The Garden of Martyrs
A new opera
AMERICAN PRIZE FINALIST
Music: Eric Sawyer
Libretto: Harley Erdman
Based on the novel by Michael C. White
The year is 1805. A young man on horseback is brutally murdered on the Boston-Albany turnpike, his body found in the shallows of a nearby river. Suspicion is cast on two Irish tramps seen walking the turnpike in the vicinity that same day. Fear, xenophobia, and religious prejudice lead to a rush to judgment.
The two men, Dominic Daley and James Halligan, are apprehended, given a hasty trial, and convicted of murder, despite their avowals of innocence. The gruesome spectacle of their hanging attracts 20,000 gawkers. Over two hundred years later, their case remains one of the most infamous miscarriages of justice in early America.
The Garden of Martyrs, adapted from Michael C. White’s historical novel, brings to life the story of Daley and Halligan, and their defenders and accusers. Its protagonist is Father Jean-Louis Lefebvre de Cheverus, a French immigrant priest, who journeys to Western Massachusetts to speak up for the men as the hour of their execution approaches. His transformation from timidity into forceful voice for justice frames the opera, which asks us what risks we are willing to take in the face of prejudice and hate.
The Garden of Martyrs debuted at the Northampton Academy of Music in September 2013, to two sold-out performances, with the Springfield Symphony Orchestra under the musical direction of Kevin Rhodes. It was a Finalist for the American Prize.
Photos from 2013 Academy of Music production. Stage director: Vernon Hartman
Audio / Video Clips