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COVER: Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson, center, poses with “Lady Bird Special” hostesses on October 6, 1964. Traveling by train from Alexandria, Va. to New Orleans, the First Lady made 53 appearances in eight states in an attempt to ease tension over the civil rights legislation her husband signed into law months earlier. The whistlestop tour is the setting for “Lady Bird: An Opera.” NATIONAL ARCHIVES PHOTO.

FROM STAFF AND SUBMITTED REPORTS

Texas State University performers will offer a public preview an original opera based on the life of Lady Bird Johnson as part of the LBJ Museum of San Marcos’ spring lecture.

“Lady Bird: An Opera” accompanies the First Lady during her four-day, 1,628-mile whistle stop campaign through the hostile Deep South in support of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Composed by Henry Mollicone and written by Sheldon Harnick, the opera was commissioned by the Texas State Opera Theatre program and the Texas Hill Country Opera & Arts Festival with grant funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Associate professor Samuel Mungo, the university’s Opera Studies director, will discuss “Lady Bird: An Opera” and cast will perform selections during a free public event 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 25 at the museum, 131 N. Guadalupe St. The lecture is co-sponsored by the museum and by Texas State’s political science department.

“We are delighted to feature Dr. Mungo and his talented performers at our spring lecture for a sneak preview of the opera. … The opera will present a unique perspective of Lady Bird’s courage and contributions to our nation,” said Ed Mihalkanin, a Texas State political science associate professor who serves as president of the museum’s board.

The full opera will premiere as part of a gala event on April 28 at the Texas State Performing Arts Center, 405 Moon Street.

A resident of Saratoga, Calif., Mollicone’s works include “Gabriel’s Daughter,” the story of a freed slave separated from her daughter through slave trade, and “Children of the Sun,” the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Harnick, a New York lyricist, won a Pulitzer Prize in drama in 1960 for the musical “Fiorello” and a Tony Award in 1965 for “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Mungo has in recent years directed productions of “Die Fledermaus,” “The Magic Flute,” “The Turn of the Screw” and “Candide” at Texas State. His career directorial credits include “Die Entführung aus dem Serail” for the Florida Grand Opera in Miami; “Pirates of Penzance” for the Colorado Light Opera in Boulder, Colo.; and “St. Thomas the Carpenter” for the National Opera Association in 2011.

He holds a doctorate from the University of Colorado and a master’s degree in vocal performance from the New England Conservatory.

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