True story of two daring women who turn the tide of the American Civil War.
One Act, 20 minutes

True story of two daring women who turn the tide of the American Civil War.
One Act, 20 minutes

Two sopranos, piano, and incidental violin (see note).


* Performance set includes license to print 4 copies of the vocal-piano score (2 singers, pianist, director), the violin part, and a Powerpoint supertitles slide show.]

KPTS-Wichita Feature Story

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Excerpt, Jessica Crowell and Desireé Hargrave

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Complete work, Malone University Opera Theater

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Past Performances

Lisa Dawson and Tammie Huntington
Soprani Compagni (premiere, Indiana & South Korea)
Jessica Crowell and Desirée Hargrave
Malone University Opera Theater (Ohio)
Ashley Winters and Jasmine Jackson
Opera Kansas (Wichita)
Denisha Pompey and Lindsay Fushion
Marble City Opera (Knoxville TN)

Program Notes

Beneath Suspicion is based on a true, but almost unknown, story of two daring, American women who fought against slavery, exploiting prevailing gender and racial stereotypes to spy for the Union inside the Confederate “White House” during the Civil War.

Elizabeth Van Lew, a passionate abolitionist known around Richmond as “Crazy Bet,” is the middle-aged daughter of a recently deceased, wealthy Richmond slave owner. Upon her father’s death, she frees her family’s slaves, including a young household servant named Mary. Bet, recognizing Mary’s extreme intelligence, sends her to Philadelphia to a Quaker school to be educated, after which Mary returns to Richmond to work in the Van Lew home as a free woman.

Mary has a photographic memory. She can memorize documents verbatim in one quick reading as well as repeat lengthy conversations word for word. As the war breaks out, Mary is in her early 20s, Bet, her 40s. They are close friends. Though Richmond is the capital of the Confederacy, about half of its inhabitants are Union sympathizers. Bet, a firebrand, uses her contacts to set up a spy ring to report Confederate troop movements to the Union military. Her information is so reliable, her coded messages go directly General Ulysses S. Grant.

This works portrays a key scene in the lives of these two women: the crisis moment when Mary must decide if she will risk her life to undertake the daring plan she believes God has revealed to her, or if she will shrink back to maintain her personal safety and freedom.

Both women were inducted into the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame in the 1990s.

“Beneath Suspicion” recorded by Soprani Compagni

available on Amazon Music

Past Performances

  • March 14-15-16, 2019. Marble City Opera. Knoxville TN
  • February 11, 2018. Malone Opera Theater, Roscoe Methodist Church, Coshocton OH
  • September 14, 2017. Opera Kansas, Wichita KS
  • April 8, 2017. Malone Opera Theater. Canton OH
  • March 16, 2017. Malone Opera Theater, MacDowell Club, Canton Museum of Art, Canton OH
  • January 30, 2017. Soprani Compagni on tour. Canton OH
  • October 8, 2016. Malone Opera Theater. Nat’l Composers Conference, Mississippi College
  • September 21, 2016. Soprani Compagni on tour. Handong University, South Korea
  • September 10, 2016. Soprani Compagni on tour. Columbus, IN
  • April 29, 2016. Opera Kansas. Wichita KS
  • November 13, 2015. PREMIERE. Soprani Compagni. Indiana Wesleyan University

Other Works for Voice

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