A Flowering Tree

By John Adams

Friday, February 13, 2015, 7:30 pm
Sunday, February 15, 2015, 2:00 pm


Love blooms in the ravishing beauty of American composer John Adams’ recent opera inspired by a mystical folktale from India. A Flowering Tree is the story of a young couple’s sacrifice and transformation for love. Universal truths of the human experience will be vividly expressed by a powerful cast including modern dancers and a large chorus, together illuminating the breathtaking sonic landscapes.

Six dancers representing some of the country's top dance companies and institutions add to an international cast of singers, the Opera Omaha Chorus, and the Omaha Symphony to complete the cast of Opera Omaha's new production of John Adams' opera, A Flowering Tree. 

"It's a formidable ensemble of artists across the board," said General Director Roger Weitz. "Combined with the production's creative team, it's among the most adventurous and talented groups assembled by a modern opera company."

By Conductor, Christopher Rountree

The music of John Adams’ A Flowering Tree is beautiful in a way that is wholly uncommon. Every phrase is densely packed with florid detail, a lyric composite of hundreds of miniature phrases at any given moment. The parts are a bear for the orchestra. A virtuosic two hour “concerto for orchestra” of sorts, layered below some of the most expressive and jammed-with-intent vocal writing in the canon, with surprises in such surplus that one might miss that they occur in each and every bar.

Standing as a magic-laced parable among political giants, the piece remains a unique part of John Adams’ output and perhaps one of the first 21st century masterpieces. Its place next to some of Adams’ other major works: Nixon in China, Dr. Atomic, Klinghoffer and The Gospel According to the Other Mary make it even more subversive, poignant and bursting-at-the-seams with clarity. This isn’t a piece about globally pervasive notoriety, but rather it’s a piece about: people, ordinary relationships (and how intensely complicated we can agree those are anyway), jealousy, privilege, the harshness of being observed as an object, and above all: about the overwhelming feeling of falling, totally and completely, in love.

At a time when virtually our entire planet is seething with social unrest, massive injustice, and in some cases active class warfare, the disguised genius of A Flowering Tree is hidden in the fact that it appears to be “just a piece about a magic girl.” Its activism is subtle. As an audience we’re born into a world caked in poverty, endless work without reward, and we’re given a sense of endless true void. When beauty appears, as our protagonist Kumudha transforms for the first time, the act appears as activism in and of itself. Singularly this beauty transforms her, a joyously clear rejection of the desolate outside world.

And of relationships and that inescapable stomach-dropping, pores-all-flying-away feeling of falling in love: it’s said that below our loftier intentions “a man looks for a woman that won’t laugh at him, and a woman looks for a man that won’t kill her.” These two desires, of the man to be not laughed at, and the woman to remain undestroyed, are at the crux of our whole story. The Prince: brash, impassioned, blind, seemingly strong and yet — it becomes more and more apparent — totally vulnerable. I find that as I watch him make mistake after mistake, I start to feel sorry for him, and at some point, I definitely start to laugh at him. Kumudha: a shining avatar for everything that’s still right about an ugly world. She’s naïve, but pulsing with radiant power, boundless, but tied to a caste system that holds all of her people in poverty. What makes A Flowering Tree such a great story is that it contains so much loss. When we mock the Prince’s blind decision-making, his fall from power is infinitely quick. And when Kumudha is destroyed, her fall from beauty is so incredibly far, so deeply tragic.

This archetype of loss, renewal and rebirth are core kernels of our experience as humans. And I don’t mean that to be as lofty as it sounds. I mean: the victory of drinking scotch in the middle of the night with new friends. Discussing art, love, sex, relationships, process, work, email, and videos of dogs slipping in-slow-motion on the ice on the internet. Then waking up inside the absolute defeat of a hangover. Only to be reborn a few hours later by the glory of an exceptional Americano.

This story isn’t powerful for us because it’s hooked into righteously obtuse macro — but because we live through this type of loss and struggle to rebuild, everyday. Stories like this one: they’re about all of us, they’re in all of us. And with the act of listening to them and telling them: all of us are connected.

By Director, James Darrah

This is a love story.

John Adams' 2006 opera, A Flowering Tree, is full of magic and transformation but, at its core, is about the connectivity between people.  It's an opera that expresses the elusive fuel that burns in each of us, keeping us searching for connection.

The magic and tranformative elements of the narrative provide a thrilling challenge to designers, choreographers, and directors potentionally inspriting a Cecil B. DeMille style of production wizardry.  The requisite stage business includes a woman becoming a tree, switching back and forth from human to arbor at will, while flowers bloom fragrantly from on stage.  Representing these events literally is a heroic choice, but it wasn't ours.  Instead, our aim was to inderline the miraculous component of the story by inspiring each viewer to engage their limitless imagination and personal interpretation through a suggestive dramatic economy.  Here, as in all fables and fairytales, the magic is the means to an end - extraordinary circumstances impacting ordinary people.  The human element is what captivates:  the unapologetic, visceral, and achingly volatile collision that is the story of being human.

With that focus at the helm, we’ve aimed to root the story simply in human interaction and distill the extraordinary elements of the fable into tangible human terms. The transformations are seen sometimes in an unexpected design coup de théâtre while other times are achieved with the slightest gesture of a hand. Water is essential in the narrative as the transformative element. In this world, as in vast swathes of our own, water is scarce. We have all known thirst. This world is one of arid simplicity, dirt and loss; a space in which a flowering tree would certainly be a miraculous thing.

The most consuming narrative within the piece supports this elemental focus. The messy and volatile nascence of Love, the thirst of wanting, drives the entire opera forward. We find it in Kumudha’s exasperated and heartbreaking love for her toiling eldery mother: the catalyst that propels her to realize her ability to transform. It is within the initial obsession of the Prince—the seed of sexual lust that spreads and grows into sleepless desire and, eventually, his full-blown love of Kumudha. It fuels the jealousy and envy that disfigures Kumudha in Act Two and eventually drives the opera toward it’s transformative conclusion and resurrective reunion.

