Center for Community Engagement

New opera on Pioneer Valley's infamous Daley & Halligan case

A unique glimpse of a defining moment in Massachusetts history will be offered in two free workshop performances of the second act of The Garden of Martyrs, a new opera on the 19th century case of Irish immigrants executed in Northampton for a murder they likely did not commit.  The first performance will take place on Sunday, June 12 at 5:00 p.m. in Buckley Recital Hall at Amherst College. The program will be repeated Friday, June 17 at 7:00 p.m. in Robyn Newhouse Hall at the Community Music School of Springfield. The semi-staged performances will be conducted by Kevin Rhodes, whose work extends from the major opera houses of Europe to dynamic leadership as Music Director of the Springfield Symphony. The performance will be followed by a conversation with Maestro Rhodes, librettist Harley Erdman and composer Eric Sawyer.

Based on Michael C. White’s novel, the opera views the 1806 case of Dominic Daley and James Halligan through the eyes of the French refugee priest of Boston, Father Jean Cheverus, whose own haunted past led him to come to their aid.  The opera’s first act was recently presented at Amherst College, with a complete premiere slated for 2013.

Sawyer, a music professor at Amherst College; and Erdman, a theater professor at UMass Amherst, have each seen recent area performances of original operas, Sawyer as composer of Our American Cousin and Erdman as librettist of The Captivation of Eunice Williams.  This is their first collaboration.

Stage director Vernon Hartman has appeared in dozens of roles as baritone at the Metropolitan Opera, and has overseen opera productions nationally and internationally.  Tenor William Hite has sung with the Boston Symphony, the Dresdner Philharmonie, and the American Symphony Orchestra, and his discography includes over 35 recordings.  Soprano Amy Johnson has been featured in principal roles with companies across America, including New York City Opera and Glimmerglass Opera.   Tenor Alan Schneider, baritone John Salvi, and mezzo-soprano Marjorie Melnick are heard nationally and internationally through their performances and recordings.

Daley and Halligan were exonerated in 1984 by a proclamation of Governor Michael Dukakis.  A commemoration of the bicentennial of their execution took place in Northampton in 2006.

Sunday, June 12
5:00 p.m.
Buckley Recital Hall
Amherst College

Friday, June 17
7:00 p.m.
Robyn Newhouse Hall
Community Music School of Springfield