HOWARDS END, AMERICA
Composed by Allen Shearer on a libretto by Claudia Stevens
This riveting story of betrayal, race and real estate transports E. M. Forster’s Howards End from Edwardian England to 1950’s Boston. With powerful imagery and ravishing music, the opera evokes the atmosphere of an earlier time in America, but a time as divided over race and class as it is today. Audiences will meet two sisters: the kind but cautious Margaret and the younger Helen, an impulsive social activist with camera in hand. What damage will they cause, and what romantic entanglements will befall them, when they set out to become the patrons of gifted black poet Leonard?
The opera’s premiere in February made headlines! See reviews below.
HOWARDS END, AMERICA features a cast of seven of the novel’s main characters. In its premiere production they were portrayed by opera luminaries accompanied by a chamber orchestra–Earplay Ensemble and guests–under Earplay’s conductor Mary Chun. Philip Lowery directed. This first-ever opera on the great Forster novel was a highlight of Earplay’s 2018-2019 season. Cast included Nikki Einfeld as Margaret Schlegel, Sara Duchovnay as Helen Schlegel, Philip Skinner as Henry Wilcox, Michael Dailey as Leonard Bast, Candace Johnson as Jacky Bast, Erin Neff as Ruth Wilcox, and Daniel Cilli as Charles Wilcox.
Garden party, Act III. Production photos by Jeremy Knight
Acclaim for the San Francisco premiere of Howards End, America
“Elegant, thoughtful and persuasive – that is “Howards End, America,” Allen Shearer and Claudia Stevens’ new chamber opera, which just premiered in San Francisco’s Z Space . . . each aspect of the story plumbed its dramatic depth. Action and character moved the whole together . . . Shearer’s score had everything. Sometimes it seemed like a tap dance, counterpointing the eloquent lyrics Stevens created. Intimate and powerful . . . with never a false note. We need more opera at this level that is provocative as well as satisfying.” – Lois Silverstein. Read the full review here
San Francisco Examiner, Feb. 23, 2019
“Operatic ‘Howards End, America’ a refreshing stateside spin on a classic story (headline). . the chamber opera is a fresh, resonant , gripping America take on the classic English novel. ” – James Ambroff-Tahan Read the whole review here.
“As opera it is strong, warranting much more exposure . . Shearer has created a compelling and very lyrical three-act work with strong dramatic statements and turns . . stirring arias . . sublime moments” – Paul Hertelendy Read the review here
Classical Voice, Feb. 25, 2019 : Howards End, America, a Compelling New Chamber Opera for Modern Times. “An exciting evening of music . . This one was worth seeing!”- Elsa Tranter
Berkeley Times, March 7, 2019: A triumph of modern opera, Howards End, America . “Berkeley composer Allen Shearer and pianist and librettist Claudia Stevens had a significant triumph in the premiere of their newest opera, Howards End, America.” –Adam Broner