The entirety of this story is told in the sonorous glory of this score. It is within this astonishing music that every decision about staging, movement, design, color, and sceneography has been derived. Adams’ score provided clarion answers to every question we asked—we’ve consciously used it as our guide to bring the story to a living, breathing world.

This was our road map. You can use it, too.

Listen actively.

Open up and lose yourself in the soundworld. Embrace the unfamiliar. Revel in the beauty of the enigmatic. As the daunting volatility of the orchestral universe exalts the human voice, listen to the simple story it tells.

It’s a love story.

A Flowering Tree is based on a folktale from the Kannada language of southern India as translated by A.K. Ramanujan.

Act l

A man tells us of an ancient love story between a Prince and a young, poor girl named Kumudha. The Prince and his family have isolated themselves within their palace hoping to escape the arid, cruel outside world where Kumudha lives meagerly with her older sister and elderly mother. Her family works hard daily in the fields, struggling to feed themselves. In a moment of despair, Kumudha discovers that she has the magic gift of being able to turn herself into a flowering tree. Wanting to give comfort and support to her suffering mother, she asks her sister to help her perform a ceremony that will transform her body into a tree covered with blossoms. The sister gathers up the flowers of the tree and Kumudha returns to her human form. They then successfully sell all of the flowers in the town marketplace and give the money without explanation to their mother. They decide to repeat this ceremony often but keep it a secret.

The young Prince, daring to venture outside one day, stumbles upon Kumudha’s hiding place for her secret ritual. He hides and spies on Kumudha, witnessing one of the transformations. Enchanted and troubled by both her beauty and her magic abilities, he demands of his father, the King, that Kumudha be brought to the palace so that he can marry her.

On the night after their wedding, Kumudha enters the bridal chamber only to find the Prince silent and sullen. Several nights pass without him speaking to her or touching her. Finally he makes his demand: she must do her transformation for him. Kumudha, ashamed, resists, but finally relents and performs the ceremony in the bedroom. In the wake of her transformation, the couple consummates their marriage enraptured by the fragrance of the flowers…

Act ll

The Prince’s jealous sister, suspicious of Kumudha, hides in the royal bedroom and sees a ceremony and transformation take place. The next day, while the Prince is away, she taunts Kumudha and commands her to perform the ritual for her and a group of her wealthy young friends outside. Kumudha reluctantly assents, but the bored young people lose interest, mock her, rip apart her flowering branches and leave her in the midst of her transformation, not having completed her return to her human form.

Kumudha, now a hideous freak--a stump of a body, half tree and half human--crawls into a gutter, where she is eventually found by a roving band of minstrels. 

The Prince does not know what has happened to his young wife. He assumes his arrogance has made her leave the court forever. He leaves the palace, and becomes a beggar—wandering aimlessly through the country.

Time passes. The Prince, haggard and blind with madness, comes to the palace courtyard of a distant city. The new Queen of this city is his sibling, the jealous sister who had once taunted Kumudha. In shock, the Queen recognizes her brother, brings him into the palace and bathes and feeds him. The Prince will not utter a word and remains vacant and lifeless. In the town marketplace, several of the queen’s maids see the minstrel troupe and hear the beautiful singing of a freakish thing with neither hands nor feet. They bring this strange and misshapen torso to the palace and suggest that its beautiful singing might revive the Prince. Not knowing that this is Kumudha, the Queen orders her to be bathed and covered with scented oils and brought to the Prince.

Alone, Kumudha and Prince finally recognize one another. With water, the Prince is able to start the ceremony. Kumudha completes her transformation and returns to her human form…

--John Adams, edited by James Darrah


Andriana Chuchman, Kumudha*

Last season, soprano Andriana Chuchman sang the title role in Hänsel und Gretel on the Glyndebourne Opera Tour, and made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera as Adina in L'Elisir d'Amore and Miranda in The Enchanted Island. Next season, she returns to the Lyric Opera of Chicago as Zerlina in Don Giovanni and to the Metropolitan Opera as Gretel in Hansel and Gretel.

Recent US engagements have included her debuts at the Washington National Opera as Magnolia in Show Boat and the Glimmerglass Festival as Guinevere in Camelot, Yum-Yum in The Mikado, Cleopatra in Guilio Cesare, Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro, and staged performances of Orff’s Carmina Burana at the Michigan Opera Theater;  Minka in Le Roi Malgré Lui at the Bard Music Festival, the title role in Flora, an Opera and Irma in Louise at the Spoleto Festival USA, and Alinda in Giasone and Dorinda in Orlando at the Chicago Opera Theater.

In concert, Ms. Chuchman recently made her debut at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra with performances of the Brahms Requiem, and has appeared at the Ravinia Festival as a guest on the Prairie Home Companion radio show and with the International Music Foundation of Chicago in performances of Handel’s Messiah.

In her native Canada, Ms. Chuchman recently made her debut at the Canadian Opera Company as Olympia in Les Contes d’Hoffmann. She has also appeared at the Edmonton Opera as Yum-Yum in The Mikado and Marie in La Fille du Regiment, and at the Manitoba Opera as Pamina in Die Zauberflöte. Concert performances have included engagements with the Toronto Symphony, Prince George Symphony, and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.

