Three Decembers

Three Decembers is a chamber opera in two acts by Jake Heggie to a libretto by Gene Scheer which is based on the unpublished play Some Christmas Letters by Terrence McNally. Created with a role for Frederica von Stade, the work premiered on 29 February 2008 at the Houston Grand Opera (HGO). It commissioned the work in association with the San Francisco Opera and Cal Performances.

Three Decembers
Opera by Jake Heggie
Jake Heggie 2015 low res.jpg
The opera's composer
LibrettistGene Scheer
Based onSome Christmas Letters
by Terrence McNally
February 29, 2008 (2008-02-29)

The opera was first presented under the working title Last Acts at the world premiere by the Houston Grand Opera. The premiere production was directed by Leonard Foglia with lighting designed by Brian Nason and costumes by Cesar Galindo. The ten-instrument chamber orchestra included two pianos played by Heggie himself as well as Patrick Summers, who also conducted the performance.[1][2]


The three parts of the opera are set in the month of December in the years 1986, 1996 and 2006 and it tells the story of a famous actress, Madeline, and her two adult children as they struggle to know and love each other.[1] "It is the universal story about the family we wish for and the family we wind up with."[3]


Role Voice type Premiere cast, 29 February 2008[4]
Conductor: Patrick Summers
Madeline (Maddie), a famous actress mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade
Charlie, Madeline's son baritone Keith Phares
Beatrice (Bea), Madeline's daughter soprano Kristin Clayton


  1. ^ a b Sohre, James (March 17, 2008). "Heggie's "Last Acts"". Opera Today. Retrieved April 28, 2016.
  2. ^ Sigman, Matthew (July 2015). "Composing a Life". Opera News. Retrieved April 28, 2016.
  3. ^ University of Pittsburgh OCC (November 18, 2011). "The Three Decembers". Retrieved April 28, 2016.
  4. ^ Griffel, Margaret Ross (2012). Operas in English: A Dictionary, p. 267. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0810883252

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