opera in One Act
The Libretto by Nelle Richmond Eberhart
and the Music by

Charles Wakefield Cadman


CAST of Characters

Mrs. J. Asher Everton, a prominent California Club Woman (Contralto)
Amy Everton, her daughter (Soprano)
Shanewis, an educated Indian singer; Mrs. Everton's protegée (Mezzo-Soprano)
Lionel Rhodes, a wealthy young architect; Amy's fiancé (Tenor)
Philip Harjo,a young Indian; foster brother to Shanewis (Baritone)

California Society people; Oklahoma Indians, half-breeds and whites.


Part One: Southern California.
Part Two: An Oklahoma Indian Reservation.

Time: The present [i.e: 1918].

For added spectacular effect, the musicale in Part One may be given in costume, the characters representing the various phasesof America in the making. The following are suggestions:

Mrs. Everton - Queen Isabella of Spain.
Amy Everton - Evangeline.
Lionel Rhodes - John Alden.
Shanewis - Pocahontas.

Sir Francis Drake.
Marquis de LaFayette.
Hernando de Cortez.
Thaddeus Kosciuszko.
Leif Ericcson.
John Paul Jones.
Robert Fulton.
George Washington.
Abraham Lincoln.
Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Susan B. Anthony.
Anne Hutchinson.
Betsy Ross.
Martha Washington.
Rip van Winkle.
Salem Witches.
Franciscan Monks.
Cow Boys.


P r e l u d e.

(In California. A long music room with three wide French windows at back opening upon a balustraded terrace beyond which the moonlit sea is visible. A grand piano is at extreme left. At left front are a divan and palms. Heavy curtains separate music room from the dining room. Extra chairs are set for musicale. A group of young people stroll about, chatting expectantly.)

CHORUS: Shanewis, the Indian maiden,
Will sing this evening;
Her first appearance as cantatrice;
At least 'twill have the charm of novelty!

GROUP OF GIRLS: I wonder what her gown is,
Of buckskin or of silk?

OTHER GIRLS: She wears a beaded costume
Of Alaskan caribou.

YOUNG MEN: The costume does not matter,
Is she beautiful and can she sing?

CHORUS: I wonder, can she sing?

(Mrs. Everton and dinner guests enter left from the dining room. Some of the men go out on the terrace to smoke. [Note: Some stage directions differ slightly from libretto to score. In most cases the libretto is followed unless a variant is noted.] )

MRS. EVERTON: One word before I bring Shanewis,
That you may hear with kindness.
Remember she is no alien nightingale
Fostered by tender, sea-born zephyrs
In balmy climes where the charmed air
Exhales a golden melody. She is a native forest bird
Born of our mighty wilderness,
warmed by our fervent sun,
Taught by our free winds and leaping canyon waters
A strange, primeval song
Of ancient intervals.

(Mrs. Everton crosses room and passes through hall archway, right. Guests seat themselves, the men re-entering the room. Lionel and Amy enter from terrace. They nod greetings to young people who gather around them.)

AMY: I am curious to hear Shanewis;
I've scarecely seen her.
She only came this morning
And has spent the day in quiet.

LIONEL: Where did your mother find her?

AMY: In Oklahoma, while I was abroad.
She is a descendant of the great Tecumseh.
( She tales a framed photograph of Shanewis from the table and shows it to him.)
Is she not lovely?

(Lionel studies the portrait attentively.)

LIONEL: Beautiful! Beautiful!
So straight, so tall, so lithe and slender!
Years ago, in Arizona,
I saw a face like hers,
With the same proud eyes,
The same white, flashing smile.

AMY: ( Smiling, yet offended.)
Butterfly heart!
'Tis well I have returned.

( She replaces the portrait. The young people hand it about.)

ALL: Hush! Hush! Hush! Hush!

(Mrs. Everton enters right, followed by Shanewis and accompanist. Shanewis is in white caribou, beaded. The pianist seats herself at the piano; Shanewis stands in the curve; Amy and Lionel sit near the piano.)