A recent graduate of the Ryan Opera Center at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Ms. Chuchman has appeared on the opera company's main stage as Yum-Yum in The Mikado, Valencienne in The Merry Widow and in their productions of Die Frau ohne Shatten and Manon. She also sang student matinee performances of Adina in L’Elisir d’Amore and Le Nozze di Figaro with the Ryan Opera Center.  Also a member of the San Francisco Opera’s prestigious Merola Program, Ms. Chuchman  appeared there as Barbarina in Le Nozze di Figaro, Carolina in Il Matrimonio Segreto, and as Blanche in excerpts of Dialogues of the Carmelites and Clorinda in excerpts La Cenerentola.

Born in Winnipeg, Ms. Chuchman received her Bachelor's Degree in Voice Performance from the School of Music at the University of Manitoba. She was a prizewinner at the Finals of the 2009 Neue Stimmen Competition in Germany, and received a Sullivan Foundation Encouragement Award in 2007.

Andrew Staples, Prince*

Andrew Staples sang as a chorister in St Paul’s Cathedral before winning a Choral Scholarship to King’s College Cambridge, where he gained a degree in Music.  Andrew was the first recipient of the RCM Peter Pears Scholarship, sponsored by the Britten Pears Foundation, at the Royal College of Music and subsequently joined the Benjamin Britten International Opera School.  He studies with Ryland Davies.   

His concert engagements include Schumann’s Das Paradies und die Peri with both the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and Sir Simon Rattle and the Swedish Radio with Daniel Harding; Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde with the Akademisten Berlin and Sir Simon Rattle and Magdalena Kozena, John Tavener’s The Veil of the Temple in New York; Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra conducted by Andrew Manze, Britten’s War Requiem at the King’s College Chapel  with David Hill and Mozart’s Requiem with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Andrew Manze; the Gävle Symphony and Robin Ticciati; the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and Sir Simon Rattle; and the London Symphony Orchestra and Daniel Harding, the Bavarian Radio Symphony with Daniel Harding and Simon Rattle, the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Accademia Santa Cecilia with Semyon Bychkov.

He made his Royal Opera House debut as Jacquino (Fidelio), returning for Flamand (Capriccio),   Tamino (Die Zauberflöte), Artabenes (Arne’s Artaxerxes) and Narraboth (Salome) and sang Belfiore (La Finta Giardiniera) for the National Theatre, Prague (a role he repeated in the same production for La Monnaie in Brussels).  He has also sung Ferrando for Opera Holland Park and Narraboth for the Hamburgische Staatsoper.  He also semi-staged and sang Tamino in Die Zauberflöte for the Lucerne Festival and in Drottningholm with Daniel Harding conducting.

He will sing Kudrjas and Luzio (Das Liebesverbot) for both the Royal Opera House and the Teatro Real in Madrid, Don Ottavio for the Salzburger Festspiele and Tamino in Chicago. In concert he appears with the Swedish Radio Orchestra, the Bavarian Radio Symphony and the Berliner Philharmoniker with Daniel Harding, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Semyon Bychkov, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Wiener Philharmoniker with Simon Rattle and the Philadelphia Orchestra with Yannick Nézet-Séguin. 

His recent venture, Opera for Change, has taken Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte on tour in Africa. A company of around 50 singers, musicians and crew travel from Nairobi to Cape Town, covering 10 countries in total. The idea behind it is to bring together international musicians and performers alongside local artists and communities, to produce great shows that aim to inspire and transform lives. The project has had high praise from the Telegraph Opera Critic Rupert Christiansen.

Franco Pomponi, Storyteller

Critically acclaimed for the rich and expressive beauty and powerful virility of his voice, with a cultivated musical style, and dramatic intensity, Franco Pomponi is regarded one of the finest baritones in the world today.  His sensational Paris Debut as Pentheus, in Hans Werner Henze's The Bassarids at the Théâtre du Châtelet was hailed by the world press as  “a true discovery" Le Figaro.

His European debut was the title role of Hamlet, at the Gran Teatro del Liceu in Barcelona. He has continued to win critical praise for his portrayal of The Prince Hamlet, such as in 2010 in a new production for Opéra de Marseille. In 2010 Franco made other impressive debuts as Don Giovanni for The Bolshoi Opera in Moscow, and Zurga in a new production of Les pêcheurs des perles at Opernhaus Zürich, Switzerland.

Franco made his Carnegie Hall debut as the Baritone Soloist in Mahler's Eighth Symphony with Christoph Eschenbach and the Philadelphia Orchestra and also in Paris with the Orchestre de Paris which was televised and recorded for DVD and CD. His Italian debut was Nick Shadow in The Rake’s Progress at Palermo’s Teatro Massimo, as Ford in Falstaff for his debuts with the Santa Fe Opera debut and The Canadian Opera Company, and Hérode in Massenet's Hérodiade for Dorset Opera which was his U.K. debut.

Other new productions include the title role of Don Giovanni for Opéra Nationale, MontI pellier, broadcast on Radio France; Golaud in Pelleas et Mélisande for the Nationale Reisopera, The Netherlands; Count Di Luna in Il trovatore for Austin Lyric Opera; Cyrano de Bergerac with Placido Domingo at Théâtre du Châtelet and Guglielmo in David McVicar's celebrated production of Cosi Fan Tutte for L' Opéra National du Rhin in Strasbourg.

He has sung Escamillo in Carmen for New York City Opera, The Los Angeles Opera, Dorset Opera, UK, Toulon, France, PortOpera Theatre, Maine, Florida Grand Opera, Qatar Philharmonic, United Arab Emeries and in Germany at Bremen’s Die Glocke conducted by Marc Minkowski and Les Musiciens du Louvre.

The Metropolitan Opera heard him as Schaunard in La bohème, Count Dominik in Arabella with Renée Fleming and Presto in Les mamelles de Tirésias conducted by James Levine. For The Lyric Opera of Chicago, where he was a member of the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists and was heard at the Chicago Lyric as Malatesta in Don Pasquale, as well as Germont in La traviata for the Grant Park Music Festival.

