Workshop Preview of Act I January 9th

Free preview of new opera on Pioneer Valley’s infamous Daley, Halligan case

Veterans of Metropolitan Opera, Boston Symphony to perform

Amherst, Mass. A free workshop performance of The Garden of Martyrs, a new opera on the 19th century case of Irish immigrants executed in Northampton for a murder they likely did not commit, will take place on Sunday, January 9 at 5:00 p.m. in Buckley Recital Hall at Amherst College. The semi-staged performance of the opera’s first act will be followed by a conversation with librettist Harley Erdman and composer Eric Sawyer, joined onstage by Michael C. White, on whose novel the opera is based.

The opera views the 1806 case of Dominic Daley and James Halligan through the eyes of the French refugee priest of Boston, Jean Cheverus, whose own haunted past led him to come to their aid.

Sawyer, a music professor at Amherst College; and Erdman, a theater professor at UMass Amherst, have each seen recent area performances of original operas, Sawyer as composer of Our American Cousin and Erdman as librettist of The Captivation of Eunice Williams.  This is their first collaboration.

The cast includes vocalists of international reputation. Baritone and director Vernon Hartman has appeared in dozens of roles at the Metropolitan Opera over two decades, and has overseen opera productions nationally and internationally.  Tenor William Hite has sung with the Boston Symphony, the Dresdner Philharmonie, 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.   Mezzo-soprano Marjorie Melnick spent twelve years singing opera, oratorio, and recitals in Europe.

Daley and Halligan were exonerated in 1984 by a proclamation of Governor Michael Dukakis.  A commemoration of the bicentennial of their execution took place in Northampton in 2006.