The much-loved 1969 historical novel Patience and Sarah, penned by lesbian writer and activist Alma Routsong under the name Isabel Miller, inspired this chamber opera by composer Paula M. Kimper and librettist Wende Persons, which premiered in 1998 at New York’s Lincoln Center. It’s the story of two small-town women in 1816 Connecticut who fall in love and hatch a plan to travel together as a pioneer couple.
Patience White, a genteel “spinster” who lives with her brother and his wife, spends her time painting Bible-themed folk art; the much poorer Sarah Dowling, who dresses like a man while helping her pa out with chores, yearns to leave home and invites Patience to join her. But the moral objections of both women’s families—and Patience’s own timidity—present obstacles to the pair’s happiness. Kimper’s lyrical melodies express a passion that belies Persons’s prosaic text. The soaring, silvery sopranos and sweetly shy smiles of Diana Stoic as Patience and Liana Gineitis as Sarah highlight Third Eye Theatre Ensemble’s intimate production, which features a fine chamber orchestra conducted by Alexandra Enyart. v