Franco  performed Fritz the Pierrot in Korngold’s Die tote Stadt at Teatro Massimo in Palermo; Paolo Albiani in Simon Boccanegra for Grand Theatre Geneve; Lescaut  in Manon Lescaut and Frederic in Lakemé at Spoleto USA; Valentin in  Faust at Opera Theatre of St. Louis; Ernesto in  Il pirata with Washington Concert Opera; Milord Runebif in La vedova scaltra for Opéra de Nice and Opéra Montpellier, France; Count Almaviva Le nozze di Figaro, Eugene Opera; Lindorf-Miracle-Coppélius-Dapertutto in Les Contes d'Hoffmann for Nationale Reisopera, Netherlands, Portland Opera, Utah Festival and The Grant Park Music Festival, Chicago; Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor for Opera Omaha and Opera Roanoke.

This charismatic singer is also a champion of rare and modern works and received high praise for his portrayal of Stanley Kowalski in Previn's, A Streetcar Named Desire for The New Orleans Opera and the Tennessee Williams Festival and Frank Chambers in The Postman Always Rings Twice by Stephen Paulus for Boston Lyric Opera both directed by Colin Graham. At Opera National Sophia, Bulgaria he was Don Gil in Maria Tudor by Gomes which was broadcast and released on video and compact disc.

Franco was a member of the Juilliard Opera Center and received its highest award The DeRosa Prize. He also won the Gold Award for the Shoshana Foundation and was a first prize winner in the Sullivan Foundation.  

Recent seasons have included the title roles Hamlet at La Monnaie, Brussels;  Don Giovanni; National Opera of Greece, Athens; Sweeny Todd and Nixon at Chatelet du Theatre in Paris. He was Arcalüs in Amadis des Gaules, The Opéra Comique, Paris; Carbon in Cyrano with Placido Domingo in Madrid, Valentin in Faust in Toulon, France, Marcello in La bohème for Lausanne, Switzerland.

Jason Collins, Dancer*

Originally from Defreestville, New York, Jason attended Walnut Hill School for the Arts before graduating with a BFA from The Juilliard School in 2013. He currently works with Christopher Williams, Ryan McNamara, and Danielle Russo Performance Projects. Additionally  he has worked additionally with Pam Tanowitz Dance, Wally Cardona and Jennifer Lacey, The Bang Group, Crossman Dans(c)e, Mary John Frank, Peridance Contemporary Dance Company, and Paris Opera Ballet at the Lincoln Center Festival. Additionally, Jason is the co-founder of HEWMAN, a collaborative art collective that presents multi-disciplinary performances in unconventional venues throughout New York City. 

Julia Eichten, Dancer*

Julia Eichten grew up dancing in Minnesota.  After high school Julia attended The Juilliard School in NYC, where she graduated in 2011 with a Hector Zaraspe award in recognition of her choreography.  Since graduation Julia has had the pleasure of dancing with Camille A. Brown & Dancers, Aszure Barton & Artists and most currently L.A. Dance Project.

With L.A. Dance Project Julia has had the thrill of performing works by William Forysthe, Merce Cunningham, Emanuel Gat, Justin Peck, Roy Assaf, Hiroaki Umeda as well as Benjamin Millipied. As well as performing Julia has shown work at Le Poisson Rouge, Dumbo Dance Festival, Dance Theater of Harlem and a choreographic residency at The Yard, in Martha’s Vineyard. Julia is pleased to be able to collaborate and choreograph on L.A. Dance Project for various projects and performances.  She would like to thank her family and friends for their constant encouragement and love. Julia is beyond excited to be involved in the creation of, The Flowering Tree.

Ana-Maria Lucaciu, Dancer*

Ana-Maria Lucaciu was born in Bucharest, Romania. After graduating from the National Ballet School of Canada, she joined Canada’s National Ballet and went on to dance with the Royal Danish Ballet, Germany’s Augsburg Ballet, Lisbon’s Contemporary Portuguese Dance Company and most recently, New York’s Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, where she danced for seven years.

Lucaciu has performed works by Ohad Naharin, Crystal Pite, Hofesh Shechter, Jiří Kylián, Alexander Ekman, Jo Stromgren, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, George Balanchine, and many others. In the summer of 2013, she was rehearsal director for Andrea Miller’s Gallim dance company. Ana Maria has assisted Alexander Ekman with his new full evening production of  “A Swan Lake” at the Norwegian Opera Ballet in Oslo, which premiered in April 2014. She will continue to stage Ekman’s pieces around the world, and frequently teach  in the US and Europe. Lucaciu has earned a BFA in dance from Empire State College.

Morgan Lugo, Dancer*

Morgan Lugo is a native of Wilmington, North Carolina where he began his dance training clogging, eventually becoming a silver and gold medalist in the Junior Olympics. Later he began his formal training at North Carolina School of the Arts and graduated Magna Cum Laude from SUNY Purchase. While at Purchase he had the opportunity to work with choreographers Lar Lubovitch, Doug Varone, Stephen Petronio, and Paul Taylor, among others.

In 2011, his final year at Purchase, Morgan made his professional debut with the contemporary ballet company Morphoses under the direction of Lourdes Lopez and Artistic Director Luca Veggetti. For the past three years he has been a part the Artistic Collective L.A. Dance Project under the direction of Benjamin Millepied. There here has collaborated with artists such as William Forsythe, Barbara Kruger, Nico Muhly, Alejandro Inarritu, Sidi Larbi, Emmanuel Gat, Roy Assaf, Yvonne Rainer, Julia Eichten, and Justin Peck.

Morgan’s artistic expression also extends beyond the stage into photography including as the photojournalist for LADP.

