The Spell of Tradition is a hybrid/fusion of Noh Play (a 700-year-old form of Japanese dance-based theatre) and contemporary opera, telling two compact stories about the life and afterlife of Benjamin Franklin.
In Part One, Tuesday, set in 1936, a soprano and orchestral conductor from the Metropolitan Opera en route to a concert date in Philadelphia survive a train derailment in Trenton, New Jersey. that kills other members of their company. Aided by a shaman of the Lenape tribe (the original Native Americans of New Jersey and Philadelphia), the ghost of Benjamin Franklin is conjured in aiding the singer and conductor as they strive to make their Philadelphia curtain on time.
In Part Two, The Salem Quilt begins in 1723, when Benjamin Franklin, a runaway apprentice, seeks food, rest and refuge from Mrs. Clapp, an innkeeper. She lets him sleep under a quilt with supernatural properties: It reveals to him a glorious future. Mrs. Clapp is conflicted: Shall she keep Franklin in her bed, or allow him to go off and pursue his magnificent destiny?