The opera is based on the true story of a slave who escaped from a plantation in Kentucky and fled to the free state of Ohio. Faced with recapture, she killed her youngest daughter rather than seeing her returned to slavery. Her case sparked a national debate over the status of slaves in the North.
The opera's libretto is by Toni Morrison, whose novel Beloved was also inspired by Garner's case.
The world-premiere production stars mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves as Garner; bass-baritone Rodney Gilfrey as her owner, Edward Gaines; and baritone Gregg Baker as her husband, Robert Garner. Soprano Jessye Norman was to have played the supporting role of Cilla, but withdrew, citing concerns about the rehearsal schedule, and was replaced by the up-and-coming soprano Angela Brown.
Stefan Lano, who recently led the world premiere of Mark Adamo's Lysistrata at the Houston Grand Opera, is the conductor. Kenny Leon, who directed the Broadway revival of A Raisin in the Sun last year, is the director.
Margaret Garner was co-commissioned by MOT; Cincinnati Opera, which presents the opera this summer; and the Opera Company of Philadelphia, where it travels in February 2006. It runs at MOT through May 22.
Richard Danielpour's many works include the Cello Concerto, which won a Grammy; Concerto for Orchestra; An American Requiem; and the two-part Sonnets to Orpheus. Margaret Garner is his first opera.