Robbie Moore, Dancer*

Robbie Moore, a Houston-native dance artist, graduated from the Juilliard School in May of 2014. Training for nearly fifteen years in classical and contemporary genres, he has had the pleasure of dancing across the United States, Europe and Canada. He has performed works by José Limón, Martha Graham, Pina Bausch, Ohad Naharin and William Forsythe.

In 2010, Robbie worked alongside Peter Chu, founder of chuthis. In his creative process for “This Thought”. That same year he was recognized as one of the twenty Presidential Scholars in the
Arts. In 2012, Robbie was commissioned to create a work for the Houston Metropolitan Dance Company. His piece entitled "This Expression of Surprise," premiered at the Miller Outdoor Theater in June of that year. Robbie recently enjoyed premieres with TOES for dance, a Toronto-based initiative, and with the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company in New York City.

Yusha-Marie Sorzano, Dancer*

YUSHA-MARIE SORZANO (Miami, FL) Originally from Trinidad, Ms.Sorzano received her primary instruction from New World School of the Arts, The Miami Conservatory, and The Dance Theater of Harlem. She attended the Ailey/Fordham BFA Program and in her junior year was invited to join Ailey II. Ms.Sorzano has been a member of the Complexions Contemporary Ballet, The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Morphoses, TU Dance, and Los Angeles-based, BODYTRAFFIC. She has performed in principal roles with the Ailey company and in a wide variety of concert works, including noted choreographers, Ulysses Dove, Hofesh Shechter, and  Mauro Bigonzetti, as well as with recording artists Wynton Marsalis, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Destiny's Child, and Rihanna.

She has been a guest artist on "Dancing with the Stars", a cast member of Chicago's acclaimed Goodman Theater's "Crowns," and starred as the principal dancer in the independent film "You Me and The Circus." Ms.Sorzano if a faculty member of the Joffrey Jazz Contemporary program and when not performing enjoys teaching both nationally and internationally.


John Adams, Composer

Composer, conductor, and creative thinker - John Adams occupies a unique position in the world of American music. His works, both operatic and symphonic, stand out among contemporary classical compositions for their depth of expression, brilliance of sound, and the profoundly humanist nature of their themes. Over the past 25 years, Adams’s music has played a decisive role in turning the tide of contemporary musical aesthetics away from academic modernism and toward a more expansive, expressive language, entirely characteristic of his New World surroundings.

Born and raised in New England, Adams learned the clarinet from his father and played in marching bands and community orchestras during his formative years. He began composing at age ten and heard his first orchestral pieces performed while still a teenager. The intellectual and artistic traditions of New England, including his studies at Harvard University and attendance at Boston Symphony Orchestra concerts, helped shape him as an artist and thinker. After earning two degrees from Harvard, he moved to Northern California in 1971 and has since lived in the San Francisco Bay area.

Adams taught at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music for ten years before becoming composer-in-residence of the San Francisco Symphony (1982-85), and creator of the orchestra’s highly successful and controversial “New and Unusual Music” series. Many of Adams’s landmark orchestral works were written for and premiered by the San Francisco Symphony, including Harmonium (1981), Grand Pianola Music (1982), Harmonielehre (1985), My Father Knew Charles Ives (2003) and Absolute Jest (2012).

In 1985, Adams began a collaboration with the poet Alice Goodman and stage director Peter Sellars that resulted in two groundbreaking operas: Nixon in China (1987) and The Death of Klinghoffer (1991). Produced worldwide, these works are among the most performed operas of the last two decades. Five further stage collaborations with Sellars followed: the 1995 “songplay,” I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky, with a libretto by June Jordan; El Niño (2000), a multilingual retelling of the nativity story; Doctor Atomic (2005), about J. Robert Oppenheimer and the creation of the first atomic bomb; A Flowering Tree, inspired by Mozart’s Magic Flute and premiered in Vienna in 2006; and the Passion oratorio The Gospel According to the Other Mary (2012), written for Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Other signal Adams works that have become repertory with orchestras, choruses and ensembles include Shaker Loops for strings, The Dharma at Big Sur (a concerto for electric violin inspired by the writings of Jack Kerouac), Doctor Atomic Symphony (a 22-minute symphony drawn from the opera), Violin Concerto, Chamber Symphony and Son of Chamber Symphony (choreographed as Joyride by Mark Morris). His new Saxophone Concerto written for Tim McAllister received its world premiere in the fall of 2013.

John Adams is a much sought-after conductor, appearing with the world’s major orchestras in programs combining his own works with a wide variety of repertoire ranging from Beethoven and Mozart to Ives, Carter, Zappa, Glass and Ellington. He has appeared with the New York Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the London Symphony and the BBC Symphony, among others. In the coming season he tours Australia with concerts in Melbourne and Sydney and conducts the Toronto Symphony, Houston Symphony and presides over a two week festival of his music in Madrid, Spain. With the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he holds the title of Creative Chair, he will conduct his "Naive and Sentimental Music" and the world premiere of Terry Riley's new Organ Concerto as part of that orchestra's Minimalist Jukebox festival, of which he is also curator.

Luca Guardagnino's 2009 film "I Am Love," produced by and starring Tilda Swinton, uses John Adams' music from start to finish.

Adams’ educational activities reach from the local (the John Adams Young Composers program in his hometown of Berkeley, California) to the international (directing the Juilliard and Royal Academy of Music orchestras at Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall and the BBC Proms).

John Adams is also a highly esteemed and provocative writer. He is a frequent contributor to the New York Times Book Review and has written for The New Yorker and The London Times. Hallelujah Junction, Adams’s much praised volume of memoirs and commentary on American musical life, won the Northern California Book Award for Creative Nonfiction and was named one of the “most notable books of the year” by The New York Times. He maintains a controversial blog about music and culture, “Hellmouth,” which can be found at his website www.earbox.com.




