Story & Music

Setting & Synopsis

  • Time: 1790. Late autumn.
  • Setting. The small village of Sleepy Hollow, located 30 miles north of New York City. 
  • Community. Sleepy Hollow is a Dutch farming community located on the banks of the Hudson River (also called by the Dutch name,"Tappan Zee"). The local inhabitants retain their Dutch character but are well established in rural New York. The land is untamed and at times mysterious, amplified by their firm beliefs in the spirit world.
  • Background. On the outskirts of town are the “Sacred Woods” or “Haunted Woods.” Villagers believe the spirits of their ancestors inhabit the woods, making it a holy place. However, a fearsome specter, a headless horseman, inhabits the wood, making it unsafe at night.
  • Synopsis. Arrogant Ichabod Crane enters the rural village of Sleepy Hollow to be music teacher. He holds his own learnedness high while scoffing at what he views as the simple superstitions of the locals. He attempts to lure young Katrina away from boyfriend Brom Bones so that he can marry into wealth. In the end his arrogance and disregard for warnings from both townspeople and spirits leads him to a final confrontation with the forces of the night.


  • Overture sets ominous tone with soaring other-worldly horn solo.
  • Chorus and Rough Riders sing throughout warning never to enter the Haunted in the dark.

Scene 1 - Action

  • Ichabod Crane, newly arrived music teacher in Sleepy Hollow, conducts the church choir where he is attracted to young Katrina.
  • Ichabod attempts to lure Katrina to a private singing lesson but is warned by the townspeople leaving his advances rebuffed.
  • As Katrina is clear of her affection for young Brom Bones, townspeople invite them both to the Feast of the Harvest Moon.
  • Contemplating what finery to wear to the feast, Ichabod is met by a spirit, a lute player that warns of interfering in Katrina's life.
  • Ichabod meets old Brower and scoffs at the locals' belief in the spirit world.

Scene 2 - Action

  • The townspeople picnic. The opening blessing is interrupted by Ichabod's pompous entrance and then by the lovable but boisterous Rough Riders crashing in on horseback.
  • Ichabod circulates and tells all who will listen that Katrina's boyfriend, Brom Bones, a Rough Rider, is a lout. They disagree, and Bones, bristeling, jumps briskly to his own defense.
  • As the picnic progresses, the spirit lute player enters. The moment freezes as Katrina and Brom Bones profess their love for each other.
  • Merriment ensues. Brouwer, feeling mocked by the outbursts, upturns tables and gives stern warning of his personal experience with the spirit world before he storms off.

Scene 3 - Action

  • Filled with false confidence, Ichabod enters the woods and  dares spirits to reveal themselves. He does not have the vision to see them.
  • Katrina and companions are also in the woods, often a destination to visit the spirit of Katrina's mother. Seeing Ichabod, they warm him never to enter the forest alone.
  • Ichabod insults their childish notions and proclaims his own learnedness.
  • As they leave the woods, spirits come forward recalling how they too had once walked this land.

Scene 4 - Action

  • At choir practice, the townspeople start to sing a folk song. Ichabod conducts and chides the singers throughout. He fails to notice the song's words that warn of interfering with another's love.
  • A horseman arrives bearing an invitation for Ichabod to feast at the mansion of Baltus Van Tassel, Katrina's father. Katrina shrieks in disbelief.
  • As Ichabod goes to primp for the feast, Katrina, depressed, threatens to take her life to avoid Ichabod. Bones and others calm her and she agrees to "smile through her tears" at the dance.

Scene 5 - Action

  • The party begins with gaiety as Baltus dances with his charming daughter. Ichabod attempts unsuccessfully to break in to dance with Katrina.
  • Ichabod then implores Baltus for the hand of his daughter but is deftly ignored.
  • Katrina attempts to dance with Bones but is whisked up by Ichabod, and an agonizing dance beings.
  • Chaos ensues in the background as Bones is restrained from attacking Ichabod. Bones and Katrina, though separated, sing of their love to one another.
  • After the dance, Ichabod departs to everyone's relief.

