John Adams wrote his 2006 opera for, he says, "a time of global awareness." The composer drew inspiration from Mozart's Magic Flute and ancient Indian folk-tales; the libretto, co-written by Adams and director Peter Sellars, is in English and Spanish. The New Yorker calls the work "opulent, dreamlike, fiercely lyrical"; the Los Angeles Times calls this "a terrific recording."
Click HERE to open and download a PDF (7 MB) of the full-color booklet for A Flowering Tree, with photos from the production, notes by pianist Sarah Cahill, the complete libretto by the composer and director Peter Sellars, and recording credits.
“The score is opulent, dreamlike, fiercely lyrical, at times shadowy and strange—unlike anything that the composer has written …” —The New Yorker
Nonesuch released A Flowering Tree, the latest opera by Pulitzer Prize–winning composer John Adams, on September 23, 2008. The opera was commissioned for the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth and was premiered at the New Crowned Hope Festival in Vienna in November 2006. The composer leads the London Symphony Orchestra and Venezuela’s Schola Cantorum Caracas, directed by Maria Guinand, on this recording—which features tenor Russell Thomas, soprano Jessica Rivera, and bass-baritone Eric Owens.
Adams and his longtime collaborator, co-librettist/director Peter Sellars, adapted an Indian folktale to create A Flowering Tree. The opera shares with Mozart’s The Magic Flute the themes of youth, magic, transformation, and the dawning of moral awareness. The work was commissioned by New Crowned Hope, San Francisco Symphony, Barbican Centre, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and the Berliner Philharmoniker.
A Flowering Tree tells the story of an impoverished young Indian girl, Kumudha, who has the magical ability to transform herself into a tree and sells her blossoms at the palace to help her ailing mother. The Prince falls in love with her, and they marry but are torn apart by his jealous sister. After Kumudha is cast out into a netherworld as half woman, half tree, and the Prince becomes a wandering beggar, they meet again years later at the prince’s sister’s palace. No longer physically recognizable, Kumudha reunites with her prince through her beautiful singing voice.
Critics have praised A Flowering Tree since its debut. The New York Times said, “Mr. Adams really goes for it. His score is alive with innocence and magic, which buzz in the violins, chime softly from the bells and blow in little windy phrases on recorders at the moment of enchantment.” The Chicago Tribune said, “The score is alive with pulsing strings, glinting metallic percussion and his trademark jumpy rhythmic patter … a compelling achievement.” And the Los Angeles Times called this "a terrific recording."
The fall of 2008 was busy for John Adams. His memoir, Hallelujah Junction: Composing an American Life—which details his youth, education, and emergence as one of the leading artists of our time—was released by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in October. That same month, his acclaimed opera Doctor Atomic made its New York premiere in a new production at the Metropolitan Opera—marking the first time the composer’s work will be presented at the esteemed opera house.
Produced and edited by Martin Sauer
Sound engineer and mixing: Tobias Lehmann
Assistant engineer recording: Ansgar Wempe
Assistant engineer editing and mixing, mastering engineer: René Möller
Recording facilities: Teldex Studio Berlin
Recorded at the Barbican Centre, London, August 7-12, 2007
This recording was made possible by support from The Aaron Copland Fund for Music Recording Program.
Original sound design by Mark Grey
Original Javanese dance by Eko Supriyanto, Astri Kusama and Rusini Sidi
Libretto by John Adams and Peter Sellars, adapted from the Indian folktale and poetry in translations by A.K. Ramanujan
Music by John Adams, published by Boosey & Hawkes
Design by John Heiden and Nick Steinhardt, Smog Design, Inc.
Photography by Ruth Walz and John Adams
Cover image courtesy of Roli Books (New Delhi, India), from their book Erotic Literature of Ancient India by Sandhya Mulchandani
Executive Producer: Robert Hurwitz
Jessica Rivera, soprano
Russell Thomas, tenor
Eric Owens, bass-baritone
London Symphony Orchestra
John Adams, conductor
Violin I: Stephanie Gomley, leader; Lennox Mackenzie, Helena Wood, Nigel Broadbent, Ginette Decuyper, Michael Humphrey, Claire Parfitt, Harriet Rayfield, Colin Renwick, Nicole Wilson
Violin II: Evgeny Grach, Sarah Quinn, Miya Ichinose, Norman Clarke, Matthew Gardner, Belinda McFarlane, Andrew Pollock, Hazel Mulligan
Viola: Gillianne Haddow, Malcolm Johnston, Maxine Moore, Peter Norriss, Jonathan Welch, Natasha Wright
Cello: Alexander Somov, Jennifer Brown, Mary Bergin, Noel Bradshaw, Hilary Jones, Francis Saunders
Double Bass: Colin Paris, Patrick Laurence, Michael Francis, Matthew Gibson, Gerald Newson
Flute: Andrew Nicholson, Martin Parry
Piccolo: Sharon Williams
Oboe: Gareth Hulse, Kate Clemmow
Cor Anglais: Christine Pendrill
Clarinet: Fiona Cross, Sarah Thurlow
Bass Clarinet: John Stenhouse
Bassoon: Robert Bourton, Joost Bosdijk
Contrabassoon: Dominic Morgan
Horn: Tim Jones, John Ryan, Angela Barnes, Jonathan Lipton, Nic Branston
Trumpet: Christopher Deacon, Gerald Ruddock
Trombone: Dudley Bright, James Maynard, Andrew Waddicor
Timpani: Dominic Hackett
Percussion: Neil Percy, David Jackson, Chris Thomas, Scott Bywater
Harp: Karen Vaughan
Celesta: John Alley
Soprano & Alto Recorder: Marion Scott, Ben Norbury
Schola Cantorum de Venezuela
Alberto Grau, founding conductor
Artistic Directors: María Guinand and Ana María Raga
Assistant Directors: Luimar Arismendi, Pablo Morales, and Víctor González
Vocal Coaches: Elizabeth Maldonado and Verónica Sosa
Sopranos: Adriana González, Ana María Raga, Darlene Balza, Flavia Ranzolin, Flor Yánez, Genitte Peña, Iris Pagano,
Isabel Hernández, Marita Montero, Rima Ibrahim, Rosalba Alvarez, Ruth Rojas, Samia Ibrahim, Verónica Sosa, Yolanda Gómez
Altos: Carla Aular, Elizabeth Maldonado, Flor Martínez, Gioconda Cabrera, Luimar Arismendi, Magda Albarracín, Marina Esayag, Sonia González de Páez, Virginia Largo, Yulene Velásquez
Tenors: Daniel González, Jesús Hidalgo, John Martínez, José E. Castillo, José Russo, Juan de Sousa, Luis G. Cabrera, Miguel Castro, Otto Prieto, Pedro Sequera, Reinaldo Justo, Reynaldo Márquez, Said Barrios
Basses / Baritones: Alejandro Figueroa, Andrés Ferrer, Carlos Rojas, Edwing Tenías, Javier Silva, José G. Manrique, Martín Camacho, Pablo Morales, Roberto Medina, Samuel Dávila, Vìctor Gonzále