In the Wings

Backstage glimpses with Boston Lyric Opera

TOMORROW: James MacMillan at Brandeis - FREE for the Public

Feb 4, 2013 3:52:00 PM
By BLO Staff

James MacMillan at Brandeis University
Tuesday, February 5, 3:30pm
Slosberg Music Center
Brandeis University
415 South Street, Waltham, MA 02453. 
This event is free and open to the public!  

 “The story of Clemency comes from a strange
episode in Genesis that many people have puzzled over for years. What is the
significance of it? What is the meaning of it?”
– James

Tuesday, February 5, Brandeis University will host a discussion exploring  the significance of Clemency’s story.  Dr. Jonathan P. Decter, Edmond J. Safra
Professor of Sephardic Studies at Brandeis University,  currently teaches a course Introduction to
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
at the university.  Dr. Decter will open his class to the public
for a special discussion of the significance the story of Abraham and Sarah holds
for these three faiths. He will be joined by Clemency composer  James MacMillan, who often  finds inspiration from spiritual sources.    Clemency
 is no exception.   MacMillan will speak about how these figures
inspired an opera.   BLO’s Opera Annex production will be the US
premier of Clemency
BLO’s critically-acclaimed Opera Annex
continues with the US premiere of James MacMillan’s Clemency. The
libretto, by poet Michael Symmons Roberts, is drawn from the book of Genesis.
Abraham and Sarah are childless and nearing the end of their lives. They are
approached by three travelers who share the unexpected and miraculous news that
Sarah will have a child in old age. The mood darkens as it becomes clear that
the travelers are on a mission of vengeance upon the neighboring towns, and
Abraham pleads clemency for their inhabitants. 
Falling before the moment when Abraham takes his son Isaac up the
mountain to be sacrificed and after he has banished his handmaid Hagar and his
son by her, Ishmael, the story of Abraham’s encounter with the three travelers
makes a crucial and oft-puzzled over change in him.
its US premier at the Artists for Humanity EpiCenter beginning February 6,
Clemency will be preceded by a performance of Franz
Schubert’s Hagar’s
. The song, its lyrics drawn from a moving poem by Clemens
August Schücking, centers on Hagar—mother of Abraham’s firstborn child—who
poignantly sings of her sadness and anger after being abandoned in the desert
with her dying son. The pairing of the
two works allows the audience to compare not only the musical styles of
MacMillan (a living composer) and Schubert, but also draws attention to the
histories of Ishmael and Isaac, the fall of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Abraham’s
personal struggle with clemency.
For a
synopsis of BLO’s Opera Annex production of Clemency , including Hagar’s
, visit

Topics: brandeis university, Clemency, James MacMillan

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