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Middlemarch in Spring

Production of a new opera drawn from George Eliot's novel

The Latest Update

Second production in 2017

Posted on March 19, 2016 by Allen Shearer

The opera Middlemarch in Spring is enjoying success on many fronts. Looking ahead, Ash Lawn Opera will produce the work March 25 and 26, 2017  (three performances) to coincide with the Festival of the Book in Charlottesville, VA. Looking back, the San Francisco premiere was given widespread praise and was named among the Top Ten Operatic Events of 2015 by the San Francisco Chronicle.

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A New Opera in the Making

Posted on July 11, 2014 by Allen Shearer

Article by Allen Shearer in the newsletter of NATS, SF Bay Area chapter


MIDDLEMARCH IN SPRING, an opera-in progress (80% completed), will be given its premiere production at Z Space (formerly Theatre Artaud) in San Francisco, March 2015, as a co-production by the new music presenter Composers, Inc., now in its 30th season; and Operasmiths, an unincorporated partnership of the composer and librettist. Funding has been obtained for all but a small portion of the costs. This application is for funding for supertitles. Past experience (this is Operasmiths’ fourth opera) confirms that supertitles are an invaluable aid even for a performance in English.

The libretto by Claudia Stevens adapts George Eliot’s monumental novel to emphasize issues of contemporary relevance: the privilege of the few amid deprivation of the many; entrenched interests, greed and inertia impacting the political process; the possibility for individual action to effect change. These themes will be enhanced by up-to-date techniques in computer-generated image projection, innovative use of the theater environment and action that transforms members of the orchestra into a heckling crowd, perhaps the first such incidence in opera. Middlemarch has been called ‘the greatest novel in English,’ and its setting as an opera is long overdue. Its distillation by Stevens into an operatic format is founded on her extensive knowledge of the period and experience as a writer of some twenty musical solo plays. Shearer’s musical treatment will focus on the realizing of scenes that drive the action and convey the novels most beloved characters with humor, dramatic effect and accessibility for an audience. The notion of “spring” evokes not only the passionate love story but political upheaval, with which the work achieves its climax.

The opera calls for six singer-actors and an orchestra of eleven players. Among the performers will be veterans of San Francisco Opera and New York’s Metropolitan Opera and those nearer the beginning of their careers. The cast: Sara Duchovnay, Daniel Curran, Philip Skinner, Eugene Brancoveanu, Tonia d’Amelio, and Michael Mendelsohn. Conducted by Jonathan Khuner of San Francisco Opera and directed by Philip Lowery of Lamplighters, with set and lighting design by Matthew Antaky, MIDDLEMARCH IN SPRING will have a run of four performances on the curated series at Z Space. Interest in the project is already mounting a year in advance, and with the extensive publicity planned, a large turnout is expected.

A singer as well as a composer, Allen Shearer has written a great number of vocal and choral works and four operas. The creation of his first opera THE GODDESS, on his own libretto drawn from a Satyajit Ray screenplay, was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. A subsequent opera THE DAWN MAKERS was praised in the British periodical Opera following its successful San Francisco premiere for a capacity audience. Shearer is the recipient of many awards in music including a Rome Prize Fellowship, a Charles Ives Scholarship, the Aaron Copland Award,  the Silvia Goldstein Award, residencies at the MacDowell Colony, and multiple grants and commissions from the National Endowment for the Arts, Meet The Composer and other organizations.


Project Media

Aria “Oh Will, Will!” from MIDDLEMARCH IN SPRING, Act II
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An aria from Act II of MIDDLEMARCH IN SPRING, the work for which funding is sought. Live video recording of a 2012 workshop performance by Ann Moss and the Sonic Harvest Players (www.sonicharvest.org), Jonathan Khuner, conductor.

Following the revelation that her late husband stipulated in his will that she will be disinherited should she marry Will Ladislaw, Dorothea, overcome with emotion, realizes that she does love Will.

Excerpt from THE DAWN MAKERS
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From the 2009 premiere production by Composers, Inc. of THE DAWN MAKERS, an opera by Allen Shearer on a libretto by Claudia Stevens. Christine Brandes, soprano; John Duykers, tenor; Eugene Brancoveanu, baritone.

THE DAWN MAKERS is a modern-day retelling of the myth of Eos and Tithonos, in which Eos’ lover is granted immortality but not eternal youth, so he ages but cannot die. Bo, the goddess’s current lover, bonds with Vic (Tithonos). Conductor, the late J. Karla Lemon. Director, Brian Staufenbiel. Set and lighting design, Matthew Antaky.

Start and End Dates



San Francisco, California

2 updates
Last update on March 19, 2016

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Berkeley, California
Oakland, California


One response to “Middlemarch in Spring”

  1. We are halfway through a run of four performances, and the response has been overwhelming! Janos Gereben wrote a glowing five-star review in the San Francisco Examiner.

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