Opera Theatre of Weston 


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OTW will produce the East Coast premiere of The Secret Garden  January 4, 10 & 11 in Rutland and Weston
GNAT public access TV airing OTW/GMALL lecture, with Nolan Gasser, Naomie Kremer and cast of The Secret Garden


Indiegogo fundraiser launched (see home page).
Nobushi Fujii Triptych worth $1000 to be raffled at Secret Garden performances.

Opera Theatre of Weston presents

The Secret Garden  January 4 - 11

         Video Set Design by Naomie Kremer



Opera Theatre of Weston (OTW) co-founders/co-artistic directors Nan Nall and Lise Messier will present the East Coast Premiere - and World Premiere of the newly revised version - of The Secret Garden by composer Nolan Gasser with a libretto by Carey Harrison in January 2015.  The new opera, which is based on the beloved children’s novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, made its debut at the San Francisco Opera in 2013.  OTW will use original, stunning scenic projections by Naomie Kremer, designer of the original production at SFO, in a special video adaptation.  Performances are scheduled at the Paramount Theatre in Rutland and at the Weston Playhouse in Southern Vermont.  

“It is quite a coup for the company” says Lise Messier.  “This is both an accolade and a rare opportunity for us”.   According to the composer Nolan Gasser: "I am truly delighted that OTW will be presenting the East Coast premiere of The Secret Garden, and the World Premiere of our newly revised version of the opera.  The enthusiasm and impressive creativity that OTW has already revealed about their upcoming production, along with its terrific cast, gives me great confidence that our opera is destined for a great run in Vermont."

The company’s mission of “bringing children to opera and opera to children” continues with more than 2,700 school children attending the world premiere of a specially condensed and narrated one hour version of the opera.  OTW will offer six daytime school shows as well as three full-length public matinees.  The Secret Garden will mark the fourteenth annual Opera in Winter produced by OTW.

The Secret Garden is a timeless tale of triumph over tragedy and the healing power of nature that is geared to the entire family.  When orphaned Mary Lennox comes to live at her uncle's great house on the Yorkshire Moors, she finds it full of mysterious and unsettling secrets.  Her uncle Archibald spends little time at the huge mansion, but at night she hears the sound of someone crying down one of the long dark corridors.  The gardens surrounding the odd property are Mary's escape and she explores every inch of them - all except for the mysterious walled-in, locked garden.  Then Mary discovers the key, and she unlocks a hidden world where unexpected friendships and a new life bloom.

The professional cast, including soloists from the Metropolitan Opera, The Houston Opera and Washington National Opera, will feature a number of favorites from past OTW productions. Mary Lennox will be portrayed by soprano Lora Rachel Davidson. She will be joined by tenors Christopher Lucier as Dickon Sowerby and Pablo Bustos as Colin Craven. Dickon's sister Martha will be sung by soprano Mary Gresock and bass-baritone Christopher Besch will portray Mary's uncle Archibald Craven.  Vermont mezzo-soprano Peggie Telscher will perform Mrs. Medlock, the housekeeper.  They will be joined by soprano Lindsey Paradise as Susan Sowerby and bass-baritone Benjamin Bloomfield as the gardener Ben Weatherstaff.  One part of our Opera Young Apprentice Program will have students appearing as animals in the garden.  OTW’s creative team includes musical director/conductor/pianist Angela Hines-Gooch, head of the voice and opera department at The Walnut Hill School, resident stage director Diana Stugger, costume designer Robina D’Arcy-Fox (Fancy Felix Theatricals), technical director/lighting designer David Lane, set designer Graeme King, and choreographer Ashley Hensel-Browning.

In August, The Secret Garden composer, Nolan Gasser, and scenic designer Naomie Kremer will join OTW musical director, stage director, and costume designer in a “Behind the Scenes” Presentation Event.  The audience will be treated to a discussion of the opera by the composer and musical highlights will be performed by OTW’s The Secret Garden cast of singers.

Preceding the January performances, two Vermont teaching artists will travel to 30 southern Vermont schools with theStorybook Opera Project, an educational pre-performance touring program which prepares young audiences for the opera performance.   This project features the development and implementation of a comprehensive study guide which engages students and teachers in learning some of the musical highlights of the opera and comparing the opera’s libretto with the original story.  For this production, nature and its healing properties will be addressed when the children design and plant their own secret garden, becoming nurturing caretakers and mirroring the characters in the book.  

Opera Theatre of Weston is a professional company member of OPERA America.   For more information, please contact Opera Theatre of Weston at (802) 824-3821 or e-mail otw@sover.net 

Opera Theatre of Weston presents The Secret Garden by Nolan Gasser, January 2015


Sunday January 4                 2:00 pm                Public matinee       Paramount Theatre, Rutland, VT

Monday January 5                10:00 am              School matinee      Paramount Theatre, Rutland, VT

Wednesday January 7          9:00 & 10:45        School matinees    Weston Playhouse, Weston, VT                   

Thursday January 8              9:00 & 10:45        School matinees    Weston Playhouse, Weston, VT

Friday, January 9                  10:00 am              School matinee      Weston Playhouse, Weston, VT

Saturday January 10             2:00 pm               Public matinee        Weston Playhouse, Weston, VT

Sunday January 11                        2:00 pm                     Public matinee          Weston Playhouse, Weston, VT


Will you be the lucky winner?!  