Adams has received honorary doctorates from Yale and Harvard, from Cambridge University in England, from Northwestern University and from the Juilliard School. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California honored him with the Governor’s Award for his distinguished service to the arts in his adopted home state. His Violin Concerto won the 1993 Grawemeyer Award. “On the Transmigration of Souls,” commissioned by the New York Philharmonic to commemorate the first anniversary of 9/11, received the 2003 Pulitzer Prize in Music.

Adams' recordings have won numerous Grammy awards, including three for the Nonesuch release of "On the Transmigration of Souls." Last season's release of "Harmonielehre" with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony won the Grammy for Best Orchestral Performance. Other new releases include the Nonesuch DVD of the Metropolitan Opera's "Nixon in China," conducted by the composer, and "Fellow Traveler: The Complete String Quartet Music of John Adams" by the Attacca Quartet. 

Christopher Rountree, Conductor*

Christopher Rountree first fell in love with music playing bass in a garage band, trombone in a brass band, and watching the Berlin Philharmonic play Brahms and Bartok.

Chris has served as Assistant Conductor of the Brooklyn Philharmonic, Guest Conductor with Beth Morrison Projects, Artistic Advisor for New Music at American Youth Symphony and Adjunct Lecturer in Conducting at UC Santa Barbara.  He founded wild Up in 2010.

In 2013, he debuted on the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Brooklyn New Music Festival, with the San Diego Symphony, the Colorado Symphony, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and with the San Francisco Conservatory Orchestra celebrating the centenary of Le Sacre du printemps.

Before bringing wild Up together, Chris was Music Director of the Michigan Pops Orchestra and student of the renowned conducting professor Kenneth Kiesler, at the University of Michigan. At age 22, he was appointed principal conductor of La Primavera Youth Orchestra in Orange County while studying conducting with Joana Carneiro, then-assistant conductor of the LA Philharmonic.

Rountree is a seventh-generation Californian. He is a yogi, unpaid psychoanalyst, cutter of vegetables, storyteller, burrito enthusiast, writer, composer, and teacher.

“Rountree punches out rhythms as if they were going out of style. He emphasizes outsize emotions. He could probably get an audience to dance to the slowest movement Shostakovich ever wrote.”
Mark Swed, The Los Angeles Times

“Elegant clarity.”
- Corinna da Fonesca-Wollheim, The New York Times


James Darrah, Director

Los Angeles based director and designer James Darrah's collaborative focus through varied mediums quickly led him to be recognized as "the newest discovery... a gifted young American director" (Chicago Tribune) following his professional debut in 2011. He has since crafted an unconventional and varied body of work that "injects real drama" (The New York Times) with new theater and opera productions, installations, and events that become "once-in-a-lifetime experience[s]" (Opera News). His uniquely collaborative and team-based approach to unconventional projects has also led to the creation of new LA-based production and design company Chromatic: a collective of interdisciplinary artists who collaborate to create aesthetic, theatrical events across blurring mediums. This season, his curation of Chromatic's wide range of projects include everything from the creation of a large opera gala in a functioning steel factory, to a multimedia video installation and performance piece based on Fauré’s Pelléas and Mélisande with conductor Louis Langrée.

CURRENT PROJECTS include a return to Chromatic's annual residency with Opera Omaha, crafting a new production of Handel’s Semele in a co-production with Opera Philadelphia, his European debut with Teatro Nacional de São Carlos in Lisbon, Portugal directing Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride, and direction/curation for one of San Francisco Symphony’s trailblazing SOUNDBOX series. This spring, he continues his ongoing collaboration with conductor Michael Tilson Thomas as director of Bernstein’s On the Town in a new staged production for the San Francisco Symphony and as director for a world premiere composed by Tilson Thomas with New World Symphony, Miami. Other upcoming projects include a debut at Bard Summerscape with a new production of Mascagni’s Iris, designs for Brook’s Bizet adaptation with Chromatic’s annual retreat to the Bay Chamber Festival, Maine in August and the world premiere of Missy Mazzoli and Royce Vavrek's operatic adaptation of Lars von Trier’s Breaking the Waves for Opera Philadelphia in September. Darrah also recently completed the first installment of his three year Pelléas Project based on Schoenberg’s tone poem Pelleas und Melisande with Langrée and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra which featured the LA-based dance group WIFE and directed the second in his series of new productions of the Mozart/Da Ponte trilogy for Così fan tutte with Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and conductor Edo de Waart.

PAST PROJECTS include direction and design for an acclaimed Peter Grimes with the San Francisco Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas, the world premiere production of Frank Zappa's full, infamous 200 Motels with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting, Pacific Musicworks in Seattle directing and choreographing a new Semele, a new Don Giovanni for the San Francisco Merola Opera Program, and his Lincoln Center directing debut with Handel's Radamisto for The Juilliard School.

In January 2015, Darrah curated Chromatic’s debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic featuring the US premiere of Olga Neuwirth’s Hommage a Klaus Nomi conducted by John Adams. He then co-directed with Peabody Southwell in the inaugural season of Opera San Antonio with a new production of Poulenc’s La voix humaine featuring soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci. He collaborated with Peter Sellars and Gustavo Dudamel assisting in staging John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary in Los Angeles (WDCH), London (Barbican Centre), Paris (Salle Pleyel) and Lucerne (KKL), and worked with director Christopher Alden for the LA Philharmonic’s Mozart/Da Ponte trilogy. He’s also created work for Theater@Boston Court, the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival, SCA Gallery, The Broad Stage in Santa Monica, Chicago Opera Theater and over five new productions (including two US West Coast Premieres) for Opera UCLA.

