In February of 1704, the town of Deerfield, Massachusetts was attacked by a group of French Canadians and Native Americans. 112 Puritan Colonists were captivated and marched north through the snows to a Jesuit mission known as Kahnawake, near Montreal. Among the captives was a young girl of seven years.
The opera The Captivation of Eunice Williams dramatizes the life story of this girl. While the rest of her family was ransomed over the next several years, Eunice married a Native American man and spent the rest of her life in Kahnawake. Later, when given the opportunity to return to Deerfield, Eunice refused.
What caused Eunice to forsake her early Puritan years and become the Mohawk woman, Aonkáhte, “she who is planted?” She left behind no written records. The only knowledge of her life comes from others: a passage or two from her brother’s diary and reports from English officers stationed near Canada. Yet the conflicts that played out through Eunice’s tumultuous life—Native vs. Colonist, French vs. English, Catholic vs. Protestant—remain of vital concern in today’s world.
In The Captivation of Eunice Williams, composer Paula Kimper (Patience and Sarah, Bridge of San Luis Rey) draws musical inspiration from the several cultures engaged in this struggle. The English colonists brought with them the rich folk music of the British Isles and the solemn hymns of the Puritan Church. The French brought a lively secular music and the soaring Roman Catholic Mass. The Mohawks had their own deep and powerful tradition of Iroquoian music and chant. Now, on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the attack and captivation, this opera uses the power of music and theater to offer a fresh, unique, and compelling perspective on an extraordinary American story that speaks directly to the world in which we live.
Commissioned as one of a number of perspectives examining the complex legacy of 1704 by the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association (“the finest collection of local antiquities in New England and one of America’s oldest museums”), The Captivation of Eunice Williams is not “accurate” in the sense that pleases academic historians. Although strongly informed by what is actually known, some historic characters have been combined or imagined, and some events have been creatively interpreted for dramatic purposes. For the “true” history, see “The Many Stories of 1704” at 1704.deerfield.history.museum.
The Captivation of Eunice Williams was presented at the National Museum of the American Indian at the Smithsonian Institution on October 13 and 14, 2006 at 7:30 pm on 4th St. and Independence Ave., S.W. Washington, D.C. 20560
2nd tour date:
March 11 and 12, 2005
Kahnawake Mohawk Reservation
Quebec Province, Canada
1st tour date:
September 11, 2004
The Farmers’ Museum
NYS Historical Association
Cooperstown , NY
WORLD PREMIERE PRODUCTION
July 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, 17
22, 23, 24, 29, 30, 31, 2004
Reid Theatre, Deerfield, MA
April 14 – 18, 2004
UMASS, Amherst, MA
¥ February 7, 2004
Pioneer Valley Symphony and Chorus
Choral Suite from The Captivation of Eunice Williams
John M. Greene Hall, Northampton, MA (see below)
¥ February 28, 2004
First Church of Deerfield
¥ November 14, 2003
8 pm in Bezanson Hall
UMASS, Amherst, MA
For more information call:
Linda McInerney at 413.774.4527
or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
or check our site: www.eunicewilliams.com
THE PIONEER VALLEY
SYMPHONY & CHORUS
Paul Phillips, Music Director
65th Season 2003/2004
Saturday, February 7, 2004 7:30 p.m.
Northampton Anniversary Concert
Paula M. Kimper: Choral Suite from “The Captivation of Eunice Williams”
(World Premiere Preview)
Robert Schumann: Symphony No. 3 in E flat (“Rhenish), op. 97
Piotr Ilich Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto in D major, op. 35
Nicholas Kitchen, violin
John M. Greene Hall, Smith College, Northampton