COLUMBIA, Mo. – With engaging melodies and crisp libretto, Corps of Discovery, A Musical Journey is an artistic interpretation, 200 years later, of the significance of Lewis and Clark’s expedition across the United States. The University of Missouri-Columbia (MU) is producing the musical drama as a commemorative event for the national bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

The MU Show-Me Opera will perform Act 1 of Corps of Discovery in concert March 23 at Weill Recital Hall in Carnegie Hall in New York City and on March 26 in the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

The musical drama will be part of the 10 “signature events” of the national bicentennial planned by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which is based at Monticello. Those events will begin in January 2003.

The world premiere of the three-act musical drama is set for May 2003, at the Missouri Theatre in Columbia, Mo.

The principal roles in the musical drama feature Capt. Meriwether Lewis; Capt. William Clark; George Shannon, youngest member of the Corps; John Potts, a member of the Corps from Germany; Sacagawea; and York, a slave belonging to Clark. Other characters include members of the Corps and the Teton Sioux, Hidatsa, Mandan and Shoshone tribes, as well as vision characters.

To ensure cultural and historic accuracy, the creative team is consulting with several American Indians – representing Hidatsa, Mandan and Shoshone nations – and a historian.

The composer is Michael Ching, general and artistic director of Opera Memphis, who writes operas, concerti and symphonic works. His compositions have been performed by the operas of New Orleans, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Dayton, Delaware, Anchorage and Kansas City, and the symphonies of Atlanta, Rochester, North Carolina, Charlotte and the San Jose Chamber Orchestra, which premiered his Psyche and Eros. He as conducted at Opera Festival of New Jersey and the Nashville Opera and served on the artistic staffs of the Virginia Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Houston Grand Opera and Chautauqua Opera.

Librettist Hugh Moffatt of Pullman, Wash., is a singer-songwriter who has released seven albums and toured extensively worldwide. Artists who have recorded his songs include Dolly Parton, Alabama, Ronnie Milsap, Jerry Lee Lewis, Patti Page, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Merle Haggard, Johnny Rodriguez, Kathy Mattea and many others. Corps of Discovery is Moffatt’s third collaboration with Ching.

In fall 2003, the musical drama will be available in shortened form for smaller venues, particularly schools. The 45-minute version will feature four to six characters, with piano accompaniment. An interactive CD-ROM will allow students K-12 to explore the landscape of the expedition route, learn the history and context of the journey, experience the world of opera and compose their own music.

– Special to the World