He trained in directing and design as a resident artist with the Croatian National Theater and Split Summer Festival and his past theater work ranges from adaptations and new translations of Aeschylus' Oresteia to new productions of the plays of Caryl Churchill.  He has taught theater and performance for the Adler Fellowship Program of San Francisco Opera, Cornish College of the Arts, California State University, Long Beach and the University of California, Los Angeles. Darrah holds a MFA from the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television where he was the recipient of the James Pendelton Foundation Grant and the George Burns/Gracie Allen Directing Scholarship. He continued directing studies and work with director Stephen Wadsworth for two seasons at The Juilliard School. He was awarded the national Princess Grace Award in Theater, was a nominee for newcomer in the 2015 International Opera Awards and recently named Musical America’s New Artist of the Month for December 2015.

Zack Winokur, Associate Director & Choreographer*

Choreographer, dancer, and director Zack Winokur, born in Boston, MA, is a graduate of the Juilliard School and Concord Academy. The 2013/2014 season he worked on productions for the Skylight Music Theater (Hydrogen Jukebox), Festival Aix-en-Provence (Les Mamelles des Tirésias), London Philharmonic (Die Dreigroschenoper), Central City Opera  (Der Kaiser von Atlantis), the Royal Opera House (Most of the Boys - World Premiere), International Contemporary Ensemble (Mesh- World Premiere), and the Museum of Arts and Design (Triptych- World Premiere) as well as re-staging Episode 31 by Alexander Ekman for the Joffrey Ballet. 

He has choreographed for film with Academy Award nominated director Mike Figgis, collaborating on Dancing on Glass with pianist Rosey Chan and fashion house Boudicca that has been exhibited in Paris, London, Beijing, Tokyo and Barcelona.  His choreography has also been seen at the Centre Pompidou for the opening of the ASVOFF festival and as choreographic installations that took over the entire Royal Opera House for three days.  As a dancer, Mr. Winokur has performed in the companies of Morphoses, Armitage Gone! Dance, David Parker and The Bang Group, and Moving Theater and as a soloist in work by Bronislava Nijinska, Jose Limon, Twyla Tharp, Paul Taylor, Luca Veggetti, Alexander Ekman and Nacho Duato as well as on international television as part of an advertisement for Coca-Cola.  Winokur has curated shows at the 92nd St. Y and programmed and been commissioned to make several new interdisciplinary works at the Juilliard School.  He was nominated for a United States Artist Fellowship in 2013, awarded a Jerome Robbins New Essential Works grant in 2012, and in 2011 received a "Best Opera Direction" nomination in Opernwelt for Henze's El Cimarrón

Winokur is Director of The Troupe, a company dedicated to exploring the possibility of choreography across disciplines, which he co-founded with Michelle Mola in 2009.  He has produced over a dozen original works for The Troupe.  Combining dancers, choreographers, visual artists, fashion designers, perfume makers, filmmakers, musicians, composers, and architects, The Troupe has presented work in museums, embassies, jails, concert dance venues, opera houses, night clubs, and galleries such as MoMA PS1, Centre Pompidou, Rikers Island Maximum Security Prison, Park Avenue Armory, Peter Jay Sharp, Clark Studio, and Willson theaters in Lincoln Center, Royal Opera House London, David Lynch's Club Silencio in Paris, and Galerie Debaume.

Cameron Jaye Mock, Scenic & Lighting Designer

Cameron Jaye Mock hailed by the Los Angeles Times as "lyrical expression...in superb scenic and lighting design" was most recently the scenic and lighting designer for Così fan tutte, with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. Further recent work of this last year includes, lighting and scenic design with Opera Omaha on their new production of John Adam's A Flowering Tree, scenic, lighting, and projection design for Daphne with The Cleveland Orchestra, and scenic design with the LA Phil for their new production of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis in a co-production with San Francisco Symphony. 

Other eminent productions include, Peter Grimes with San Francisco Symphony, Don Giovanni with Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Don Giovanni with San Francisco Opera's Merola program, Frank Zappa's 200 Motels with the LA Phil, Radamisto with The Juilliard School, Semele with Pacific Musicworks, Peer Gynt with San Francisco Symphony, the world premiere of The Classical Style with Ojai Music Festival, Agrippina with Opera Omaha, Saul with Trinity Wall Street, La voix humaine and il segreto di Susanna with Opera San Antonio, and a multi-year long project with the Latino Theater Company and Los Angeles Theater Center

Further opera credits include Dialogues des Carmélites, L'incoronazione di Poppea, the US West Coast premiere of Jonathan Dove's FlightDido and AeneasGiasoneAlbert Herring, Peter Brooks’ adaptation of Bizet with La tragédie de CarmenL’enfant et les sortileges, Così fan tutte, The Golden Vanity, All the King's Men, L’Elisir D’ Amore, as well as a staging of the oratorio L'Allegro, il Penseroso, ed il Moderato. 

He is also a founding member of Chromatic, a new Los Angeles based production company, and co-owner of Mac Moc Design, LLC.      

Emily Anne MacDonald, Scenic & Lighting Designer


Emily Anne MacDonald was most recently the scenic and costume designer for Così fan tutte, with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. Other recent productions include scenic and costume design for Daphne with The Cleveland Orchestra, scenic design for Opera Omaha’s new production of John Adam's A Flowering Tree, scenic design for La voix humaine and Il segreto di Susanna with Opera San Antonio, and scenic and costume design for LA Phil’s new production of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis in a co-production with the San Francisco Symphony. 

Notable productions include, scenic design for Peter Grimes with San Francisco Symphony, Semele with Pacific Musicworks, Agrippina with Opera Omaha, the world premiere of The Classical Style with Ojai Music Festival, Peer Gynt with San Francisco Symphony, Frank Zappa's 200 Motels with the LA Phil, Don Giovanni with San Francisco Opera's Merola program, Radamisto with The Juilliard School, Saul with Trinity Wall Street, O.P.C. with activist Eve Ensler, As We Grow Down with Dorn Dance Company, and the design and direction of a staging of Schubert's Winterreise.

