MORRISTOWN, NJ - A new opera by composer R. Wayne Walters will premiere on Saturday, January 31 at Delbarton. Germaine, a one-act opera, celebrates the life of the patroness of abused children and features soprano Elena T. Bird in the lead role. Other performers include Patricia Ruggles, a Florham Park mezzo as the stepmother, Hortense; John Hammel, a tenor from North Las Vegas, Nevada will sing the role of the father, Laurent; Robert Long, a tenor from East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania as the Priest; and Joseph McKee, Princeton bass and Rob Walters, Long Valley baritone as the shepherds. The performance also includes a small chorus of townspeople and a full orchestra.
Germaine Cousin was born in Pibrac, a small village near Toulouse, France in 1579. Her father, Laurent, was an agricultural laborer. Germaine’s right hand was deformed and paralyzed at birth. She remained weak and in poor health for most of her life. She developed scrofula, a form of tuberculosis. Her mother died while she was still an infant. When her father remarried, his new wife, Hortense, thought Germaine was a medical threat to her own children. She saw to it that Germaine was isolated from the rest of the family as much as possible. She was forced to sleep outside in a barn. Germaine was assigned the job of shepherdess where she could stay in the field, far away from her brothers and sisters. She grew to love nature and the sheep she tended. Although she knew nothing of theology she had an abiding love for God and a deep personal faith. During her brief twenty-two year life span she lived totally devoted to God, her fellow shepherds and the young children of the neighborhood. Throughout her young life she suffered unspeakable abuse at the hands of her step mother, her step brothers and sisters, and her father, Laurent. Germaine always shared her meager food portion with others and often offered scraps of food to local beggars. Hortense was furious at the stories that were beginning to circulate about Germaine’s holiness. Then she became aware that people were willing to pay money for trinkets and prayers. A sure avenue for profit overcame Laurent and Hortense as the story is told.
Mr. Walters is a well-known New Jersey musician, singer, composer and conductor who currently serves as the music director for the Morris Choral Society. He has performed throughout the Eastern United States and across Europe with ensembles ranging from the St. Cecilia Chorus to Pastoral Chamber Orchestra. A long time educator in Morristown High School, Mr. Walters has received the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Arts Education and was recognized as an “Outstanding Professional in the Arts” by Morris Arts. He has composed both choral and instrumental works.
Funding for the opera has been made possible in part by the Masterwork Music and Art Foundation.
The premier concert performance of Germaine will take place at St. Mary’s Abbey, Delbarton, 230 Mendham Road in Morristown on January 31st at 8:00 PM. There will be a suggested donation of $20 with a reception following the concert. For more information, please call 973-998-7239.