The ballad of Baby Doe: historical accuracy and gender ideology in the characterization of Augusta and Babe Doe
In 1956, The Ballad of Baby Doe, an American opera by composer Douglas Moore and librettist John Latouche, premiered in Central City, Colorado. This quintessential American opera is all the more powerful because of its true-life origins, a facet which enriches the story greatly.Although the story is based on the real lives of the Tabors, and makes only minor adjustments to the historical accuracy in order to fit operatic convention, it unfortunately perpetuates gender ideology by choosing to portray these women with great dichotomy from who they truly were. Suzanne Cusick, noted feminist musicologist encourages us to "read with different eyes the sources others have read before (us), to ask different questions of the traditional archival sources and thus to find some of the answers." When applying this concept to the two principal heroines, Augusta and Baby Doe, there is a great deal of comparative analysis with regard to cultural convention, misogynist attitude and the perpetuation of gender ideology between their historical characters and their operatic portrayal. Furthermore, music is a powerful medium and it is imperative to consider its influence on the listener with regard to the cultural and social ramifications.In The Ballad of Baby Doe we are presented with two paradoxically portrayed females who in reality were historically similar in their power, strength and independence as women living in the Victorian era. However, for the purposes of making a more effective drama, Moore and Latouche depict them as complete opposites musically and textually and further perpetuate gender ideology.
- Music