Libretto by Rose Ann Abrahamson

Music by Hovia Edwards and Justin Ralls

Saturday, May 13 | 7:30 p.m.

Sunday, May 14 | 2 p.m.

The Gregory K. and Mary Chomenko Hinckley Studio Theatre
Hampton Opera Center 

Sung in Aqai-Dika/Lemhi-Shoshone, Québécois French, English, and also including Native American Sign Language (with English supertitles).

On May 13-14, 2023 OTO will premiere a 35-minute scene of Nu Nah-Hup: Sacajawea’s Story. This new work in development reimagines the story of Sacajawea, the extraordinary Lemhi-Shoshone woman who was a crucial member of the historic 1804-1806 Lewis and Clark Expedition, from her Aqai-Dika, Indigenous perspective. 

The scene will be presented alongside excerpts of music, soundscapes, and presentations of traditional Agai-Dika/Lemhi-Shoshone music, language, and culture by Rose Ann Abrahamson and also features Native American Flutist and composer Hovia Edwards with chamber orchestra. Our presented scene is based on an incident of domestic violence recorded in the original expedition journals on August 14, 1805.*

*Content Warning: This production includes depictions of domestic violence. Audience discretion is advised.

We are thrilled to announce an internationally renowned cast to realize this work including Kwagiulth and Stó:lō First Nations mezzo-soprano, Marion Newman premiering the role of Sacajawea. Joining her are baritones, Richard Zeller, who will portray Toussaint Charbonneau, and Dan Gibbs as Captain William Clark.

We are honored our production will feature originally commissioned traditional deer dress, leggings, moccasins and traditional Agai-Dika cradleboard crafted by Rose Ann Abrahamson and her sister, Rozina George as well as a reproduction of Sacajawea’s historic blue bead belt, crafted by Leela Abrahamson, Rose Ann’s daughter. Rose Ann’s daughter, Dustina Abrahamson, will also design traditional hair and makeup for Marion Newman’s portrayal of their ancestor, Sacajawea.

Leela Abrahamson, designer of Sacajawea’s blue bead belt. Pictured here in traditional Shoshone regalia. (Photo courtesy of Rose Ann Abrahamson)

“We are telling Sacajawea’s story, her story, from an Aqai- Dika perspective from her female familial descendants and people, a woman’s story from women.  This story will share tradition, history and culture of Sacajawea from the viewpoint and oral history of the women of her people.  The songs will express these aspects, and most importantly her language will be preserved through operatic songs.” 

~Rose Ann Abrahamson, descendent of Sacajawea and Aqai-Dika culture bearer 

Rose Ann Abrahamson and Justin Ralls at the Sacajawea Education, Interpretive and Cultural Center in Salmon, Idaho – the ancestral homeland of the Aqai-Dika people. August, 2021. (Photo Credit: Anne Polyakov)

We are incredibly fortunate to be collaborating and guided by Rose Ann Abrahamson, great-great-grandniece of Sacajawea, through Chief Cameahwait (brother of Sacajawea), and great-great granddaughter of Chief Tendoy (son of Chief Cameahwait). Rose Ann is an educator, storyteller, culture bearer, historian, and respected tribal stateswoman of the Aqai-Dika (“Salmon Eaters”) Lemhi-Shoshone Nation and an enrolled member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe, located in Fort Hall, Idaho. We are also thrilled to collaborate with Shoshone-Bannock composer, singer, and flutist Hovia Edwards.

Hovia and Justin in Pocatello, Idaho. December, 2021. (Photo Credit: Anne Polyakov)

A crucial aspect of this opera project is our efforts to preserve Agai-Dika/Lemhi-Shoshone language and oral histories. This exciting project designed by Rose Ann Abrahamson, linguist Jennifer Mitchell from the The Shoshoni Language Project at the University of Utah, and Artistic Director, Justin Ralls will help document and preserve the endangered Agai-Dika dialect and language. The team is honored to have recently received the 2022 Native Voices Endowment Award from the Endangered Language Fund at Yale University, as well as a 2022 Grants for Arts Projects Award from the National Endowment for the Arts.