MRS. EVERTON: Friends, Let me present you
My lovely wild-bird, Shanewis.
Her song will transport you
To forest solitudes,
To prairie uplands, to mountain wilderness.
She will reveal to you
A little of her Mother Nature's heart.
Friends, Shanewis.

( Mrs. Everton bows and seats herself. Shanewis bows and smiles. Lionel moves nearer, fascinated.)

SHANEWIS: Once on a time when a little maid
Before the camp-fire,
I heard the Spring Song of the Robin Woman,
A lovely princess,
An enchantress of a Northern tribe
Who stands at winter's end
In the bow of her canoe.
She sends her beautiful song
Across the frozen river
To wake the Southern winds,
To melt the fields of snow
And call the robins home.
This is the song the Robin Woman sang:

(Shanewis signals the pianist to begin the accompaniment [score: "like an incantation"]:)

Oh, ye birds of spring,
Come from your hiding;
Robins all and humming-birds,
Come unto this barren land.
Hear the waters gliding
From the melting ice and snow;
Salmon leap unto my hand,
Call ye springtime to the land,
Call ye verdure to the hills,
Wake the blossoms by the rills.
Humming birds and robins all,
Ha yu! Ha yu!
Come unto my call!
Ho! Ho! Ho!

(The guests applaud enthusiastically.)

LIONEL (Aside to Amy:) She herself is an enchantress.

GUESTS: An encore! An encore! An encore!

SHANEWIS: ( Much pleased:)
So glad you liked my little tale!
I'll sing you another.
An Ojibway canoe song:

Out on the lake my canoe is gliding,
Paddle dipping soft lest she should take alarm,
Ah, hey-ah hey-ah, ho, hey-ah hey-ah, ho,
Thus I go.

Somewhere along the shoreshe is hiding,
She is shy to yield to love's alluring charm,
Ah, hey-ah hey-ah, ho, hey-ah hey-ah, ho,
Love will win, I know.

There is a shadow, swiftly stealing!
Should it be her own, soon I will win the race!
Ah, hey-ah hey-ah, ho, hey-ah hey-ah, ho,
I think it is!

Will she but turn, herself revealing,
I will shout aloud, whene'er I see her face.
Ah, hey-ah hey-ah, ho, hey-ah hey-ah, ho,
There she is!

[Score: "This song is by Frederick Burton, and the original Ojibway Indian theme and translated words have been further idealized and re-harmonized." ]

(Shanewis bows gracefully. She then steps to Mrs. Everton's side and lays her hand upon her shoulder. The accompanist joins the guests. Amy goes up to Shanewis impulsively.)

AMY: How many letters came across the ocean
To tell me of your singing.
But you are far above my dreaming.
You've sung your way into my heart.

SHANEWIS: I rejoice that you are pleased;
But if I have done well,
You must thank my benefactress.
She took the wild bird from its forest home
And changed its sylvan notes to lyric airs.
All that I am she made me,
and all that I do she taught me.
As Heaven sees me here, I vow
Some day I shall repay her.
At whatever cost, at whatever sacrifice,
I shall repay her.

(Mrs. Everton rises. She and Shanewis clasp hands fondly. The guests suround them, congratulating both. Thee young men are very attentive. Finally they go out on the terrace to dance. Lionel detains Shanewis. He leads her to a divan, left front. They sit. )

LIONEL (Excitedly:) It is so strange! I must tell you!
Just now when I clasped your hand,
I felt a thrill within my heart.
(In a hushed voice:) Comes love ever thus,-- so suddenly?

SHANEWIS (Shyly:) I know not!

LIONEL: Clasp my hand! (They clasp hands.)
Look in my eyes!

( They gaze long. Suddenly Shanewis pushes him away, clasping her hands over her heart.)

SHANEWIS (Breathlessly:)
Can it be! Can it be!
I feel the thrill! I see a star!
It is enchantment!

