Adamo - OPERAS

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Mark Adamo Operas The Gospel of Mary Magdalene | Avow Little Women | Lysistrata | Becoming Santa Claus

‘Adamo’s accompaniments would make a good primer for any young composer learning to write for and around singers. Each strand of the vocal line is punctuated by some perfect short gesture: the orchestral writing is often little more – or nothing less – than a play of light around the voices.’ Alex Ross, The New Yorker

Cover image: J Henry Fair


American composer-librettist Mark Adamo’s latest opera, Becoming Santa Claus, was released on DVD/Blu-Ray in September 2017. It was commissioned and introduced by Dallas Opera in December 2015. The DVD release follows a new production of The Gospel of Mary Magdalene in Boulder, Coloardo, directed by Adamo. His third full-length opera, The Gospel of Mary Magdalene was commissioned and introduced by San Francisco Opera in June 2013 and which itself followed a busy season of opera and chamber premières. Mark Adamo first attracted national attention with the libretto and score to his uniquely successful début opera, Little Women, after the novel by Louisa May Alcott. Introduced by Houston Grand Opera in 1998 and revived there in 2000, Little Women has since enjoyed over 100 national and international engagements in cities ranging from New York to Minneapolis, Toronto, Chicago, San Francisco, Adelaide, Mexico City, Tokyo, and the recent European premiere in Belgium (2009) and Canadian premiere in 2010 in Calgary and Banff. It is one of the most frequently performed North American operas of the last two decades. Telecast by PBS/WNET on Great Performances in 2001 and released on CD by Ondine that same year, in autumn 2010 Naxos released the DVD of Little Women’s 2001 broadcast. Comparable acclaim greeted the premiere of Lysistrata, or the Nude Goddess, adapted from Aristophanes’ comedy but including elements from Sophocles’ Antigone. Lysistrata was commissioned by Houston Grand Opera for its 50th anniversary and premiered in March 2005 with additional performances at New York City Opera in 2006 and Fort Worth Opera in 2012. Adamo’s first concerto, Four Angels: Concerto for Harp and Orchestra, was commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra and introduced in June 2007. It was subsequently performed by Utah Symphony in 2011 and the Thailand International Contemporary Music Festival in July 2016. Naxos released Adamo’s dramatic orchestral song cycle Late Victorians in 2009 on an all-Adamo CD which also features Alcott Music, from Little Women, for strings, harp, celesta, and percussion; Regina Coeli, an arrangement of the slow movement of Four Angels for harp and strings alone; and the four-minute Overture to Lysistrata for medium orchestra, performed by Eclipse Chamber Orchestra.



The Gospel of Mary Magdalene An opera in two acts


The Gospel of Mary Magdalene An opera in two acts (2012) Libretto in English by Mark Adamo. Duration

2 hours 30 minutes


June 2013, San Francisco Opera, CA

Cast & Orchestration 4S, 2Mz, 4T, 3Bar, 3B, SATB Chorus; Reduced Orchestration 2pf, perc

Synopsis Drawing on the Gnostic gospels, the canonical gospels, and fifty years of New Testament scholarship, The Gospel of Mary Magdalene reimagines the New Testament through the eyes of its lone substantial female character. At first, this Mary Magdalene, like so many moderns, searches for meaning and purpose in erotic love alone. But her entanglement with Jesus of Nazareth – as mentor, soulmate, and co-minister – teaches her to distinguish love from possession, even as it teaches him to see the moral dignity of women. Mary’s clashes with Jesus’s disciple Peter (minutely described in the Gnostic Gospels) suggest how the personal politics within Jesus’ movement may have played out in its own place and time. And this opera imagines a version of Mary’s vision at Jesus’s tomb which – had it shaped the Christian story the way Peter’s version of it did – might have left us a radically, radiantly different Western world.

