An Opera in Two Acts & a Prologue

Music by Daron Hagen

Words by Paul Muldoon


The opera concerns events that occured between 1903 and 1914 during the great American architect Frank Lloyd Wright's life. Wright's determination to leave his wife and children, his relationship with Mamah Cheney, and the subsequent murders and conflagration at Taliesin, are all part of the historical record. The opera takes Wright to the point at which he vows to rebuild Taliesin in Mamah's memory.

The opera was commissioned by the Madison Opera, a division of the Madison Civic Music Association. The composer was officially authorized by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and the Taliesin Fellowship to compose the opera and to have it published. 

Mr. Hagen has a gift for the big tune, and he serves up some beauties.
— The New York Times
The finale of Shining Brow is as devastating as anything in opera.
— The Milwaukee Journal


21 April 1993
Oscar Mayer Theater, Madison, WI
The Madison Opera / Roland Johnson
Commissioned by Madison Opera


  • Chicago Opera Theater
  • Tulsa Opera
  • Florida Southern College
  • Opera Theater of Pittsburgh
  • Buffalo Philharmonic


  • full version: 130 minutes, with one intermission
  • chamber "fallingwater" version: 70 minutes, no interval


major roles

  • Frank Lloyd Wright (baritone)
  • Mamah Cheney (soprano)
  • Louis Sullivan (tenor)
  • Edwin Cheney (bass-baritone)
  • Catherine Wright (mezzo-soprano)

supporting roles (drawn from chorus)

  • Maid / Townswoman (soprano)
  • Julian Carleton (spoken)
  • Wife / Townswoman #1 (soprano)
  • Draftsman / Workman #2 / Reporter #2 (soprano)
  • Townswoman #2 / Wife (mezzo-soprano)
  • Reporter #1 / Workman #3 / Workman #5 (tenor)
  • Waiter / Reporter #3 / Workman #4 (baritone)
  • Workman #1 / Guest / Photographer / Last Draftsman (bass)

mixed chorus (18+ voices)


Large Version (50 players):

Small Version (31 players): ( players)

Chamber Version (7 players): fl.ob,cl.pft(=synth).vln.vla.vlc


Opera, John Koopman, 8-93; Wisconsin State Journal, 5-27-93; The New Yorker, Paul Griffiths, 5-17-93; The Village Voice, Leighton Kerner, 5-11-93; Isthmus (WI), Jess Anderson, 4-30-93; The New York Times, James R. Oestreich, 4-28-93; Chicago Tribune, John von Rhein, 4-23-93; Milwaukee Sentinel, Nancy Raabe, 4-23-93; Chicago Sun-Times, Wynne Delacoma, 4-23-93; The Capital Times (WI), Jay Rath, 4-22-93.