On this page you will find synopses of the ten filmed scenes from Emancipation: The Opera, as well as links to the videos themselves. You can also download resources and questions that relate directly to each scene. 


  • To watch the videos in a larger size, click the Play button, then click on "YouTube" on the bottom right of the video screen to watch it on, where it can be expanded to full screen mode.
  • Here are links to the 10 scenes: 
Artists and Production Staff
It takes a lot of people to make a production like Emancipation: The Opera possible. Read about all the roles and the people who filled them.
Artists 9.28.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 2.6 MB

Scene 1: The Lincolns arrive

Mary Todd Lincoln is upset that the White House is in poor repair. She feels she cannot live there. Abe strives to find a way to get her to accept her new circumstances. He eventually promises her a large budget for redecorating, which quiets her distress.

Length: 8:01

Filmed: 2016

Questions for Scene 1
Questions for Scene 1.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 60.8 KB

Scene 2: Mary Todd's bargain

Mary Todd invites famous D.C. dress designer Elizabeth Keckley to the White House and strikes a bargain with her. In addition to designing the First Lady's new gowns, Mary Todd offers Elizabeth a role in designing the redecoration of the new White House! In return, when she is at the homes of women in Washington fitting their dresses, Elizabeth will find out what they are saying about the President and the first Lady. Mary Todd will then see to it that Elizabeth receives good pay and much fame.

Length: 10:14

Filmed: 2016

Questions for Scene 2
Questions for Scene 2.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 66.4 KB

scene 3: The cabinet meeting

President Lincoln meets with his Cabinet and decides to declare war on the Confederacy. Elizabeth Keckley and Mary Todd's redecorating plans are contrasted with the men's war plans.

Length: 9:35

Filmed: 2012

Questions for Scene 3
Questions for Scene 3.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 61.8 KB

Scene 4: First Meeting

Frederick Douglass meets President Lincoln for the first time. The two men discuss the meaning and ends of the war. Their interpretations differ, but each man realizes the value of the other's argument. When you view this scene, you see the opera production in process. It was the last scene composed and filmed.

Length: 11:49

Filmed: August 2020

Questions for Scene 4
Questions for Scene 4.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 63.4 KB

scene 5: the gala ball

A Gala Ball is held at the White House to celebrate its redecoration. Frederick Douglas is there, but he cannot find Elizabeth. She is downstairs with the black staff. Though she is the designer, she has not been invited because she is black, and she feels deeply hurt.  "Someday they'll know it was me,"  she laments. 

Length: 15:28

Filmed: 2012/2016

Questions for Scene 5
Questions for Scene 5.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 59.5 KB

scene 6: mourning in washington

There has been much loss from war and disease. The Lincolns, Elizabeth Keckley and President Lincoln's aide Sam Everyman have all been personally affected. They reflect in this scene on their grief. In the duet 'Black Dresses,'  Abe and Lizzie  sing, "All I see is black dresses, black ties and overcoats, hat rims pulled down low,  a'tellin' all the world about our sorrow." 

Length: 12:25


Questions for Scene 6
Questions for Scene 6.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 57.9 KB

scene 7: forest gospel singing

President Lincoln, Frederick Douglass and Sam Everyman accompany Aunt Mary Dines to hear her gospel choir rehearse in a secret forest campground. Lincoln is profoundly moved by their performance.

Length: 7:50

Filmed: 2016

Questions for Scene 7
Questions for Scene 7.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 85.1 KB

scene 8: Sam's letter and akin to abraham

Sam reads a letter he has written to his mother: "Mother,  Abe Lincoln treats everyone the same. Black people come and go in the White House and I have come to feel that Abe Lincoln is a member of our family..."
He sings,"I can't help feelin' akin to him, akin to Abraham...A president of homespun cloth, yet tailored by the finest hand. A father to his children and a father to our land." 

Length: 4:19

Filmed: 2016

Questions for Scene 8
Questions for Scene 8.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 60.8 KB

scene 9: this moment yearning and thoughtful

Alone, President Lincoln sobs, "Ah! I can't lose another son!"  Then, in the words of a Walt Whitman poem, he sings, "This moment, yearning and thoughtful, I dreamed in a dream I saw a city invincible, based upon love. It was seen every hour in the actions of men in that city...through all their words and deeds." He then signs the Emancipation proclamation and sits thoughtfully. 

Length: 8:53

Filmed: 2016

Questions for Scene 9
Questions for Scene 9.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 86.6 KB

scene 10: the war is over

War has ended. People gather at the White House and call for the President to speak. He celebrates the end of the war and promises that slavery is dead and that he will ask Congress to grant freed slaves the right to vote.

Length: 8:09

Filmed: 2012

Questions for Scene 10
Questions for Scene 10.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 60.8 KB