CAST

SACAJAWEA

A critically acclaimed mezzo-soprano of Kwagiulth and Stó:lō First Nations with English, Irish and Scottish heritage, Marion Newman was born in Bella Coola and grew up in Sooke, BC. She is one of Canada’s most accomplished singers in repertoire from Vivaldi to Vivier. As Carmen, the Irish Examiner noted “she sparked an electricity which totally engrossed the audience with her superbly sinuous sexuality… Prudes may raise their eyebrows at the sensuality of this Carmen; theatre goers will clamour for more.”. Nominated for a Dora Award for her leading role in the world premiere of Shanawdithit (Nolan/Burry) with Toronto’s Tapestry Opera, Ian Ritchie wrote “she invests her character with towering dignity and courage”.

Marion portrayed Dr. Wilson in the premiere of Missing (Clements/Current) with Vancouver City Opera/Pacific Opera Victoria, which gives voice, in English and Gitxsan, to the story of Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women. In 2023, Marion debuts with Anchorage Opera in their production of Missing.

Highlights for the 2022/23 season include Cantaloube’s Chants d’Auvergne with Vancouver Island Symphony, Messiah with Vancouver Bach Choir, Bruckner’s Te Deum and the world premiere of Stephanie Martin’s Water, with Grand Philharmonic Choir and Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony.

Recent guest appearances include Mozart’s Requiem, a digital co-production with Canadian Opera Company and Against the Grain Theatre, The Echoes Project with Gryphon Trio, and Five Songs on Poems of Marilyn Dumont (Cusson) with the New Orford String Quartet, for Cecilia Concerts in Halifax.

Marion has sung many works that speak to her First Nations identity, including a Canada-wide tour of Ancestral Voices (Tovey) with the Vancouver Symphony and Nuyamł-ił Kulhulmx – Singing the Earth (Höstman/Robinson) with the Victoria and Vancouver Symphonies and Continuum Concerts in Toronto.

Marion created the role of Dawn with Welsh National Opera in the July 2022 world premiere of Migrations, with stories by five writers based on their personal experiences of migrations and working with refugees. Also with Welsh National Opera, Marion stars in the premiere of The Shoemaker, a fusion of Latin American, Persian and Western classical musical influences, and performs in Migrations UK tour.

In addition to her extensive performing career, Marion is a Co-Founder of Amplified Opera and the host of CBC’s Saturday Afternoon at the Opera.

TOUSSAINT CHARBONNEAU

American baritone Richard Zeller has consistently received high acclaim. For his portrayal of Scarpia, the Calgary Herald wrote “His performance was entirely authentic and wholly dominating” and commended his “flawless vocal mastery.” A frequent performer on concert stages, Oregon Music News praised him as “a commanding presence housing a brilliant vocal instrument.”

Since making his Metropolitan Opera debut, he has appeared with the Met in such roles as Marcello in La bohème, Ernesto in Il pirata, Eddie in A View from the Bridge, Coroebus in Les Troyens, and Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor. His other opera appearances include Germont in La traviata with Scottish Opera, Hamburgische Staatsoper, Deutsche Opera am Rhein, Portland Opera, and San Diego Opera; productions of Boris Godunov and Andrea Chénier with the Lyric Opera of Chicago; Athanaël in Thaïs with English National Opera at the Barbican in London; and in the title role in Verdi’s Macbeth with Opera de Bordeaux, Opera de Vichy, and Portland Opera.

Concert appearances include the title role in Mendelssohn’s Elijah with the Chicago Symphony and Cleveland Orchestra; Les Troyens with the Boston Symphony; Handel’s Messiah with the Philadelphia Orchestra; Carmina Burana with the Buffalo Philharmonic and Huntsville Symphony; and appearances with the symphony orchestras of Baltimore, Cincinnati, Dallas, Detroit, Minnesota, San Francisco, Seattle, and St. Louis.Richard Zeller’s recordings include the critically acclaimed Merry Mount by Howard Hanson and Deems Taylor’s Peter Ibbettson, both with Naxos, and the world premiere of Henri Lazarof’s Fifth Symphony on Centaur Records, all recorded with Gerard Schwartz and the Seattle Symphony Orchestra.

