The Gospel of Mary Magdalene



Nathan Gunn and Sasha Cooke

Nathan Gunn as Yeshua and Sasha Cooke in the title rôle of “The Gospel of Mary Magdalene.” Portrait for San Francisco Opera by J. Henry Fair, New York, November 2012.

I began work on “The Gospel of Mary Magdalene” in 2007: the opera was commissioned  and announced by San Francisco Opera in 2009, and the company gave its widely publicized première in June 2013.  Based on the Canonical Gospels, the Gnostic Gospels, and nearly a century of biblical scholarship, the opera reimagined the New Testament through the eyes of the legend’s most substantial female character.  I was grateful for the extraordinary work of the director Michael Christie, the director Kevin Newbury, and a sterling company led by Sasha Cooke, Nathan Gunn, William Burden, and Maria Kanyova: and the company supported their every effort brilliantly.  As expected, not every commenter relished (or even understood) the challenge of the project, but among the generous notices, I was most grateful for Joshua Kosman’s in the San Francisco Chronicle; his description most closely matches the piece I tried to make. Pamela Feinsilber for The Huffington Post,  Chloe Velter for Arts Journal, Jeffrey S. McMillan forBachtrack, and Beth Spotswood for CBS were comparably supportive; writers such as Stephen Smoliar and William Burnett, each writing multiple features, went into extraordinary depth.  And the author and annotator Thomas May wrote as eloquent an introduction to the world of the piece as one could wish.

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