Magazine article Opera Canada

San Francisco

Magazine article Opera Canada

San Francisco

Article excerpt

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett ranks among the 20th century's most beloved children's books. Certainly, the story of the mutual salvation of two unhappy children fit San Francisco Opera General Director David Glockley's idea for a family opera, which he commissioned from Nolan Gasser. The low-key and charming work that emerged--to Carey Harrison's apt and compact libretto--had its world premiere at Cal Performances' Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley, a smaller, less-formal setting than SFO's War Memorial Opera House.

Canadian Philippe Sly anchored the cast for the premiere (seen Apr. 29) as the middle-aged, mourning husband and father of the opera's boy hero. He was granted the only real aria in this work, a song recalling his beloved dead wife, and he used his beautiful bass-baritone voice to shape it elegantly. He touchingly rejoiced in the renewal of his son and, ultimately in the burgeoning secret garden that restores the boy from a seemingly lame state.

Mary, the spoiled orphan who restores the neglected secret garden (and in the process the boy and herself) took delightful form in the portrayal of soprano Sarah Shafer. Her helping gardener was the superbly energetic tenor, Scott Joiner. …

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