LIONEL (Caressingly:) My sweet enchantress! My Robin Woman!
Calling the springtime to my heart!

(They move near each other)

SHANEWIS: There is the Moon of Red-blooming Lilies
Climbing the mountain above the ocean.
Did it bring love to us who are strangers?

(Lionel again clasps her hand. He leans ardently towards her.)

LIONEL: Ah, clasp my hand. Look in my eyes!
Love stole out of the sea at star-break;
Was it the magic of the moon that drew him,
Or was it your eyes so brown and tender,
Or was it my ardent heart
Longing, longing, [libretto repeats once more:] longing,
Not knowing what it longed for
Till it found you?

SHANEWIS: Love rose up from the great white water,
Stole upon us dreaming unaware,
Bound our alien hearts together.
What called him from his far off places?
Was it the Moon of Blood-red Lilies?
Was it my heart like a warm, red flower,
Glowing, glowing with desire?

[Score: LIONEL: Ah, why do you fear to welcome Love?
Take him to your breast!]

LIONEL and SHANEWIS:Love stole out of the sea at star-break;
Was it the magic of the moon that drew him?

LIONEL: Or was it your eyes so brown and tender?

LIONEL and SHANEWIS: Or was it my ardent heart,
Longing, longing, [longing,]
Not knowing what it longed for
Till it found you?

(He clasps her in his arms. She struggles free. They rise. )

SHANEWIS: Ah, is happiness for us?
I am a bird of the wilderness,
I am a thrush of the woodland,
Captive awhile to art and song
Yet true to my traditions.
I love the wild life of the plains,
The campfires of my people,
The young companions of my childhood,
My father and my foster-brother.
Ah, if you think you love me,
Go with me to my home,
Learn to know my people.
This sudden love may die.

LIONEL: (Fired by her enthusiasm:)
Take me to your people!
Where you love, I love.

(Amy and a young man enter from the terrace. Shanewis & Lionel move apart guiltily. The young man leads Shanewis out to dance. Amy remains. Lionel recovers his poise.)

LIONEL (Aside, ruefully:) I had forgotten Amy!

AMY ( Jealously: ) So long with Shanewis!
Does she know we're betrothed?

LIONEL (Looking away) Of course I did not tell her,--
That was for you.

AMY ( Disconsolately leaning against his breast)
No kiss tonight? No loving word?
Not often are you cold.

(Lionel looks nervously across the piano to the open French doors. He draws Amy further behind the palms and piano.)

LIONEL: (With an effort to appear tender)
Dear Azure-Eyes, what is your thought?

AMY: Sometimes I wake from sleep
When day lies pale upon the deep,
To lie and weep;
I hear the gulls with eerie cry,
The morning airs that hasten by
With careless sigh.
Beneath my casement,
I hear the waves complaining.
They tell me love is fleeting,--
Fleeting, not immortal.
Ah! Suppose you ceased to love me!

( Lionel ignores her complaint but replies to her depreciation of love with emphasis.)

LIONEL: (with decision)
Love is not a fleeting passion,
Love is true as angels are,
Though we wander far, mistaking
Straying moonbeams for a star;
Though we dream and find, awaking,
Vows forgotten, faith forsaking;
Ah! love is not a fleeting passion,
But is steadfast as a star!
( He seats her on the divan and stands before her, explaining:)
Do you know the difference
Between moonlight and starlight?
Between reflected glow and burning flame?
Ah, moonlight is ghost-light;
It is like a candle shining on a white, dead face,
While starlight is a beacon
Which guides to the heart of fire!
Moonlight is beautiful, but treacherous!
It neither guides nor warms;
It is like phosphorescence on the sea
Hiding a grave!
Who cares for moonlight
While shines a star?
( He looks across the piano and sees Shanewis, with others, entering. Their gaze meets. Any follow his look and clasps her hands despairingly.)
Love eternal, love immortal,
Love I follow, follow far!

