Fall River Legend

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Fall River Legend is a ballet based on the life of Lizzie Borden. One of choreographer Agnes de Mille's best-known works, it featured an original score by Morton Gould, lighting design by Jean Rosenthal and scenic design by Oliver Smith.

The ballet premiered at American Ballet Theatre on April 22, 1948, with Alicia Alonso as Lizzie (called simply "the Accused"). Other notable performers in the role included Nora Kaye and Sallie Wilson. The Dance Theatre of Harlem's production, with Virginia Johnson as the Accused, is available on DVD; a kinescope also exists of a televised version with Kaye.

De Mille had worked with the conductor Max Goberman on Three Virgins and a Devil, and it was Goberman who suggested that she approach Morton Gould to be her collaborator for her new ballet – a suggestion she nearly rejected because she knew of Gould only through his radio broadcasts.[1]

De Mille famously altered the historical record by finding Lizzie Borden guilty as charged. This came about as a result of a conversation she had with Morton Gould over dinner at the Russian Tea Room in New York, in which she said she could not decide how to end the ballet. Gould said he only knew how to write hanging music, not acquittal music, and that she should have Lizzie killed off.[2]

ABT was scheduled to perform the ballet during the 2007 fall season at New York City Center, with Julie Kent and Gillian Murphy in the lead role [1].


  1. ^ Naxos – Fall River Legend
  2. ^ Valerie Lawson, "Murder on Your Feet", The Sydney Morning Herald, 5 September 1998, Spectrum Arts, p. 13s

Further reading[edit]

  • de Mille, Agnes. Lizzie Borden: A Dance of Death. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1968.
  • Easton, Carole. No Intermissions: The Life of Agnes de Mille. New York: Little, Brown, & Co., 1996.

External links[edit]