The most powerful moments are written for the chorus: the aforementioned opening women choir, for instance. But Glass also recycles We’re tenting tonight, a song of the era, to intense dramatic effect. Even more dramatic is the Marching Song of the 1st of Arkansas. It is the anthem of a black Union regiment, sung in its original melody with Glass’ arrangement to it. This is the climax of the opera, as the military victory and the dreams of black emancipation coalesce here, only to go their separate ways in the second Act.

Pictures by Terrence McCarthy, SF Opera. Andrew Shore (left) and Dwayne Croft above, Noah Stewart below