The condensed storytelling is beautifully complemented by Nolan Gasser’s fluid score, which still needs work in the arena of melodic invention, but eventually bursts forth with a lush bouquet of harmonies in the final scenes in the blooming garden. Directed by Jose Maria Condemi, the story came to life on a spacious stage below a soaring set which towered over the actors – an effective device in underscoring how Mary must have felt to find herself so tragically transported into a dark old mansion filled with mystery. The Secret Garden fits beautifully into the format and style of opera and I greatly enjoyed seeing it as such.
Tags: Adam Veness, Amy Orman, Andrew Meyers, Barbara Clear, Brianna Borger, Cahn Auditorium, Chris Kusek, Christin Boulette, Daniel Spagnuolo, Darcy Hofer, Doug Kupferman, Erin Thomas Lobo, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Harmony France, Harvey Lobstein, Jennifer T. The creative team is intriguing: Gasser is architect of the Music Genome Project, the technology underlying Pandora Radio, while librettist Carey Harrison is a prolific novelist and playwright (and the son of actor Rex Harrison). You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer which is unable to show this page correctly.
It is wonderful that the management at Light Opera Works keeps producing authentic productions of classic operettas and Broadway musicals using the full orchestrations from the originals with a full 28 piece orchestra. Based on the 1911 novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden tells the story of Mary Lennox (Sophie Thatcher), a lonely little girl who is sent to live with her uncle Archibald (Nick Foster) in Yorkshire after being orphaned by a cholera epidemic in India. Through a commission by the San Francisco Opera (co-presented by Cal Performances), it did, and while the opera itself still needs some tinkering for it to appeal to younger audiences, overall I was quite taken with the stunning and impressive production, which opened last weekend in its world premiere at UC Berkeley’s elegant Zellerbach Hall. Shafer shifts effortlessly from a petulant pampered child in India to an English girl filled with insatiable curiosity about the enigmatic garden, and deep compassion towards Archibald’s sickly son Colin, played by Michael Kepler Meo, who at only 14 astonishes with his ringing tenor and powerful performance. While this production proved that it is a beautiful fit for opera lovers, I wondered if the younger viewers, beautifully dressed for an afternoon at the opera along with their parents and grandparents, were offered the best vehicle for this children’s story. Commissioned by San Francisco Opera, this family production struggles through its first hour or more, lurching from plot point to plot point, with music that feels cramped and awkwardly stitched together until Gasser's lyricism finally peeps through.

The lush score filled with haunting operetta style ballads and English folk melodies,  The Secret Garden is a beautiful heart-warming musical filled with charm and wholesomeness. Still grieving over the loss of his beloved wife Lily who died ten years earlier during childbirth and distraught over the condition of his bedridden son, Archibald casts a dark shadow over the manor until Mary discovers a secret garden that had once belonged to Lily(Brianna Borger).
Flaster gives the show a rich texture with the movement of the ensemble as they add a ghost-like feel to the tale. Ultimately, Shafer has an irrepressible spirit that embodies the life in the garden itself. A backdrop of austere walls alternates with a garden scene, at first neglected and weedy and then, under Mary’s compassionate touch, taking on hues of green and eventually bursting into bloom. The score (confidently conducted by Sara Jobin) is not yet as magical as the trappings and the full-bodied vocals of some of the principals, with the exceptions of Sly and Harris, posed some aural challenges. Miller, Jon Landvick, Katy Walsh, Kirsten Lendyke, Kristen Barrett, Kristin O’Connell, Light Opera Works, Loren J. Luke in bid to play Billboard Music AwardsKesha’s record label initially approved her awards show appearance, until it discovered she planned to make statement against Dr. By nursing this garden back to life, Mary somehow restores life to her grieving uncle and his sick son. With help from Maggie Portman, as Marta the maid and Steve Peebles’ Dickon, young Sophie Thatcher charms us as she solves the gardens mysteries.
Powerful singing by Nick Foster, William Travis Taylor, Sophie Thatcher and Brianna Borger make The Secret Garden soar into our hearts. Supertitles certainly helped, but I worried for children who may not have been adept at visually flicking from supertitles to stage. Connell, Lucy Simon, Maggie Clennon Reberg, Maggie Portman, Marsha Norman, Matthew Schroeder, Nicholas Foster, Paige Keedy, Patrick Byrnes, Peter Oyloe, Phil Higgins, Rich Foreman, Rob Riddle, Roger L.

Bass-baritone Philippe Sly (as Archibald Craven, Mary's uncle) has an oak-sturdy voice and can put across a love song.
Opera at Zellerbach Hall on the University of California campus in Berkeley on Wednesday, Feb.
The mysterious secret in the garden unfolds as the door to happiness for Mary, Colin (Matthew Schroeder) and Archibald.
The expert staging by Stacey Flaster works  to create just the right tone and atmosphere to create a ghost story. The set showcases the considerable creative talent of Naomie Kremer, who overlays canvas and paint with video to make a beautifully shaded, detailed, ever-shifting, shimmering landscape – aided by Christopher Maravich’s lighting design. Fortunately, the youngsters left with smiles because they were accompanied by adults eager to explain what was going on. Mezzo-soprano Laura Krumm (as Martha Sowerby, Mary's governess), sings with breezy refinement and velvety tone. That effect underlines and reinforces what I think of as a touching and inarguable message of the play: that life pulses even in the darkest of circumstances, just waiting for a touch of awareness to spring it forth into full health. I hope to see her directing at Drury Lane Oakbrook and Marriott Theatre in the near future.

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