Ms. MacDonald is an active painter, printmaker, and sculptor, having been an artist in residence at Burren College of Art in County Clare, Ireland and at Kala Art Institute in Berkeley, California, as well as a former member of the California Society of Printmakers.

he is also a founding member of Chromatic, a new Los Angeles based production company, and co-owner of Mac Moc Design, LLC.

Adam Larsen, Projections Designer

Adam Larsen is a filmmaker and projection designer. He has designed both on and off Broadway, including: Hal Prince’s LoveMusik (Broadway); The Gospel at Colonus (Athens, Edinburgh and Spoleto Festivals); The Wind Up Bird Chronicle (Singapore and Edinburgh Festival);  Brief Encounter and My Fair Lady (Shaw Festival); The Women of Brewster Place (Alliance / Arena Stage); Ghost Brothers of Darkland County and Native Guard (Alliance Theatre); big (Atlanta Ballet); Love Lies Bleeding, Fumbling Towards Ecstasy and Balletlujah (Alberta Ballet); From the House of the Dead (Canadian Opera); Lily Plants a Garden (Mark Taper); Maa (Atlanta Symphony / GloAtl); A Flowering Tree and Agrippina (Opera Omaha); Semele (Pacific Musicworks); Quartet (Aspen Santa Fe Ballet); Seed (Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet); Pelleas Und Melisande (Cincinnati Symphony); Siren Song and Midsummer Night’s Dream (Hawaii Opera Theatre); Second Hand and Phorion (New World Symphony); Black Whole (Black Mountain College Museum & Arts Center / Moog Music); Le Martyre de St Sebastien, Peer Gynt and Peter Grimes (San Francisco Symphony). Adam holds a B.F.A. in cinematography from N.C. School of the Arts. His documentary about autism entitled Neurotypical aired on the PBS series POV. 

Sarah Schuessler, Costume Designer

Sarah Schuessler is a Los Angeles based costume designer with a varied body of work that spans from motion picture costuming, television and commercial design/styling, to original costume designs for theater and new opera productions. Her most recent film credits include shopping for 50 Shades Darker and 50 Shades Freed, as well as set costuming for the upcoming Damien Chazelle movie musical, La La Land. 

She has designed over ten new productions for director James Darrah, including a lauded Peter Grimes with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony and Semele for Pacific MusicWorks in Seattle. She is part of Chromatic's annual residency with Opera Omaha, creating costume designs for new productions of Handel's Agrippina and most recently John Adams' A Flowering Tree.

Additional opera designs with Darrah include work in Hawaii on L'Enfant et les SortilègesLa tragédie de Carmen, and a staging of Handel's L'Allegro, as well as new productions of Dido and Aeneas, the US West Coast premiere of Jonathan Dove's Flight, and Brown's The Last Five Years for UCLA's School of Theater, Film, and Television.

She holds a Bachelor's degree from USC's School of Theatre and her Master of Fine Arts degree in costume design from UCLA's School of Theater, Film, and Television.

Yusha-Marie Sorzano, Dancer*

YUSHA-MARIE SORZANO (Miami, FL) Originally from Trinidad, Ms.Sorzano received her primary instruction from New World School of the Arts, The Miami Conservatory, and The Dance Theater of Harlem. She attended the Ailey/Fordham BFA Program and in her junior year was invited to join Ailey II. Ms.Sorzano has been a member of the Complexions Contemporary Ballet, The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Morphoses, TU Dance, and Los Angeles-based, BODYTRAFFIC. She has performed in principal roles with the Ailey company and in a wide variety of concert works, including noted choreographers, Ulysses Dove, Hofesh Shechter, and  Mauro Bigonzetti, as well as with recording artists Wynton Marsalis, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Destiny's Child, and Rihanna.

She has been a guest artist on "Dancing with the Stars", a cast member of Chicago's acclaimed Goodman Theater's "Crowns," and starred as the principal dancer in the independent film "You Me and The Circus." Ms.Sorzano if a faculty member of the Joffrey Jazz Contemporary program and when not performing enjoys teaching both nationally and internationally.

Jesan Barnes-Kaushik
Alexander Brown
Elijah Brown
Matthew Brown
Morgan Brown
Mary Carrick
Tara Cowherd
John Dart
Tatiana Eskridge
Jonathan Fischer
Haley Gabriel
Katie Kirchner Gladman
Brian Jay
Janeen Jensen
Jacqueline Josten
Trevor Kern
Eric Micks
Cheyenne Nelson
Megan McGuire Parsons
Edward Perini
Nora Ryan
Jon Ryba
Kyle Sandall
Susan Pistillo Seamands
David Shellenberger
Matthew Sommer
Jennifer Tritz
Camellia Watkins
Kayla Wilkens
Jordan Williams
Jacob Wilson





Friday, February 13, 2015, 7:30 pm
Sunday, February 15, 2015, 2:00 pm

Orpheum Theater
Map Location 


Assistant Director: Sarah Hall
Technical Director: Jason Allyn-Schwerin
Production Coordinator: Katherine Pursell
Stage Manager: Angela Turner
Sound Designer: Brian Mohr*
Makeup & Hair Design: Elsen & Associates Inc.
Wardrobe Coordinator: Cherly Sanwick
Properties Master: Ronnie Wells
Chorus Master: J. Gawf
Principal Accompanist: Sheldon Miller*

* Opera Omaha Debut


Javascript is currently disabled. For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are the instructions how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.


You are using an outdated browser. Sorry, this web site doesn't support Internet Explorer 6. To get the best possible experience using our website we recommend that you upgrade to a newer version or other web browser. A list of the most popular web browsers can be found below. It is completely free for download: