Sweet Potato Kicks the Sun







But Sweet Potato can’t resist, so kicks the sun clear out of the sky! Right as all are calling the sun home, Sweet Potato causes another fiasco! Now there is little hope of the sun’s return. Meanwhile, a very special person is keenly following every detail and just may step in to help. 

Sweet Potato lives in a rooftop garden with best friend 89, a hummingbird who follows rules, respects boundaries and tries against crushing odds to keep Sweet Potato in line. They and others – Baby Honeybees, Pigeons, and Squirrel – are cared for by Grandfather Beekeeper and Grandmother Seed-Keeper. Everyone adores Sweet Potato, who enlivens their garden with kaleidoscope curiosity and energy. But this time Tater has gone too far. 

Grandfather orders 89 to accompany Sweet Potato to the summit of City Park Mountain, where he hopes the rebel grandchild will gain some wisdom. On their path into unfamiliar territory, the friends encounter fascinating critters and receive mysterious messages. They overcome obstacles with comic flair, cleverness, and courage as a fresh quest sends them beyond the mountaintop to search for the secret to the sun’s return. Along the way, Sweet Potato and 89 join forces with the special guest whose dazzling talents help them save the day. 

Back in the garden, sad news awaits. But in the end there is also much to celebrate. Sunlight, birdsongs, and honeybee buzzes return at last to the rooftop. Yet with a surprising twist thanks to you know who.

Conductor Carolyn Kuan and director John de los Santos team up for this exuberant world premiere featuring renowned beatboxer Nicole Paris in her opera debut as Special Guest Artist.

Join Sweet Potato, 89, and Nicole on their rollicking and touching journey. Their world will be transformed by their adventures. And so will yours. 


Augusta Read Thomas - photo credit: Anthony Barlich
Augusta Read Thomas | Photo by Anthony Barlich
Augusta Read Thomas, Composer

Augusta Read Thomas’s music is nuanced, majestic, elegant, capricious, lyrical, and colorful — "it is boldly considered music that celebrates the sound of the instruments and reaffirms the vitality of orchestral music." (Philadelphia Inquirer)

A Grammy winner, her impressive body of works embodies unbridled passion and fierce poetry. The New Yorker magazine called her "a true virtuoso composer." Championed by such luminaries as Barenboim, Rostropovich, Boulez, Eschenbach, Salonen, Maazel, Ozawa, and Knussen, she rose early to the top of her profession.

An influential teacher at Eastman, Northwestern, Tanglewood, and Aspen Music Festival, she is only the 16th person to be designated University Professor at the University of Chicago (one of only seven currently holding the title). Augusta said, "Teaching is a natural extension of my creative process and of my enthusiasm for the music of others."  She founded and leads the Center for Contemporary Composition at the University of Chicago.

Thomas was the longest-serving Mead Composer-in-Residence with the Chicago Symphony, for Daniel Barenboim and Pierre Boulez, from 1997 through 2006. This residency culminated in the premiere of Astral Canticle, one of two finalists for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Music. During her residency, Thomas not only premiered nine commissioned orchestral works, but was also the central force in establishing the thriving MusicNOW series, through which she commissioned and programmed the work of many living composers. 

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Leslie Dunton-Downer - photo credit: Peter Smith
Leslie Dunton-Downer | Photo by Peter Smith
Leslie Dunton-Downer, Librettist

Leslie Dunton-Downer has written extensively for composer Augusta Read Thomas. Their first work, Ligeia, premiered in Evian, France under the baton of Mstislav Rostropovich, and received the 1994 Orpheus Prize for Best Chamber Opera ahead of acclaimed productions in Italy and the U.S. Among other libretti is Belladonna, for a chamber opera by Pulitzer-winning composer Bernard Rands, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Aspen Music Festival.

Leslie has in recent years teamed up with Berlin-based composers Farahnaz Hatam, Colin Hacklander, Marion Wörle, and Maciej Sledziecki. Following the success of This Is Not A Swan Song, which premiered in Cologne in 2017, Leslie, Marion, and Maciej are making additional music theater pieces, redrum and Forest, for forthcoming premieres at the Delphi Theater in Berlin, where cabaret scenes for the popular TV series Babylon Berlin are filmed.

A graduate of Harvard College, Leslie earned a PhD in Comparative Literature from Harvard University. She is a former Harvard University Lecturer, and a member of the Harvard Society of Fellows. Her most recent book, The English is Coming!: How One Language is Sweeping the World (Touchstone, 2011), examines the global roots and reach of the English language. She also co-authored two books for publisher Dorling Kindersley: Essential Shakespeare Handbook (2004, 2013), and Opera (2006), each published in numerous foreign language editions. 


Sweet Potato Kicks the Sun is an opera for all ages by composer Augusta Read Thomas and librettist Leslie Dunton-Downer starring beatbox sensation Nicole Paris. The world premiere performance will be presented by The Santa Fe Opera on October 26, 2019 at the Lensic Performing Arts Center, directed by John de los Santos and conducted by Carolyn Kuan.

Sweet Potato Kicks The Sun was commissioned by The Opera for All Voices (OFAV) consortium companies which include the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Minnesota Opera, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, The Santa Fe Opera, San Francisco Opera, Sarasota Opera and Seattle Opera.

Generous funding from The Melville Hankins Family Foundation and The Andrew Mellon Foundation made this project possible.

Opera for All Voices is made possible by generous funding from the Melville Hankins Family Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and an OPERA America Innovation Grant, supported by the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation.

The Lensic Performing Arts Center
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Augusta Read Thomas
Leslie Dunton-Downer 
The Opera for All Voices Consortium
approx. 83 minutes