In November 1805, a young man named Marcus Lyon was brutally murdered on the turnpike in Wilbraham, Mass., near Springfield. Two Irish Catholic laborers, Dominic Daley and James Halligan, were seen near the vicinity of the crime and apprehended. The case became a huge sensation. The men were given a hasty trial and executed in Northampton in June 1806, before a crowd of 20,000 cheering spectators. Subsequent research has borne out a miscarriage of justice: the men were likely innocent, victims of prejudice and a rush to judgment. Daley and Halligan are now known as the “Irish Sacco and Vanzetti.” They were officially pardoned by Gov. Michael Dukakis in 1984.
Inspired by this true story that still resonates today, "The Garden of Martyrs" is the creation of composer Eric Sawyer and librettist Harley Erdman, based on the novel by Michael C. White. This powerful new opera that will make its world premiere on Sept. 20 (at 7:30 p.m.) and 22 (at 3 p.m.) at Northampton’s historic Academy of Music. It features the Springfield Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Maestro Kevin Rhodes, as well as current Amherst students and recent graduates singing in a chorus with Mallorie Chernin as chorus master.
Tickets cost between $10 and $50 and are available through the Academy of Music and the opera homepage:
The Academy of Music is located at 274 Main Street in Northampton, Mass.