What critics are saying about Margaret Garner

“Saturday's world premiere of the work by Nobel laureate Toni Morrison and the gifted American composer Richard Danielpour was nothing short of revelatory. ...it was a sweeping panorama of a mother’s love, seen through the veil of slavery during our country's most shameful time. The two-act opera was by turns heart-rending, poignant and gut wrenching to watch. The audience interrupted with applause, bravos...and roaring ovations at its conclusion. It was a first taste of Danielpour’s sophisticated palette that ranged from serene orchestral interludes to joyous gospel choruses, Bernstein-esque jazz and free-flowing waltzes. ...Seamlessly joined to the music were Morrison’s powerful, eloquent words, in what may be the most exquisitely crafted libretto of our time. As Margaret, [Denyce] Graves’ journey was a tour de force... Her performance was riveting...culminating in a scene beyond powerful. It was the kind of moment when one is at a loss for words, and there is no other way to express emotion, except through music.”
The Cincinnati Enquirer

“As the curtain fell...listeners rose to their feet. Noisy ovations greeted members of the cast, Leon, conductor Stefan Lano, Morrison and Danielpour as they took their bows. Margaret Garner seems destined to take its place among America’s most popular contemporary operas. Morrison’s libretto is superb, both for its content and its pithy, poetic language. Danielpour’s music is beautiful...the voices are given the primacy they need and his use of the orchestra is masterful. Morrison has made a keenly operatic adaptation of the Margaret Garner story, one which diverges considerably from history, but packs an emotional wallop of its own.”
The Cincinnati Post

“Richard Danielpour has composed a melting pot in tones...his soothing eclecticism is like an attentive host seeing to his guests’ every need. There are sweet lyrical ballads tinged with sweet ardors of Broadway. The musical language hews to gracious harmonies. The cast is splendid.”
The New York Times

“A well-made, affecting American opera whose appeal goes far beyond tokenism. The music is particularly good at expressing the humanity and depth of feeling... Mr. Danielpour wrote several knockout arias for Margaret. His energy and inventiveness extend to the colorful orchestration, full of vibrant string writing. Co-commissioning opera companies in Cincinnati and Philadelphia will be presenting the work in July 2005 and February 2006, respectively, but other companies are bound to take note as well... Ms. Graves sang the wide-ranging title role with great authority, beauty and verve. Gregg Baker’s handsome baritone powerfully expressed Robert’s strength and frustration. As Cilla, Angela Brown’s big dramatic soprano was effective. [and] Mr. Gilfry gave a valiant performance...”
The Wall Street Journal

“Richard Danielpour’s Margaret Garner constitutes community outreach on an operatic scale... It chose an apt subject in Margaret Garner, the fugitive slave who murdered her two children to spare them a life of servitude. Toni Morrison adapted the episode for her novel Beloved and, in her debut as a librettist, has reworked it into a compelling text that is theatrically assured and poetically inspired. A composer of skill and facility, Danielpour is not one to test an audience’s capacity for modernism. You can almost sense a strategy to hook an audience new to opera... Margaret Garner gives good entertainment value while rising to its wrenching subject.”
The Financial Times

“A great new American opera came to life Saturday night with the world premiere of Margaret Garner, an eloquent and touching story about love and family in the face of horrific adversity. Although Margaret Garner is the first opera for both Richard Danielpour and Toni Morrison, the new work is a hand-in-glove masterpiece of words fitted to music. Add to that a virtually ideal cast of singers, the seamless naturalistic staging of Kenny Leon, and unerring dramatic conducting of Stefan Lano, and the sum is an artistic event of resonant significance....”
The Detroit News

“Here was Margaret Garner at its best: the sprawling calamity of slavery telescoped into an intimately scaled portrait of love underscored by Danielpour’s melting lyricism. Morrison’s poetry aims high and often soars higher. ...These are deeply expressive passages full of authentic emotionalism and even mystery. In the end, the risk [invested in Margaret Garner] paid off in an important new American work, and the first in what should be a string of operas by Danielpour.”
The Free Press (Detroit)

“Its resounding opening night success, an all-but-flawless triumph, must be attributed to the production’s smooth polish and, on a deeper level, to the many buttons it pushes. It is both progressive and conservative, risky and predictable. The lesson is clear: engage an audience on multiple levels and you’re likely to produce a new hit opera.”
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“A splendid production with a sterling cast headed by mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves. Margaret Garner turns out to be an honorable achievement. Danielpour’s music is a skillful stew of American idioms and influences, ranging from spirituals, folk and jazz. Some of the most effective moments are choral - there are two choruses: African-American and white - which possess an infectious energy and haunting humanity. Danielpour writes gracefully for voices and magnificently for instruments. The diverse audience at Saturday's premiere cheered the cast and creative team as if a masterpiece had been born.”
The Plain-Dealer (Cleveland)

“The roar echoing through the packed confines of Detroit's Opera House...was of a magnitude ordinarily associated with winning touchdowns at closely contested football games. Danielpour knows how to write for voices and how to support them orchestrally... The production seems set for a considerable afterlife.”
Toronto Star

“Morrison has created flesh-and-blood characters anyone of any race can immediately identify with. Margaret Garner has entered the annals of American opera history with its debut...and judging by the opening night cheers (of the magnitude more commonly heard across the street where the Tigers play baseball) this opera may become a monumental hit--as well it should.”
Saginaw News (Michigan)

“Morrison has moments of poetic wisdom. Musically, the pace of Danielpour's score is brisk...[with] masterly orchestration. The music achieves mesmerizing depths, partly for being contrasted with the prevailing social culture. The strengths of Margaret Garner are so considerable and wide-ranging that the piece is legitimately destined to make new friends for opera without alienating old ones...”
The Philadelphia Inquirer