New opera on immigrant case to premiere at Northampton’s Academy of Music
(Photos courtesy of Live in Concert, Inc.)
AMHERST – The world premiere performances of The Garden of Martyrs, a new opera by Eric Sawyer and Harley Erdman on the 19th century case of Irish immigrants executed in Northampton for a murder they did not commit, will take place on Sept. 20 at 7:30 p.m. and Sept. 22 at 3 p.m. at Northampton’s Academy of Music.
The staged performances will be conducted by the Springfield Symphony Orchestra's Kevin Rhodes, whose work includes conducting at the Vienna State Opera and other major European houses.
Based on Michael C. White’s historical novel, the opera views the 1806 case of Dominic Daley and James Halligan through the eyes of the French refugee priest of Boston, Father Jean Cheverus, whose own haunted past led him to come to their aid. As priest to the first generation of Irish immigrants to Boston, Cheverus was a pivotal figure in the history of American Catholicism, and his actions in the Daley/Halligan case won him wide respect.
Sawyer has composed a lyrical, highly-charged score inspired by the novel that The Boston Globe described as “gripping.” Erdman and Sawyer have been individually recognized for works that reinterpret U.S. history through a modern lens. Fanfare magazine praised Sawyer's first opera, Our American Cousin, as “one of the freshest, most ambitious new American operas heard in ages.”
The production features veteran performers with experience at well-known international venues ranging from The Metropolitan Opera to the Boston Symphony Orchestra:
- Stage director Vernon Hartman has appeared in dozens of roles as baritone at the Metropolitan Opera, and has overseen opera productions nationally and internationally.
- Tenor William Hite has sung with the Boston Symphony, and the American Symphony Orchestra, and his discography includes over 35 recordings.
- Soprano Amy Johnson has been featured in principal roles with companies across America, including New York City Opera and Glimmerglass Opera.
- Baritone Keith Phares’ recording of the role of Elmer Gantry won Grammy awards for Best Contemporary Classical Composition and was named Opera News' Number One Opera Recording of 2011.
Daley and Halligan were exonerated in 1984 by a proclamation of Gov. Michael Dukakis. A commemoration of the bicentennial of their execution took place in 2006.
More information about the opera can be found at www.thegardenofmartyrsopera.com.