‘ Smooth, melodic, and memorable, this piece jells into a perfect start in life for a young couple. Best of all, it’s beautiful music to hear at any time.’ Maria Nockin, Operawire

Gospel of Mary Magdalene (J Henry Fair)

‘ Adamo’s musical creation is lushly beautiful, suffused with ripe tonal harmonies and urgent, arching melodies that lodge immediately in the listener’s memory. From scene to scene and moment to moment, The Gospel of Mary Magdalene sweeps the listener along on a stream of evocative music. [Adamo’s] vocal writing is both urgent and shapely.’ Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle

Avow A chamber opera


‘ Avow, by composer and librettist Mark Adamo, was uproariously funny and packed an impressive amount of drama into a quarter of an hour.’ Edward Brown, Fort Worth Weekly

‘ Smooth, melodic, and memorable, this piece jells into a perfect start in life for a young couple. Best of all, it’s beautiful music to hear at any time.’ Maria Nockin, Operawire


(1999) Libretto in English by Mark Adamo. Duration

12 minutes

Premiere October 1, 2010, Remarkable Theatre Brigade, Brooklyn, NY Cast & Orchestration S, Mz, T, B-bar, B; 1.1(ca).1.1(cbn)/ timp.2perc/pf(cel).hp/str( Reduced Orchestration pf

Composer’s Note It was Jonathan Sheffer’s idea in 1999 to recreate the Spoleto Festival’s famous 1959 evening of one-act operas that had introduced, among scores by Hindemith, Foss and others, Samuel Barber’s comedy of domestic discontent A Hand of Bridge, to a libretto by Gian Carlo Menotti – and he graciously asked me to write a new work to end the evening. I came up with the idea of the emotions experienced on a wedding morning by an ambivalent bride, her avid mother, the haunted groom, the glib, daft celebrant, and, the ghost of the groom’s father; and, in a gesture to history, I made the groom’s father David, that large-hearted husband caught in a too-small life whom Barber scored as a baritone in A Hand of Bridge but reappears as a bass-baritone in my score. Avow is scored for soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, baritone, bass-baritone, and either piano or chamber orchestra, and is dedicated with respect and gratitude to Jonathan Sheffer: it was introduced by Eos Orchestra in New York in May 1999. Mark Adamo

Avow A chamber opera

Avow A chamber opera


Little Women (Joe McNally)


(1998) Libretto in English by Mark Adamo. Additional text by Louisa May Alcott, John Bunyon and Goethe.


2 hours


March 13, 1998, Houston Opera Studio, TX

Cast & Orchestration 2S, S[=Mz], 3Mz, T, Bar, 2B-Bar; 1(pic,afl).1(ca). 1(bcl).1(cbn)/,syn)/ str(min

Composer’s Note The conflict of Little Women is Jo versus the passage of time. Realize this about Jo: alone among adolescent protagonists in classic American fiction (Tom Sawyer, Holden Caulfield, Portnoy), she’s happy where she is. Adored by her family, she adores them in turn... Jo knows adulthood will only graduate her from her perfect home. She fights her own and her sisters’ growth because she knows deep down that growing up means growing apart... Mark Adamo

‘ A beautifully crafted work: shows remarkable confidence, [Adamo] does a brilliant job of molding Alcott’s tale into operatic form. [He] is a spirited, fast-witted composer.’ John Rockwell, The New York Times

Little Women An opera in two acts

Little Women An opera in two acts

Lysistrata, or The Nude Goddess An opera in two acts


Lysistrata, or The Nude Goddess An opera in two acts (2005) Libretto in English by Mark Adamo. Based on the play by Aristophanes.


2 hours 15 minutes


March 4, 2005, Houston Grand Opera, TX

Cast & Orchestration Principal cast of 17 to play 24 characters: 4S, 3Mz, 2C, 4T, Bar, Bar[=B-Bar], 2B-Bar; 1(pic).0.1. asx(barsx).1/1100/timp.2perc/hp/str (

Synopsis Time: the present. Place: ancient Greece. The Peloponnesian Wars are raging. Women won’t make love until the men make peace. But the men won’t give up until the women give in. Which is stronger: the desire for power or the power of desire?

‘ A writer of imagination and intelligence... In this expansion (of Aristophanes’s comedy), we are given an opera more about amorous tactics than about universal tranquility... We should be grateful that Lysistrata made it onstage.’ Bernard Holland, The New York Times

Lysistrata (Brett Coomer)

For more information about Mark Adamo, please contact: Peggy Monastra E: T: 212-254-2100 Marcos Cuevas E: T: 212-254-2100

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