WILLIAM CLARK

Dan Gibbs, baritone, is an emerging young artist and private voice, guitar, and piano instructor in Portland, OR.  He earned his B.A. in Music; with an emphasis in Vocal Performance from Southern Oregon University, under the direction of Dr. Paul French.  As a resident of the Portland Metro Area, Dan’s credits include: studio recording and live performance as a member and troupe baritone of the arts ensemble “Cult of Orpheus”, led by director and composer Christopher Corbell (2018/2019); as a featured baritone soloist performing Ralph Vaughn Williams’ “5 Mystical Songs” and “Dona Nobis Pacem” with the Oregon Chorale and the Beaverton Symphony Orchestra (2019); as Vodnik in LAH-SOW’s PDX concert performance of Antonín Dvořák’s “Rusalka” (2019), as Papageno in W.A. Mozart’s The Magic Flute (2020), and as Wotan in Richard Wagner’s “Das Rheingold”.  In October, 2021, he sang as a chorister in Portland Opera’s production of Giacomo Puccini’s “Tosca”; as chorus in George Bizet’s “Carmen” (2022); and will debut as The Hunter in Portland Opera’s production of Antonin Dvoråk’s “Rusalka” this Spring.  Dan currently spends his time teaching privately from his studio, as a freelance performer, section leader and cantor at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, and as a member of the Portland Opera chorus.”

More members of Creative Team to be announced soon!


CREATIVE TEAM

Rose Ann Abrahamson – Creative Lead, Librettist, Aqai-Dika Culture and Language Consultant

Rose Ann Abrahamson is a recognized authority on the Lemhi Shoshone Cultural History and Language, Governor appointed member of the Idaho Lewis & Clark Bicentennial Committee, and President of Sacajawea Interpretive & Cultural Institute. She served as the Cultural Program Coordinator for tribal gatherings and events for the 2002 Olympics and has served as an educational, historical, and cultural speaker at regional and national events, including: Mistress of Ceremonies for the National Academic Decathlon, April 2004, January 2003 – December 2004 – Lectured at the Smithsonian, St. Louis, Missouri, Sioux City, Iowa, Buffalo Bill Museum, Montana State University, Eastern Washington State University Outstanding Teachers of America, 2002. In 2002 she received the Outstanding Teachers of America Award as well as the Outstanding Young Women in America, 1989. She was instrumental in the creation of the Sacajawea Interpretive, Cultural and Educational Center in her ancestral homeland in the Salmon and Lemhi River Valleys of Idaho. She has served as a consultant on numerous films, documentaries, and projects including the U.S. Mint design of the Sacagawea Golden dollar, issued from 2000-2008. In 2001 she met President Bill Clinton at the White House to accept Sacajawea’s posthumous Honorary Sergeant designation in the Corps of Discovery. Recent collaborations include consulting on the Confluence Project mural of Sacajawea at the Vancouver School for the Arts in Vancouver, WA.

Hovia Edwards – Composer, Shoshone Music, Language and Cultural Consultant

Hovia Edwards (pronounced hoo-vee-ya) of Shoshone-Navajo-Okanogan heritage is a flutist, composer, and cultural leader.  At  only 14 she recorded her first album in January of 1998, Morning Star, “Hovia performs original & traditional melodies in a style that is youthful yet with a surprising maturity for an artist so young” (Canyon Records).  Her father, Herman Edwards is a performer & flute maker & encouraged her from early childhood to master the flute.  Hovia is a second generation flutist & has grown up performing around the world & soloist at the Scottsdale Center for the Art in Arizona. Hovia has contributed to  numerous projects as a performer and composer, including collaborations with recording artist Robert Tree Cody and Academy-Award winning actor and film producer, Wes Studi.  She currently serves as Event Coordinator for the Language and Culture Department of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe.

…….

