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Elizabeth Van Lew and Mary Bowser: Two Unsung Heroes of the Civil War


Elizabeth Van Lew and Mary Bowser are two unsung heroes of the Civil War...until now. These two women worked as spies for the Union by overhearing conversations of Confederate officers and soliders around them, directly relaying the messages to General Ulysses Grant. Their contributions played a big part in the Union's victory.

Knoxville Native and UT-alum, Jesse Ayers, took this little-known story and set it to music in the form of a one-act opera. Beneath Suspicion imagines one scene between Elizabeth and Mary in which Mary (whom Elizabeth has freed) must make the difficult choice between returning to life as a slave as part of the plan to win the war and save her people, or to maintain her own safety and personal freedom. Featuring sopranos Lindsey Fuson and Denisha Pompey, Beneath Suspicion will be paired with Alan Louis Smith's exquisite song cycle Letters from George to Evelyn.  These songs, sung by soprano Elena Stabile, will be staged as a mini-opera and set love letters exchanged by two newlyweds just after George is sent off to World War II.

Beneath Suspicion and Letters from George to Evelyn are produced and presented by Marble City Opera and are directed by Kathryn Frady. Performances are March 14, 15, and 16 at 7:30pm at the historic Blount Mansion in downtown Knoxville, located at 200 W. Hill Ave. More information is available at marblecityopera.com or on their Facebook page @MarbleCityOpera.   

Melony calls the beautiful mountains of Boone, N.C., home, although she was born near Greensboro, N.C. There’s just something about those Blue Ridge Mountains that got in her blood and never left after she moved there to attend Appalachian State University (ASU). While at ASU, she majored in piano performance and music therapy and began to cultivate a love for accompanying and for collaborating with other musicians. This soon led her to earn a master’s degree in collaborative piano at the University of Tennessee, which she attended from 2006-2008.