Nobushi Fuji'i Triptych donated by Village Green Gallery in Weston will be raffled          at public performances and the winner will be drawn at the January 11 matinee.            Worth $1000, tickets are priced at $5, $20 for 5.

The Secret Garden in Rehearsal

A scene from the Prologue of The Secret Garden.  L to R:

Christopher Besch, Benjamin Bloomfield, Mary Gresock, Pablo Bustos, Peggie      Telscher and L R Davidson.



Photo attached: Opera Theatre of Weston visits The Little School with the Storybook Opera Project

Members of the Opera Theatre of Weston creative team visited a class full of delighted Pre-K children at The Little School in Weston with their school outreach project, Storybook Opera: The Secret Garden.  Choreographer and Educator, Ashley Hensel-Browning, worked with the four year-olds to create human sculptures of plants and trees and inspired them to move as robins, flying and hopping around a garden.  The children listened intently to descriptions of the new opera, The Secret Garden, which is based on the beloved classic novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett and which will receive its East Coast premiere at the Paramount Theatre, Rutland and at the Weston Playhouse January 4 – 11.  Lise Messier, OTW co-producer and artistic director, was joined by OTW stage director Diana Stugger during the workshop to meet the children and answer their questions. 

The Little School of Weston was one of many schools in the southern Vermont area where students of all ages were introduced to the plot, characters, music and stage action of The Secret Garden before attending one of the six specially condensed and narrated school matinees held during the performance week.  Students also learned that five lucky local children will act alongside the professional cast members at each performance: Mary Anderson of Chester will dance the role of the Robin; Evangeline Bulick of Dorset, Morgan Wallace, Kelsey McCullough and Ariel Chase-Parry of Rutland will play the animals that appear in the garden: Squirrel, Fox, Faun and Crow.

Rehearsals for The Secret Garden will start on December 26 for a very short and intensive period before the first public matinee on Sunday January 4 at 2 pm at the Paramount Theatre. There will be one school matinee in Rutland the next day, before sets, props, costumes and lights are transferred to the Weston Playhouse for the rest of the run.  The new opera will delight audiences of all ages and tastes, including visual artists who will appreciate the cutting edge technology behind the rich scenic video adaptations created by West Coast designer Naomi Kremer.  Ms. Kremer also created the original videos for the hugely successful San Francisco Opera debut of The Secret Garden in 2013.  Composer Nolan Gasser and lyricist Carey Harrison have changed and enhanced much of the original score especially for Opera Theatre of Weston, making this production the World Premiere of the revised version of The Secret Garden – quite a coup for this professional Vermont company, now in its 14th season!

The Storybook Opera Project is sponsored in part by Windham Foundation, Vermont Humanities Council, Vermont Country Store, Berkshire Bank Foundation and Trust Company of Vermont.  



Students from the Windham County school system participated in October in a spring bulb planting project organized by OTW and generously funded by Windham Foundation.  The schools taking part were Chester Andover Elementary, Westminster Central and Windham Elementary.  The OTW outreach program included a talk about the new opera The Secret Garden to be performed in Rutland and Weston in January.

In addition to a DVD screening of the San Francisco Opera debut production and a reading from the classic children’s novel The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, the children, mostly between the ages of 5 and 8, were given instruction about how to plant tulip and daffodil bulbs and garlic cloves in their school garden.  Mirroring the characters in the opera, the children discovered the positive benefits of nurturing their environment. They look forward to seeing the rewards of their endeavors in the spring and had many creative ideas for their future garlic crop.  A  total of more than 2,000 southern Vermont schoolchildren will attend six school matinees of The Secret Garden at the Weston Playhouse and at the Paramount Theatre in January.

During November and December, teaching artist and OTW choreographer Ashley Hensel-Browning will tour area schools with Storybook Opera: The Secret Garden Project.  Through music and movement, students will develop an understanding of opera as a form and experience aspects of being in an opera.  They will also explore the symbolic themes of The Secret Garden, including resilience of the human spirit and the healing power of nature.  The Storybook Opera Project is funded by Windham Foundation, Vermont Humanities Council, Vermont Country Store, Berkshire Foundation and Trust Company of Vermont.


Check out the GNAT Video On Demand presentation of the GMALL OTW lecture on August 24, starring the composer Nolan Gasser, scenic designer Naomie Kremer and the cast of The Secret Garden. GNAT is a local public access station. You can see it on the GNAT website www.gnat-tv.org  Click on "Video On Demand" and search "GMALL Opera Theatre of Weston".


