Elegies for the Fallen


Joyce Solomon Moorman

Rashidah Ismaili

Performance forces:
3 sop, c.alt, 2 ten, bar, bass — orchestra (picc.2.2.e.hn,2,b.cl,2 – s.sax. – xylo, 2 marimba, guiro, vibraslap, rachet, cabaca, chocolo, shekere, tamtam, snare, 2 congas, bass drum, pno) — SATB chorus



Elegies for the Fallen is a three act opera for vocal soloists, chorus, instrumental ensemble and dancers. The opera is about the Soweto uprising, which began in Soweto, South Africa, June 16, 1976, when the South African police shot into a group of protesting students, killing some. The uprising continued for a year and a half. The libretto, written by Dr. Rashidah Ismaili first as a play, presents the story of the uprising as reported to Dr. Ismaili by South African artists visiting New York City. Also the uprising was widely covered by print media and television. The opera begins with an overture. This is followed by a prologue that is a reflection on the African slave trade to the Americas that began in the 16th century. An instrumental interlude with slides bridges the time gap from the period of the slave trade to 1976. The first scene of Act 1 begins in June 1976. The townspeople watch a student protest. Gunfire erupts. The second scene of Act 1 begins with 4 teenage protesters in conversation, as unknown to the students, community leaders listen. The Act ends with a chorus in which the townspeople declare their support for the protesting students. The first scene of Act II is a bedroom scene in which a middle-aged woman whose husband is in jail, laments her loneliness and fears. In the second scene of Act II she witnesses a confrontation between the police and the students. The confrontation will be portrayed by dance or movement. In the third act the middle-aged woman emerges as a community leader. The community leaders are arrested and jailed, then released. The second scene of Act III and final scene of the opera is a funeral in which the tribal groups join together to honor the students killed protesting.