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.

Mr. Hagen has a gift for the big tune, and he serves up some beauties.
— The New York Times

A short video about Shining Brow.


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

Running Time

full version: 130 minutes, with one interval

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)

orchestra (large & small versions available)


  • five principals (see above)
  • (no chorus, no supers, no supporting roles)
  • piano, or seven players
The finale of Shining Brow is as devastating as anything in opera.
— The Milwaukee Journal