Notes and Editorial Reviews
The Thirteenth Child is a new opera in two acts, with music by Poul Ruders to a libretto by Becky & David Starobin. Commissioned by The Santa Fe Opera and the Odense Symfoniorkester, the libretto is an adaptation of the Brothers Grimm story, "The Twelve Brothers". The recording, made in Denmark and the USA, brings Ruders's gripping 80-minute score vividly to life, and is being released by Bridge Records in tandem with the world premiere staging of The Thirteenth Child by the Santa Fe Opera in July and August of 2019. The recording features soprano Sarah Shafer as Princess Lyra; mezzo-soprano Tamara Mumford as Queen Gertrude; bass-baritone Ashraf Sewailam as Drokan; bass Matt Boehler as King Hjarne; tenor David Portillo as Benjamin; tenor Alasdair Kent as Prince Frederic and Toke, and bass Alex Rosen as Corbin. The Odense Symfoniorkester and the Bridge Academy Singers are conducted by David Starobin and Benjamin Shwartz, with Amber Evans, chorus master. The Thirteenth Child is Poul Ruders's fifth opera. The 70 year old Danish composer is well known for his gripping dystopian opera, The Handmaid's Tale. The Thirteenth Child shares some of the dark world of The Handmaid's Tale, but also gives the listener a fairytale, full of romance, magic and transformation.
There is plenty of space for lyrical solo numbers in Ruders’ score, which veers between mid-Atlantic neoromanticism and something edgier and more expressionist in the orchestral interludes...it’s particularly Sarah Shafer in the role of Lyra who makes the most of his smoothly contoured vocal writing.
– Guardian (UK)
Fairy tales advance by surprising, generally magical events, and Ruders has invented captivating music for each. Ruders and his librettists have created an enchanting work in the genre of the fairy-tale opera, replete with spells, magic gardens, a quest to find 12 long-lost brothers, and a princess (the 13th child of the title) fated to undergo ill and happy adventures before she rescues her brothers and weds her prince.
There are two outstanding singers here in mezzo Tamara Mumford, as Gertrude, and lyric soprano Sarah Shafer as Lyra. Ruders furnishes the mother-daughter relationship with his most beautiful music, and the two singers are luminous in tone and moving emotionally. I must single out bass Matt Bochler as Hjarne, who encompasses an extraordinary vocal range extending from Fafner-like low notes to an eerie high falsetto. As the love interest, Prince Frederic, lyric tenor Alasdair Kent has a gleaming romantic tone perfectly suited to some of Ruders’s most romantic melodies."
– Fanfare Magazine - June, 2019