Justin Ralls – Composer, Producer

Justin Ralls, award-winning composer and conductor hails from the Pacific Northwest. His music has been presented at the Hydansaal in Eisenstadt, Austria, the Lucca International Youth Orchestra Festival in Albano Terme, Italy, Oregon Bach Festival, Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival, Britt Festival at Crater Lake National Park, the Newman Scoring Stage in Los Angeles, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland and more. Ralls’ work has been described as “a beautifully textured, lush evocation of John Muir’s Yosemite that was full of color and light” (Daily Gazette, NY), “a gifted melodist…”(Artslandia), and “a whirlwind of thick orchestral textures…definitely establishing his own voice…” (SF Examiner). Composer John Adams spoke of Tree Ride as “impressive…showing a mastery of orchestral technique.” Ralls’ works have been performed by a variety of soloists and ensembles including Eugene Opera, Albany Symphony (NY), San Francisco Conservatory Orchestra,  Third Angle Ensemble, Roomful of Teeth. In 2017 Opera Theater Oregon produced the world premiere of Ralls’ chamber opera, Two Yosemites: An Environmental Opera, setting the 1903 meeting of John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt, featuring tenor Aaron Short and baritone Nicholas Meyer – “Ralls took this thematic coloring to the next level, in the finest operatic tradition” (Oregon Arts Watch). Ralls’ education includes degrees from The Boston Conservatory, the San Francisco Conservatory, and his Ph.D. in Music Composition from the University of Oregon including research in “Nature, New Media, and Indigenous Thought.” Ralls has volunteered for the Siuslaw Institute, assisting in a cultural exchange between the Siletz Tribe of Oregon and Itelmen Tribe of Kamchatka, Russia; as well as environmental non-profit, Pacific Environment’s cultural exchange of Russian environmental leaders and U.S. environmental groups including Indigenous leaders of the Shor Tribe of Kemerovo-Oblast, Russia. Ralls enjoys reading in the outdoors, and spending time with his wife, cat, dog, and four chickens. 

Katherine Goforth – Dramaturge

American vocalist Katherine Goforth shares her “noble, colorful and iridescent vocal sound” (Magazin Klassik) in strong and heartfelt performances. “Goforth, with [her] virile voice, does not hold back,” (The New York Times) offering vivid character portraits sung with the utmost commitment and finesse. Winner of the 2019 Oregon District Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions and the 2019 National Association of Teachers of Singing Artist Awards regional competition, she is a distinctive vocalist, representing the best of next generation operatic talent. 

A transgender woman, Goforth excels in a wide-range of roles across the gender spectrum. She is a proud representative of LGBTQ community and advocates for the inclusion of all voices in the performing arts. A member of the International Opera Studio of Oper Köln for the 2018/19 season, Katherine sang Il Conte di Bandiera in Salieri’s La Scuola dei Gelosi in the Kammeroper, Tamino in Die Zauberflöte für Kinder and 3rd Jew in Salome on the main stage. Of these performances, The German Stage noted that Katherine was “stunningly charming,” the General-Anzeiger wrote that her “tenor projects clearly… (and her) pianopassages reveal lyric qualities as well,” and Opern Magazin stated that she “rose to the highest form.”

Other recently acclaimed roles include performances with the Aquilon Festival as Tamino in Die Zauberflöte, Don Basilio in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, and Le Musicien in Lully’s La chûte de Phaëton. She has also appeared as a soloist with the Oregon and Seattle Symphonies, Opera Theater Oregon, the Portland Chamber Orchestra, in live radio broadcast on All Classical Portland, and in concert with Pink Martini. Goforth sang in the World Premiere of Matthew Aucoin’s celebrated new opera Crossing, as part of a small ensemble cast directed by Diane Paulus, with performances at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and American Repertory Theatre.

A graduate of the Juilliard School and St. Olaf College, Goforth also participated in master courses at Franz Schubert Institut, Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme, Heidelberger Frühling Liedakademie, Georg Solti Accademia, and masterclasses sponsored by the Richard Tucker Foundation. She is an Instructor of Voice at Clark College, has taught at the Aquilon Music Festival, and formerly served on the board of Opera Theater Oregon where she was actively involved in producing new operatic work.


Please consider supporting this exciting project today! Contributions and artist sponsorships are tax-deductible!

PROJECT SPONSORS, THANK YOU!

Ronni Lacroute

Marilyn Crilley and George Rowbottom