Music: Daron Hagen | Words: 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.


  • Version I: 2 Acts / 120 mins. / Premiere: Madison Opera / Stephen Wadsworth / Rolland Johnson
  • "Fallingwater" Version II: 1 Act / 60 mins. / Premeire: Opera Theater of Pittsburgh / Jonathan Eaton / Robert Frankenberry
  • Notable Performances: Buffalo Philharmonic, Chicago Opera Theater, Florida Southern College, Tulsa Opera
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Madison Opera

Madison Opera

Chicago Opera Theater photo by Dan Rest

Chicago Opera Theater photo by Dan Rest

Christmas at Taliesin.

Christmas at Taliesin.


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 (16+ voices)


Large Version (50 players):

Small Version (31 players): ( players)

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


By cutting all of the choral and instrumental sections of the opera, it may be performed as a 70-minute chamber opera without chorus requiring only the major roles.


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.


A video of the complete sixty-minute "Fallingwater" Chamber Version of "Shining Brow."

A six-minute introduction to "Shining Brow."

From the evidence of Shining Brow, Daron Hagen is a composer born to write operas. The ending ... is as devastating as anything in the repertoire.
— Chicago Tribune
Mr. Hagen has a gift for the Big Tune and he delivers some beauties in this opera.
— New York Times