L to R: Mary Gressock, Christopher Besch, Naomie Kremer, Benjamin Bloomfield, Nolan Gasser, Peggie Telscher, 

Angela Gooch, Lindsey Paradise, Lise Messier, Diane Stugger, Ashley Hensel-Browning, David Lane at GMALL presentation


The Green Mountain Academy of Lifelong Learning and Opera Theatre of Weston presented a lecture about The Making of The Secret Garden at the Riley Center of the Arts, Burr and Burton Academy in Manchester on Sunday August 24.  Composer Nolan Gasser and scenic designer Naomie Kremer discussed how the beloved children’s novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett has been transformed into a delightful opera for all the family.  OTW will perform the East Coast premiere at the Paramount Theatre, Rutland and at the Weston Playhouse in January 2015.
The Secret Garden made its debut at the San Francisco Opera in 2013.  OTW will use original stunning and cutting-edge scenic projections by Naomie Kremer in a special video adaptation some of which were shown at the presentation. According to Nolan Gasser: “I am truly delighted that OTW will be presenting the East Coast premiere of The Secret Garden, and the world premiere of our newly revised version of the opera. The enthusiasm and impressive creativity that OTW has already revealed about their upcoming production, along with its terrific cast, gives me great confidence that our opera is destined for a great run in Vermont.

Dr. Gasser is the chief musical architect of the Music Genome Project, the musical technology behind Pandora Radio – now with over 100 million subscribers in the US alone.  He is also the Artistic Director of Classical Archives, the largest classical music website on the Internet. He received his Ph.D. in Musicology from Stanford University, where he has been an Adjunct Professor in Medieval–Renaissance Music History. 

OTW musical director Angela Hines-Gooch, stage director Diana Stugger, costume designer Robina D’Arcy-Fox and choreographer Ashley Hensel-Browning joined the discussion.  The audience were treated to musical highlights from the opera by the professional cast, which includes soloists from the Metropolitan Opera, The Houston Opera and Washington National Opera.  The cast will feature a number of favorites from past OTW productions, including soprano Lora Rachel Davidson, tenor Pablo Busto, bass-baritone Christopher Besch and Vermont mezzo-soprano Peggie Telscher. 

New artists join OTW

We are delighted that long-time friend and supporter of OTW, Mary Westbrook-Geha, will step up to the pedestal to conduct The Secret Garden in January.  An acclaimed Mezzo-soprano, Mary lives locally in Bellows Falls and and is choral director of the Blanche Moyse Chorale in Brattleboro.

Soprano Lindsey Paradise will make her debut with Opera Theatre of Weston in the role of Susan Sowerby. She has previously sung at the Kennedy Center and with Knoxville Opera.

August 2014



Windham Foundation recently awarded OTW a grant of $5000 which will enable area youth attend  six daytime school performances of The Secret Garden at the Weston Playhouse and the Paramount Theatre in January 2015.  OTW’s annual Opera for Kids program will be attended by approximately 2,700 local children from schools throughout southern Vermont.  Windham Foundation joins Vermont Country Store, Casella Foundation, Golub Foundation and Orvis Company in supporting a discounted ticket price for more than 1,000 students from needy schools not able to afford the full amount.


According to OTW Education Director and Co-Artistic Director, Lise Messier, “Our goal is to get southern Vermont kids hooked on opera.  Teachers continue to respond enthusiastically to OTW’s Opera for Kids programs and thank us for bringing such a quality experience to so many young listeners in our area.”


With special permission from the composer Nolan Gasser, OTW has created a world-premiere condensed version for schools. There will also be three full-length public matinee performances at the Paramount Theatre, Rutland on January 4 and at the Weston Playhouse Theatre on January 10 and 11

The Magic Flute   January 2011
"OTW achieved its most impressive production to date ...What's next?"
                                    -   Jim Lowe, Times Argus/Rutland Herald
 Mark Womack and three animals -   Erika Anderson, Leah Cunningham & Lauren Fountain - in OTW's The Magic Flute
Katherine Kaplan as The Queen of the Night in OTW's The Magic Flute

"There is so much talent here," says Nan Nall, who teaches voice with her colleague Lise Messier to adults and

children in southwestern Vermont. Inspired by the possibilities, together they decided to form an opera company

that would offer "a place for everyone." Opera Theatre of Weston, incorporated in 2000, brings in professionals

for principal roles and masterclasses - local singers have had the chance to work with established artists

including William Burden, Sanford Sylvan and Karen Keltner. At the same time, Nall and Messier strive to create as many opportunities as possible for local talent, sometimes double- and triple-casting smaller roles.


Opera Theatre of Weston is the second Vermont organization, after Green Mountain 0pera, that OPERA America has welcomed as a Professional Company Member. The company currently produces one mainstage show each winter.  This January, The Magic Flute played at the Paramount Theatre in Rutland, a historic theater that seats 800. The company also performs in the 300-seat Weston Playhouse and has an active outreach program that reached over 2,400 students last season. Day-long youth workshops have included crafts projects and movement activities led by teaching artists.


"The 0pera Theatre of Weston has one of the most exceptionaI music programs for students in the country," says

author John Irving. "They introduce thousands of youngsters who live in rural Vermont to opera, and for some of

these kids it is a life-changing experience. My son, Everett, who has performed in three of 0TW's productions, plans to continue with classical singing and hopes to pursue a career in theater. It all began with the OTW."


opera america                                                  Spring 2011