother. 


Bea visits Charlie in San Francisco. Burt is not doing well and Charlie is coming to terms with Burt’s looming death. The siblings reminisce on their childhood; what they remember, specifically of their father, and what they wished they remembered.


Part II, 1996


Charlie is alone in his apartment, surrounded by packed and sealed boxes, flipping through his journal and disclosing that Burt died seven weeks ago. Maddy eventually came to visit right before Burt died. Maddy’s voice comes in, singing the lullaby Charlie’s father used to sing to him, and which she sang to Burt when she visited.


Maddy has been nominated, again, for the Tony Awards. Bea and Charlie plan to join their mother for the award ceremony. All three in their respective locations sing the father’s lullaby; encouraging each of them to let go of their fears and frustrations.


Alone in Maddy’s apartment on the night of the Tony Awards, Bea stands in front of a full-length mirror. She is trying on her mother’s clothes as she sips from a glass of white wine.  Bea is slowly unraveling in her insecurities: her mother’s criticism and neglect, her unfaithful husband and her drinking habits. Charlie rushes in with shopping bags, noticing that Bea is upset, but she denies it. He attempts to cheer her up with impersonations of their mother.


Maddy enters and starts preparing for the Tony Awards, discussing her acceptance speech. She plans to acknowledge Charlie and Burt’s relationship and how no one is immune to tragedy. Charlie and Bea are unimpressed.


Maddy accuses Bea of being drunk and acting just like her father, revealing the grim truth that their father was a drunk who could not maintain a job. The children believed that their father had been killed in a car accident, but Maddy finally shares the truth of their father's death.


The argument is interrupted, unresolved, as Maddy has to leave to go to the awards. Bea and Charlie, feeling victimized, refuse to accompany Maddy to the Awards.


Part III, 2006


Maddy has died quietly in her sleep, after writing her latest Christmas letter. Bea and Charlie speak at Maddy’s memorial service held at a Broadway Theatre.  Bea gives tribute to both her parents’ souls. The service concludes with a few lines from Maddy’s last Christmas letter; “All in all isn’t life simply grand? I’m so awfully glad I showed up for it.” 

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