The world premiere of composer Nolan Gasser and librettist Carey Harrison’s The Secret Garden, presented by San Francisco Opera and Cal Performances will have its final showings this Saturday, 3/8 and Sunday, 3/9. The work was commissioned by San Francisco Opera and is based on the children’s novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The performances are conducted by Sara Jobin, directed by Jose Maria Condemi and feature scenic visual designs by Naomie Kremer.
Soprano Sarah Shafer stars as Mary Lennox, alongside tenor Scott Joiner as Dickon Sowerby, 14-year-old tenor Michael Kepler Meo as Colin Craven, bass-baritone Philippe Sly as Archibald Craven and mezzo-soprano Laura Krumm as Martha Sowerby. Maestro Jobin will lead a chamber ensemble comprised of members of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra.
“The Secret Garden has been an ideal operatic vehicle – a timeless tale of triumph over tragedy, and a paean to the value of friendship and the healing power of nature,” commented composer Nolan Gasser. “It is especially inspiring to create an opera geared for the entire family, and to play a role in our vital need to grow the operatic audience.”
Commissioned by San Francisco Opera, this new opera created for the entire family tells the tale of a pampered young girl born to privilege who finds herself alone in a bleak and unfamiliar land, until she discovers the hidden wonder of an abandoned secret garden. Starring as the obstinate young girl, Mary Lennox, is up-and-coming soprano Sarah Shafer. Shafer made her professional debut last season as Barbarina in Le Nozze di Figaro at the Glyndebourne Festival and at the BBC Proms in London’s Royal Albert Hall. She will appear this season as Adina in L'Elisir d'Amore with Opera Memphis and as Papagena in Die Zauberflöte with Opera Company of Philadelphia.
Unexpected friendships blossom between Mary, her maid’s brother Dickon Sowerby and her sickly cousin Colin Craven. Together they come to make the garden—and each other—flourish, leading both young and old toward a path of healing and understanding. Tenor Scott Joiner, who recently appeared as Ferrando in Così fan tutte, Goro in Madama Butterfly and Tamino in Die Zauberflöte with Asheville Lyric Opera, creates the role of Dickon and boy soprano Michael Kepler Meo appears as Colin. Meo has previously appeared as Miles in Turn of the Screw with Portland Opera, Houston Grand Opera and Los Angeles Opera; Charlie in The Golden Ticket with Opera Theater St. Louis; and Arthur in Séance on a Wet Afternoon with New York City Opera.
First-year Adler Fellow Philippe Sly makes his San Francisco Opera debut as Mary Lennox’s distant and unhappy uncle Archibald Craven. Sly will make his Company main-stage debut as Guglielmo in Così fan tutte in June 2013 and recently appeared as Sitos in Das Labyrinth at the Salzburg Festival and in The Tales of Hoffmann, A Florentine Tragedy, Gianni Schicchi, and Semele as a member of the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio. Second-year Adler Fellow Laura Krumm creates the role of housemaid Martha Sowerby, Dickon’s mother. Krumm made her San Francisco Opera debut as Countess Ceprano in this fall’s Rigoletto; other recent repertoire includes Charlotte in Werther, Sesto in La Clemenza di Tito and Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro.
Composer, pianist and musicologist Nolan Gasser makes his San Francisco Opera debut with The Secret Garden. Other upcoming projects include Benny and Joon, in partnership with MGM On Stage and a forthcoming book on musical taste and the interrelation of music and science. Recent compositions include Sonoma Overture, an orchestral work commissioned by the Santa Rosa Symphony for the grand opening of Weill Hall at the Green Music Center at Sonoma State University; a new musical, Cosmic Reflection: A Narrated Symphony, which received its premiere at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.; World Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, which received its premiere in Oakland and San Francisco; American Festivals, a four-movement symphonic oratorio, which was performed at the Festival del Sole in Napa Valley; and GLAST Prelude, recorded by the American Brass Quintet. In addition to his work in music and literature, Nolan Gasser is the architect of Music Genome Project—the technology behind Pandora Radio.
Librettist, playwright and author Carey Harrison is the author of 35 stage plays and 16 novels, most notably Richard's Feet—winner of the Encore Award from the U.K. Society of Authors. His diverse output includes dramas for radio and television, including Hitler in Therapy, the WorldPlay Award-winner in 2005 for the best play from an English-language broadcaster; and teleplays for Masterpiece Theatre including the miniseries Freud. Artistic director of the Woodstock Players, his other recent works staged by that company include Magus and Midget in a Catsuit Reciting Spinoza, and his new play, Hedgerow Specimen.
Conductor Sara Jobin, who has previously led performances of Tosca, Der fliegende Holländer, Norma, the world premiere production of Philip Glass’s Appomattox, and Rachel Portman’s The Little Prince at San Francisco Opera, returns to conduct members of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra. Jose Maria Condemi, artistic director of Opera Santa Barbara who has directed Così fan tutte, Tosca, Faust, Madama Butterfly, and Carmen at San Francisco Opera, directs this new production.
This new production is designed by painter and multi-media artist Naomie Kremer and features costumes designed by Kristi Johnson. Kremer’s work for the stage includes an all video set for Berkeley Opera’s production of Béla Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle and a video-based set for Light Moves, a collaboration with the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company. Her large-scale, intensely colored abstract paintings are in many public and private collections including the Fine Arts Museums of SF, the Magnes Museum, the Berkeley Art Museum and the US Embassy in Beijing. Her projections and set designs for The Secret Garden incorporate reproductions of a number of 18th Century paintings from the Fine Arts Museums of SF’s permanent collection, including works by Sir Henry Raeburn, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough and William Merritt Chase.