The Secret Garden
Composer: Nolan Gasser
Librettist: Carey Harrison
Premiere Date: March 01, 2013
Description: PROLOGUE
19th-century India. Mary Lennox is a lonely ten-year-old child, the daughter of a British colonial officer and his social butterfly wife, neither of whom wanted a little girl. We meet her as a spoiled, bad-tempered child, tyrannizing her nursemaid. Then cholera strikes, and Mary is her family’s sole survivor. We see her languishing on the long sea voyage home to Britain, in the care of an officer’s wife, who brings Mary to a London train station. There she meets Mrs. Medlock, the housekeeper who works for Mary’s uncle, Mr. Craven. Mrs. Medlock escorts Mary on the train journey north to Misselthwaite Manor, her new home. The huge, lonely house is unwelcoming. Craven has no interest in meeting Mary and is leaving directly, we learn, on his winter travels. Mary is left alone in her room, with only her steamer trunk full of clothes to remind her of who she once was. A strange, distantly crying, wailing sound fills the house.

Mary meets Martha, Mrs. Medlock’s servant, a cheerful country girl who tries to raise Mary’s spirits by praising the Yorkshire landscape. Mary is unimpressed. Martha also tells her about her aunt Lilias, whose death ten years before cast Mary’s uncle and the whole house into a lasting gloom. Martha persuades Mary to go out and play.
In the wintry garden, Mary meets Ben Weatherstaff, the gardener, and asks him about a secret garden Martha has mentioned to her, made by her aunt and now locked away. Mary’s rude manner both amuses and annoys Ben, who tells Mary the garden is overgrown and lost. A friendly robin appears on the scene and takes a liking to Mary—her first English friend.

Put to bed by Martha, Mary is enthralled by Martha’s tales of her young brother Dickon, a nature-lover who has a tame fox. Mary hears the crying, wailing sound again, and gets up to explore. She runs into Mrs. Medlock who sends her sternly back to bed.

In the garden, the robin returns to greet Mary and leads her to the place where a key has been buried, then to the ivy-covered wall with a door in it behind the ivy. The key fits. Mary goes inside. This desolate place must be her aunt’s secret garden, she realizes. Someone is watching her. A young man. It turns out to be Dickon, Martha’s brother.
Nighttime, and the crying sound comes. Mary goes exploring again. She traces the wailing to a bedroom door, opens it, and, to her amazed alarm, discovers a young boy on his bed, crying his heart out.
The boy is Colin, Craven’s son and Mary’s cousin. They talk, and before Colin sinks back to sleep, exhausted, Mary discovers that he regards himself as an invalid and never leaves his room. She promises to return to see him.
Craven has briefly returned, and meets Mary in the company of Susan—Martha and Dickon’s mother—who is acting as Mary’s governess. Craven is a hunchback, embittered by his wife’s death. Mary’s excitement over the Manor’s gardens reminds him of his wife, prompting some kindness towards Mary.

In the garden, spring is on the way. Dickon helps Mary plant bulbs and discover the riches of the garden.

Colin feels ignored by Mary and tries to boss her around, but Mary gives as good as she gets. She tells Colin he’s not an invalid at all and can be as strong as any child in Yorkshire. Colin is thrilled at this vision, but doesn’t trust it yet.

Susan has seen the gradual transformation in Colin’s spirits. She writes to Craven to come home and see his son. But Colin only reminds Craven of the terrible loss of Colin’s mother, poisoning any fatherly feelings in Craven. We see Craven receive Susan’s letter in Italy, and reject its contents.

Mary and Dickon introduce Colin, still in his wheelchair, to the secret garden. Ben Weatherstaff comes upon them and is amazed by Colin’s presence and his energy. Delighted with his mother’s garden, Colin is soon tired out but now believes he can have a healthy future.

Time has passed. Martha and Mrs. Medlock are searching the house for Colin, unable to find him. His father has returned.

With Martha, Susan, and Mrs. Medlock, Craven steps into the secret garden, where spring is in full bloom and Colin, free of the wheelchair, is helping Mary and Dickon plant and prune, under Ben’s watchful eye. An astonished Craven greets his transformed son, and embraces him. The healing powers of nature are joyfully celebrated by the assembled inhabitants of a rejuvenated Misselthwaite Manor.

Length: 02:00
Total Acts: Not Available
Contact: Not Available
Composer Web Site:
Librettist Web Site:
Schedule of Performances Listings
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Thursday, November 15, 2007 - Opera Columbus
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Saturday, April 1, 2006 - Townsend Opera Players
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Sunday, August 28, 2005 - Bay View Music Festival
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Wednesday, July 26, 1995 - Opera Queensland
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