( The clock in the hall begins to strike midnight and all the guests hasten in. Mrs. Everton and Shanewis stand in the center of the room. Lionel and Amy join them, Amy hiding her emotion behind a conventional smile. The company begin their audieux. Some shake hands, some of the ladies kiss; all bow and smile. They make their way lingeringly into the hall.)

CHORUS: Now chimes the midnight hour,
Good night to all;
So soft the thrall,
Time passed unheeded
Beyond recall.

ELDERLY GUESTS (To Mrs. Everton:)
Sweet is your woodland thrush,
Sweet is her strain;
May Song crown her soverign,
May long be her reign.

Good-night, good-night to all.

MRS. EVERTON: Good night, good-night, do come again;
Thank you for your kindness to my wild-bird.

(Shanewis returns to the center of the room where a group of young men are chatting with Lionel. They bend gallantly in turn, over her hand.)

YOUNG MEN: Good-night, good-night
Dear singing wild-bird.

(They exit right, saluting Mrs. Everton and Amy at the door.>)

GROUP OF GIRLS: (At the hall, mischievously to Amy:)
Good-night, Amy, look well to your lover;
He was flirting with Shanewis in the corner,
Half of the evening!
(Calling back:)
Good-night, Shanewis, good-night!

LIONEL: (Softly, secretly:)
Good-night, Robin-woman, call and I come!
If you call me, I will hear you,
I will follow to your arms.
Good-night, enchantress, good-night!

(Lionel bends and kisses her hand, then joins Amy. Mrs Everton, Amy and Lionel with remaining guests pass through hall into garden. Shanewis switches out the music room lights and stands in the moonlight. She lays the hand which Lionel has kissed upon her lips in ecstasy. The voices of the young people float in faintly from outside.)

Dear wood-bird! Bird of the wilderness!

C u r t a i n.
End of Scene One.

I n t e r m e z z o.


(In Oklahoma.)

(Approaching sunset. The closing scenes of a modern summer encampment or pow wow of an Oklahoma tribe of Indians are in progress. The camp is on a level stretch of ground but in the distance is seen a rolling farming country dotted with occasional patches of live oak and cottonwood trees. To the right front a trail leads up over a rocky rise of ground edged with a fringe of woodland. The pow wow is held in an enclosure of canvas fence stretch on tall, slendeer poles beyond which are tepee tops and improvised canvas shelters for the campers. The ceremonial dancers in full regalia stand aginst this fence awaiting their turns. The crowd consists of full-blood Indians and half-breeds in ceremonial, mongrel, or modern dress and whote spectators in holiday atire. Booths decorated in red, white, and blue bunting occupy the middle stage. Several Ford automobiles stand about. An Indian pony hitched to a red and green wagon filled witth Indian children is tied to a tree. Ice-cream and lemonade vendors are crying their wares. Balloon sellers add noise and color. Shanewis, in red buckskin, and Lionel in an immaculate and correctly-cut sport-suit, stand right front and watch the pageant with interest.)


The Sun walks in the south
Whence come all light and brightness;
But now he goes to the west
Where dwells the end of all;
So we forsake our ceremonies,
So we cease from singing;
The drums grow silent,
The dance is over!

All day the winds have wandered,
Caressing the Mother Corn
Whose spirit gives us life;
Day and night the running waters
Have whispered of renewing life.
O Sun, O Earth, O Air, O Waters,
Give us still of thine abundance
That we may live and grow.

Lemonade! Lemonade! Ice-cold lemonade!
Five cents a glass!
Very refreshing in the heat.

Balloons, red, white, and blue,
Just like the American flag!
Closing out balloons!

Ice cream cones! Ice cream cones!
Five cents a piece!

WOMEN SPECTATORS: See the handsome man with the pretty Indian maid!
I wonder, is it a flirtation?

The crops are looking fine, but we need more rain.
The wind is so destructive; the soil is dry.

ALL: The sun is sinking fast.

[Score: "They circle around Shanewis and Lionel in mock serenade:"]

Za za za
Za za za za za
Za za za za.]

( High School Girls hover about the couple sentimentally. )

Oh, Summer of Love with winds that blow o'er the ripening corn,
Our hearts, too, are ripening in the mellow harvest sun;
Oh, bring us a reaper with eyes as blue as the skies of morn;
Our hearts, too, are waiting for the goldeen scythe of Love.

SHANEWIS: The day draws to a close.
The ceremonies are over,
They are breaking camp,
What do you think of my people?
Do you still love your wild bird?

LIONEL: Oh, Bird of the Wilderness,
Your wild note thrills the heart of me;
Oh nest upon my tree of love
And fill mylife with melody.
Oh, come with me.

SHANEWIS: I come! I come!

Pow wows are picturesque and quite unique;
This has been a splendid show, a gala week.
But now the end has come,
We must prepare for home.
Our holiday is o'er; to work we now return.
Goodby, we go!

(The vendors pack their wares and strip the booths. The spectators and Indians gather their families together and leave the stage in groups.)

LIONEL: [Score: Oh come, ] Sweetheart, let us go!

SHANEWIS: No, there's one more song!

( Lionel and Shanewis move over toward the center of the stage which is now nearly empty. A few full blood Indians in regalia remain. Four old Indians range themselves in the center.)

Tsi-go he-thon -be shon ni wa ta wa-kon he tse he,
Tsi-go he she-shon ni wa ta wa-kon he tse he,
Ba-bthi he-thon -be shon ni wa ta wa-kon he tse he,
Tsi-go he-thon -be shon ni wa ta wa-kon he tse he.

[note: In the score: "This is an Osage Indian ceremonial song and is used by permission of the U.S. Bureau of American Ethnology."]

( Philip Harjo steps forth and stands before Shanewis.)

PHILIP HARJO: ( Somewhat pompously: )
Shanewis, you have chosen an alien lover.
I do not approve the marriage.
The noblest of our trive were proud to wed Shanewis;
But the world first called to you,
And then this man.

I, too, have loved you long but secretly,
And mourned when you went forth
To learn the custom of a hated race.
I hoped a cruel world would drive you back
Into my waiting arms. (Bitterly:)
But while the Red Man waited
The White Man stole your love
As he steals all.
Since it must be so we wish you well,
And here I bring a gift.
( He displays a handsome bow and arrow.)
Long ago a maiden of our tribe
Was betrayed by a pale-face.
In her shame she found death in the forest.
But ere she dies she planted in the traitor's heart
This poisoned arrow tipped with death!
If every one is treacherous to thee,
Here is thy revenge!
(He steps forward and presents Shanewis the bow and arrow.)

LIONEL: (carelessly:)
It is a ueless keepsake:
Never shall it be needed.
I shall be true to Shanewis!

(Before Shanewis can speak, Mrs Everton and Amy hasten up in travelling costume. All the Indians still on the stage reture, except Harjo, who, suspecting trouble to Shanewis, conceals himself behind a tree.)

MRS. EVERTON ( In agitation:) Lionel, we have followed you
To save you from this folly.

LIONEL: (blusteringly:)
Why folly? I love Shanewis.

MRS. EVERTON: (With scorn, her arm sweeping the scene)
Is this the life to which you are accustomed?
Do you feel at home?

(Lionel throws his arm about Shanewis who stands in silent astonishment.)

LIONEL: At last I know immortal love!
And I can never change!

MRS. EVERTON: (With scorn)
Love! Love! So like a man!
Along his path since time began
He leaves his trail of wrack and woe,
His "Lo, I come," -- his "Lo, I go."
The hearts of women are his prey,
Nor truth nor duty say him nay.

MRS. EVERTON & LIONEL: (angrily facing each other:)
Be still! Be still! What do you know of love?

MRS. EVERTON: And gentle Amy-- how ardently you wooed her,
How ardently and long, and now--

(Lionel leaves Shanewis and goes over to Amy.)

LIONEL: Dear gentle Amy, I ask forgiveness.

