The Gospel of Mary Magdalene


2 hr. 30 min.


premiered by

San Francisco Opera

commissioned by

Purchase score
The Gospel of Mary Magdalene

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 William Burnett, 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.

Magniloquent as the original production was—I don’t expect to engage seventy-three singers for anything I will ever write again—I was intrigued by what might happen if the opera’s chorus and ensemble of modern Seekers were combined into a single ensemble of twelve; and if the piece was reset to here and now, better reflecting the idea that rethinking this ancient story is, at root, a modern need. Leigh Holman, leader of the splendid summer program Colorado University New Opera Workshop (known by the best acronym in modern art: CU-NOW) offered me her artists and theatre; and in the summer of 2017 I directed just such a version, which seemed so right that I committed to permanently revising the score. That version is in process, and I am planning to have it ready for performance in 2021.

“Adamo has the ingenious knack for creating memorable themes whose recurrences serve as signposts for the drama, and his vocal writing is both urgent and shapely.”
“Mr. Adamo knows how to set English so that the words come through clearly when sung, a technique that too many opera composers struggle with.”
The New York Times
“By emphasizing the humanity of its characters – disregarding Christian dogma and supernatural dissonances (virgin birth, miracles, resurrection) – Adamo has located the story’s more universal aspects and created a compelling, dramatic journey.”
“...Adamo’s opera, which aims to reconcile sexuality with a Christian life, and which argues for a woman’s right to possess a physical identity without abandoning spirituality, could not have found a more appropriate home than the San Francisco Opera.”
New Music Box USA


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