Scene 6 - Action

  • Fueled by his longing for Katrina, Ichabod enters the Haunted Woods on his way home. He fails to notice the lute player and other spirits singing of the spirit world.
  • He sees in the mist a lone rider without a head! Thinking it Brom Bones, he berates him. Suddenly he sees the lute player and is struck with fear knowing the the rider may not be Bones.
  • A feverish chase ensues as the horrified Ichabod is smashed to the ground by the force of the rider's head being hurled by the specter.
  • The lute player gently strums a refrain from his initial warning to Ichabod.

Scene 7 - Action

  • Three days later townspeople look for Ichabod in the Sacred Woods. They lament that he did not heed their warnings.
  • Some of Ichabod's belongings are found next to the tracks of an enormous horse. The tracks are followed but seem to vanish into thin air.
  • The townspeople realize their respect for the Sacred Woods is well founded as they all see the spirits and the results they have wrought.
  • At the final verse, the Horseman appears, raises his fist and bursts into a hail of lightening.

Scene 1 - Music

  • Katrina sings lead in uplifting and soaring folk hymn celebrating the autumn harvest; chorus, orchestra and organ.
  • Katrina has a singing lesson with Crane, but clearly shows she is superior singer; they sing aria duet in B Major with orchestra.
  • Crane makes initial attempts to attract Katrina; aria duet in Eb Major.
  • Lute player strums interlude and sings with Crane.
  • Brouwer sings powerful warning to Crane sing; aria in F Major with chorus.

Scene 2 - Music

  • Katrina and ladies sing duets and trios; gentle violin accompaniment. 
  • Children's chorus sings simple song, dance.
  • Baltus sings haunting solo in Ab about his experience in the Sacred Woods.
  • Musical chaos as Crane enters disrupting prayer
  • Brom Bones sings solo, a swaggering song in D minor with Rough Riders.
  • Katrina and Brom sing intricately interwoven melodic love song accompanied by the lute player; Interesting combinations of rhythms: lute strums in 6/8, Brom sings in 5/4, Katrina sings  in 4/4.
  • A rollicking drinking song, with Oom-pah band on stage. Joeri yodels spectacular chorus. 
  • Brouwer sings warning to respect spirit world.

Scene 3 - Music

  • Aria duet with Crane and Lute player with accompaniment from chorus, Katrina and companions.
  • Crane sings mocking song he had sung earlier to Brouwer.
  • Katrina and Crane sing aria duet of the passing of time.

Scene 4 - Music

  • Full stage with principal characters and chorus having singing lesson; some phrases in Dutch; scales/arpeggios interspersed.
  • Chorus sings "Rotterdam Minstrel"; song transitions into highly contrapuntal arrangement weaving together lyrics from earlier verses.
  • Crane and Katrina sing aria, accompanied by chorus.
  • Katrina and Brom sing aria duet with chorus; accompanied with waltz music.

Scene 5 - Music

  • Katrina and chorus sing welcome to visitors.
  • Trumpet fanfare at the entrance of Baltus.
  • Small on-stage orchestra plays, leading to a dance; Baltus sings of his love for his daughter with interjections from Brom and Brouwer.
  • Interwoven singing during next dance as Brom gets enraged.
  • Lute player sings warning to Crane.
  • Katrina, Bones and lute player sing respective songs together, interwoven.

Scene 6 - Music

  • Crane sings snippets of previous love song; 
  • Crane solo, mocking townspeople; chorus accompaniment.
  • Music reaches feverish pitch as the horseman attacks Crane.
  • Brief lute player interlude.

Scene 7 - Music

  • Principals and chorus sing as they search for Crane; interwoven lines from multiple characters and chorus.
  • Brouwer takes lead with chorus support to sing of the reality of the spirit world.