A first rehearsal with Adams and Sellars

On Monday the SF Symphony Chorus had their first rehearsal with John Adams and Peter Sellars for A Flowering Tree. The opera, which received its premiere at the New Crowned Hope festival, is adapted from a Kannda folktale. The libretto is an amalgamation of the folktale text, Tamil love poems, and Virasaiva religious poems. Our rehearsals to this point have been somewhat routine — learning the notes, getting a handle on the tricky rhythms and meter changes, and using little tricks to help ourselves be heard over the orchestra.

Monday’s rehearsals catapulted us into the world of characterization and theater. Our performance will be “semi-staged,” from what I understand, and I saw bits of scenery backstage before the rehearsal. Turning a massive chorus into a dramatic agent is no small task, and Sellars was as clear and effective as any director I have seen. He knew at what level he had to talk to the chorus to get the effect he wanted, and we the change in effect from the first readthrough to the second (after some direction) was huge. Adams will be conducting us, and he is likewise clear and direct in his requests and his conducting. It’s a real treat working on a piece like this, and after Monday’s rehearsal I am certain that the audience will be wowed. Although I do have to say that next week will put my voice through the wringer, so I better stock up this weekend on lemon juice, honey, and ginger…

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Concert Announcement : A Flowering Tree

Sometime if I have time I’ll write about our first rehearsal with Adams and Sellars. I have also written a small note on some of the religious poetry used in the libretto.

A Flowering Tree


by John Adams
libretto by John Adams and Peter Sellars

John Adams, conductor
Peter Sellars, director
Jessica Rivera, soprano
Russell Thomas, tenor
Eric Owens, bass
SFS Chorus, chorus

America’s foremost living composer, John Adams, imagines rich and beautiful worlds. This SFS co-commission, inspired by The Magic Flute, is an escape into dream and myth and comes on the heels of Adams’s opera Doctor Atomic. Peter Sellars returns to direct this semi-staged production. The premiere of any new Adams work is an event not to be missed.

Thursday 3/1 — Saturday 3/3, 7:30 PM