AMY: Some day I may forgive, -- not now.

MRS. EVERTON: Some day she may forgive, -- not now.

AMY: (with nobility:)
Not for myself I plead, Beloved,
Love must be free and not commanded.
Nor aught have I sinned against Shanewis,
My little Indian sister
Who knew not of your broken faith
And so is innocent.
I plead for you and for our unity of blood.
Each race is noble when the line is clear
But mingled bloods defile each other:--
It is the law.
Neither of you should allow infatuation
To blind your vision of the right.

(Lionel interrupts passionately and moves back to Shanewis.)

LIONEL: 'Tis not infatuation,-- 'tis love eternal!
What care I for the law?

AMY: (Sorrowfully:)
Love is law.

SHANEWIS (moving coldly away from Lionel)
So you wooed Amy first-- then me;
How many have you loved before
To leave so lightly
As you left Amy?
How can you expect happiness?
Ah, happiness is not built on broken vows!

(Shanewis fingers the bow, gazing on it in fascination, her face expressing mingled sorrow and anger. After a moment, she throws it far from her and it rattles to the ground.)
A hundred years ago my ancestress
Would have drawn that bow
And sent the poisoned arrow home
Straight to your faithless heart.
But I cannot! I cannot!
Am I too civilized or too weak,--
which is it?

LIONEL: (impatiently:) Women never understand;--
Let me explain.

SHANEWIS: (with sorrowful gesture)
Be silent! Let me speak.
For half a thousand years
Your race has cheated mine
With sweet words and noble sentiments,
Offering friendship, knowledge, protection.
With one hand you gave-- niggardly,
With the other you took away-- greedily!
The lovely hunting grounds of my fathers
You have made your own;
The bison and the elk have disappeared before you,
The giants of the forest are no more.
Your ships infest our rivers,
Your cities mar our hills.
What gave you in return?
A little learning, a little restless ambition,
A little fire water, And many many cruel lessons in treachery!
(She seizes Lionel by the hand and almost drags him to Mrs. Everton, pressing their hands together violently.)
Take him,-- base example of a deceiving race! I surrender him to Amy, and thus repay my debt to you.
(she turns away.)
Into the forest, near to God I go
To commune with my own soul
Within the solitude
And recover from this wound!
(She starts slowly and with dignity up the trail. Lionel drops Mrs. Everton's hand and runs after Shanewis, clasping her in his arms. She fiercely struggles free.)

LIONEL: I go since you desire it;
But our love is immortal.
Forgive me some day when in lonliness
Your heart grows softer,
Longing, longing, longing,
But nevermore to find me.
Farewell, my Robin Woman, Farewell!

SHANEWIS: (looking back)
Longing, longing, longing,
But nevermore to find you.

(Lionel walks slowly back toward Amy. He takes her hand and turns to watch Shanewis. At this moment, Philip Harjo rushes from behind the tree, snatches up the bow and arrow and shoots Lionel in the heart.)

PHILIP HARJO: Go, Messenger of Death!
Seek thou his traitor heart!
Avenge her and her race!

SHANEWIS (in horror, running back:)
The poisoned dart!

LIONEL: (Gasping and falling:)
The poisoned dart!

(Amy kneels beside Lionel and strives to support him.)

AMY: Lionel! Lionel! What woe has come upon you!

MRS. EVERTON (Pulling frantically at Amy's arm:)
Come away! Come away! Come away!

(Shanewis reaches Lionel and bends over him.)

SHANEWIS: (looking upward in resignation)
'Tis well. In death thou art mine.

INDIANS: (running back in excitement)
Ha ha tho! Ha ha tho!
Ha ha tho! Ha ha tho! Ha ha tho!

C u r t a i n.

End of the Opera.

transcribed from the Rullman libretto from the first New York Production in 1918 by John Mucci. Any new material, editorial material, and the HTML coding is reserved as being copyright 1996 John Mucci.

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Monday, 08-Dec-2003 21:45:04 PST