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SFO The Righteous Illustration copyright Benedetto Cristofani

The Righteous

World Premiere

July 13 - August 13, 2024

Faith. Power. Ambition.

David struggles to reconcile spirituality with ambition. His desire for more transforms his relationship with his family, friends and, perhaps, his own faith. His journey from preacher to Governor, like the lives of those closest to him, is shaped by current affairs of the 1980s.

Kevin Newbury directs an intriguing new production set in the American Southwest. This World Premiere by Gregory Spears and Tracy K. Smith features an all-star cast including Anthony Roth Costanzo, Michael Mayes, Elena Villalón, Jennifer Johnson Cano, Greer Grimsley, among others. Jordan de Souza makes his Santa Fe Opera conducting debut.

Music By
Gregory Spears
Libretto By
Tracy K. Smith
Sung In
English
Instant Translation Scree
English and Spanish
Production support generously provided by
Wyncote Foundation, as recommended by Frederick R. Haas & Rafael Gomez
Brautigam-Kaplan-Ostergaard Foundation
Robert L. Turner
Additional artistic support provided by
David B. & Anna-Karin J. Dillard
Carol Franc Buck Foundation
The Edgar Foster Daniels Foundation
The Carl & Marilynn Thoma Foundation
National Endowment for the Arts
The performances of Anthony Roth Constanzo are supported by
Gene & Jean Stark
The performances of Jennifer Johnson Cano are supported by
The MacKay Fund for Debut Artists
Run Time
Approximately 3 hours; includes a 25-minute intermission

Act I

1979. A state in the American Southwest. Paul, an oil magnate with political aspirations, his friend CM, his son Jonathan, and his son’s best friend David are out for a day of turkey hunting. David, a preacher, tells Jonathan he feels that God is telling him to marry Jonathan’s sister Michele. Jonathan cannot hide that he wishes David could be more than a brother-in-law to him. Back at Paul’s ranch, David proposes to Michele, and she accepts.

Eli, an army serviceman, tells his wife Sheila that he will be leaving soon to lead training exercises overseas. She protests, for her own sake and that of their daughter, Shannon. David preaches a sermon on the importance of loving one’s neighbor. A few weeks later, David asks Sheila, a parishioner in his church, to lead a women’s group. David and Michele read the laudatory article that has just been written about the church. David’s charisma and leadership skills have led to whispers of his potential emergence as a write-in candidate for Governor, and Paul and CM are worried that David’s big personality is a threat to Paul’s own gubernatorial campaign. Michele asks David to make a public statement that he has no intention of running against Paul.

1986. Jonathan challenges David on his stance on AIDS. In David’s words, “Love is terrifying.” In Jonathan’s, “Isn’t it?” Sheila leads the women’s group – all profess the need to be calmed and soothed in the midst of family issues – and confesses that she is a survivor of abuse, but a believer in the all-knowing love of God. “Terrible and wonderful.” David and the Deacons plan to expand the sanctuary. Michele misses the David she’d thought she knew. David, seeing that Sheila is still in the church, goes back in after her to offer his prayerful attentions. They kiss.

Act II

Paul’s ranch, after the election. First Lady Marilyn is planning a dinner. Michele confides in her mother that her relationship with David has cooled. Marilyn assures her that she and Paul will always provide options for her. Michele sees a vision of David and Sheila’s affair. Paul has a heart attack and dies. The family is stricken. At the ensuing wake, old friend and consultant CM arrives and immediately asks David to run in the special election to replace Paul as governor.

Three months later David has won the special election. He returns to his church to say goodbye. Michele offers a curious prayer about forgiveness for husbands who betray their wives.

1990. David and Sheila, now husband and wife, host a reception at the Governor’s Mansion. They meet various guests, among them is Jacob, a young Black preacher from a struggling urban community. He complains that his community is misunderstood, while David holds fast to the belief that cracking down on crack and on the areas it affects is the best policy. Sheila extemporizes a speech about God’s compassion and privately excoriates David for what she sees as the change in his heart and views. Sheila feigns a headache and retires for the evening.

Shannon, Sheila’s daughter, has brought her friend Deirdre home from college. The dinner conversation with Sheila and David so manifests the tension between idealistic Shannon and her more staid stepfather that the girls take their meal upstairs. In the morning Shannon offers encouragement to her mother. Sheila makes a generous gift to the Women’s Shelter and goes there to offer her services as a group leader. There she meets Michele, who is there as legal counsel. Though forgiveness is neither sought nor offered, the two seem almost relieved to see each other.

Jonathan visits David at his office, interrupting a meeting on a new piece of “quiet” legislation. Jonathan is leaving for a place where he can be himself. David reflects on friendship and the passage of time and asks of God, “What did I mistake for you?”

Michael Mayes headshot

Michael Mayes

Baritone

David

Elena Villalon

Elena Villalón

Soprano

Sheila

Jennifer Johnson

Jennifer Johnson Cano

Mezzo-soprano

Michele

Anthony Roth Costanzo headshot

Anthony Roth Costanzo

Countertenor

Jonathan

Greer Grimsley headshot

Greer Grimsley

Bass-baritone

Paul

Brenton Ryan

Brenton Ryan

Tenor

CM

Wendy Bryn Harmer headshot

Wendy Bryn Harmer

Soprano

Marilyn

Newton, Nicholas headshot

Nicholas Newton

Bass-baritone

Jacob

Andrew Turner headshot

Andrew Turner

Tenor

Eli

Jazmine Saunders

Jazmine Saunders

Soprano

Shannon

Natasha Isabella Gesto

Natasha Isabella Gesto

Soprano

Deirdre

Isobel Anthony

Isobel Anthony

Soprano

Woman 1/Jenny

Ashlyn Brown

Ashlyn Brown

Mezzo-soprano

Woman 2/Event Planner

Tessa Fackelmann

Tessa Fackelmann

Mezzo-soprano

Woman 3/Woman/Ruth

Cole Bellamy

Cole Bellamy

Baritone

Deacon 1

Luke Harnish

Luke Harnish

Bass-baritone

Deacon 2/Joe/Representative

Matthew Goodheart

Matthew Goodheart

Tenor

Deacon 3/Young Aide

Jordan De Souza

Jordan de Souza

Conductor

Kevin Newbury headshot

Kevin Newbury

Director

Mimi Lien

Mimi Lien

Scenic Designer

Devario Simmons

Devario Simmons

Costume Designer

Japhy Weideman

Japhy Weideman

Lighting Designer

Greg Emetaz headshot

Greg Emetaz

Projection & Video Designer

Susanne Sheston headshot

Susanne Sheston

Chorus Master

Video

2024 Season Playlist