Based upon the best-selling 1997 historical novel by Charles Frazier, the opera was co-commissioned by Santa Fe Opera and the Opera Philadelphia. Set in North Carolina near the end of the American Civil War, the story centers around W. P. Inman, a wounded deserter from the Confederate army, and his journey to reunite with the love of his life, Ada Monroe.
Higdon says that the opera took her 20 months to compose, working 8 hours daily. In describing her immediate feelings upon completing the work, she wrote, “When I put the double bar on, it literally felt like Ada was the last to leave the room, and she closed the door behind her as she went out. I was sitting there alone, listening to the silence. Not sure whether to laugh, smile, or weep.”
Higdon was partnered with librettist Gene Scheer on the project. The opera will feature baritone Nathan Gunn in the role of W.P. Inman. Santa Fe Opera will perform the world premiere during the summer of 2015 and the Opera Philadelphia will perform the work in February, 2016.