The Race: An Aesop's Fables Mashup (2020)

The Race: an Aesop's Fables Mashup, a chamber opera with libretto by Linda Bunney-Sarhad, tells the story of the Tortoise and the Hare as their race takes them across country and into the paths of four other Aesop’s fables. We see the characters in their anxieties, their hungers, their swollen egos: in short, in their dramas. As the braggy, wisecracking Hare and the steadfast, plodding Tortoise meet a hungry bear, some angry bees, groups of anxious hares and terrified frogs, a fox, a wolf, and some sheep, they also encounter those characters’ stories until all the dramas gradually become entangled. At the end, sadder and wiser, the characters assemble at the finish line of the race to cheer the Tortoise’s victory.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, The Race was made into a film that has won 80 international film festival awards, including:

The film and graphic novel are available to stream on demand and purchase from Opera Modesto with subtitles and translations in 17 languages: Albanian/English, American Sign language/English, Chinese/English, Danish/English, English/English, Farsi/English, Finnish/English, French/English, German/English, Greek/English, Hindi/English, Italian/English, Portuguese/English, Russian/English, Spanish/English, Swedish/English, Tagalog/English, Vietnamese/English.

Opera Modesto General Director Roy Stevens writes, “Award-winning composer, Deborah Kavasch, and lyricist, Linda Bunney-Sarhad, have created a musical delight, conducted by Liisa Davila. 24-year-old director Carolina Stevens makes a stunning debut, winning Best Director laurels, with filmmaker and editor Michael Everett of The Creation Lab winning laurels for his work. Hollywood costumer Keilani Gleave creates a tapestry of charming “animal” looks combined with text embedded in the fabric, so that the characters appear to have stepped right off the page. Younger children seem to be mesmerized by the movie and watch it over and over. Older children are startled to see teens performing “opera.” Adults are amazed to see young people performing “opera” so seriously and with such obvious enjoyment. All are surprised to find themselves humming the tunes.”

Annabel (2022)

Darby Schmidt, Annabel
Chad Somers, the Lover

Annabel, a chamber opera with libretto by Linda Bunney-Sarhad, is based upon Edgar Allen Poe’s poem, Annabel Lee. It is a story of love, loss, and the refusal to move on. In the opening, two lovers meet on cliffs above the sea. They dance together and sing of their perfect love. When a storm begins to move in, Annabel’s Lover fears the sudden chill will compromise her already frail health. He tries to get her to shelter, but Annabel stays out in the storm, dancing in the wind and rain. Finally, weak and coughing, she agrees to go to shelter, where the Lover tries to keep her warm. Again the two lovers express their eternal love, and the Lover promises never to leave her. At this point, they hear her Kinsman shouting for her out in the storm. He bursts into the shelter and demands that she go home with him, where she will be safe and warm. She refuses, and, angry, he marches off, convinced that the Lover is endangering her health. Sadly, the emotional struggle brings on severe respiratory distress, and Annabel dies.

Excluded from Annabel’s funeral, the Lover watches from a distance. His mind, disordered from grief, hears words different from what the chorus sings: “…dust to dust/Flesh to maggots and iron to rust. World without end, amen.” As he struggles with grief, he is sometimes surrounded by angels and demons, representing different aspects of his struggle, and he begins to wonder if Annabel ever truly existed. Finally, rejecting the Angels’ counsel and determined to stay forever close to Annabel, in any form, he climbs into her tomb. A chorus of townspeople, angels, and demons, sings the last stanza of Poe’s original poem to an empty stage.

Annabel was premiered at the State Theatre in Modesto in live performance January 14 & 15, 2023 with six additional school performances.

Darby Schmidt, Annabel

Chad Somers, the Lover

Jason Detwiler, Kinsman

Chad Somers, the Lover

I Love You is All I Know (Annabel)

It Feels Like the End of the World (Kinsman)

I Never Left You Annabel (Lover)

Beauty to Ashes and Dust to Dust (Chorus)