Dark Sisters - a new American Opera

Creative Team

Composer: Nico Muhly

Libretto: Stephen Karam

Director: Rebecca Taichman

Conductor: Neil Goren

Set: Leo Warner (59)

Projection: Leo Warner & Mark Grimmer (59)

Lighting design: Don Holder

Costume: Miranda Hoffman

Choreography: Annie-B Parson

Associate (set and video) Benjamin Pearcy

Assistant set designer Aurelien Farjon

Animator Marco Sandeman

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Dark Sisters

Gotham Chamber Opera / MTG / OCP

Selected reviews

director Rebecca Taichman and the designers Leo Warner, Mark Grimmer and Donald Holder gave a lesson in the elegant, powerful use of projections and video in their production of Nico Muhly’s new opera, Dark Sisters.

New York Observer

as superb a production as any new opera might hope for

New York Post

moodily stunning...


"Dark Sisters," an intriguing new opera by a talented young American composer, pulls us in from its opening bars to an unfamiliar world and makes us care about its inhabitants.

It's the world of a polygamist compound in the American Southwest, and the first sounds we hear are the overlapping voices of five wives of a "prophet of God" whose children have just been taken from them in a raid by the state. Wearing pioneer-style white dresses, they stand on a bare stage covered with red desert earth, calling out their children's names in anguished harmony.

The lyrical sadness of their lament sets the tone for a wrenching story of faith, loneliness and despair — redeemed at the end by a ray of hope...

Director Rebecca Taichman has done a terrific job of conjuring up a world that is simultaneously vast and claustrophobic. She is aided by the set and video designs by Leo Warner and Mark Grimmer of 59 Productions; the costumes by Miranda Hoffman; and the lighting by Donald Holder.

San Francisco Chronicle

The wondrously simple production by Gotham Chamber Opera, the Music-Theater Group and the Opera Company of Philadelphia, directed by Rebecca Taichman, powerfully sets the scene. Video images on a back screen depict a dark, cloudy, expansive sky; rugged carpeting lighted in hues suggests the red earth

New York Times

Set designer Leo Warner conveyed the earth tones of the locale with painterly projections. For a scene in which the sisters went on TV, these shifted to an immersive stage that simultaneously gave the impression of what it was like for the sisters in their hot seats, and the images the viewer at home would see.

The Star-Ledger

Video preview

About this production

Dark Sisters is a new opera with music by Nico Muhly and a libretto by Stephen Karam, co-commissioned by Gotham Chamber Opera, Music-Theatre Group and Opera Company of Philadelphia for a 2011 World Premiere. Both set and projection is being designed by Leo Warner and Mark Grimmer of 59.

The opera follows one woman’s dangerous attempt to escape her life as a member of the FLDS Church (Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints), a sect that split from mainstream Mormonism in the early 20th Century largely because of the LDS Church’s renunciation of polygamy. The male founders of the Mormon faith (Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, chief among them) have traditionally loomed large in American history; Dark Sisters puts the women of the FLDS sect front and center. The narrative draws inspiration from the flurry of media attention surrounding the two most infamous raids on FLDS compounds (the 1953 raid at Short Creek, AZ and the 2008 raid at the Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado, TX) as well as the stories of the over 80 wives of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. Set against a red-earthed landscape filled with revelations, dark prophets and white temples stretching towards heaven, Dark Sisters charts one woman’s quest for self-discovery in a world where personal identity is forbidden.