Paul Moravec: Sanctuary Road – Shout from Every Rooftop

Shout from every rooftop. Loud as can be: free.’” – Mark Campbell, librettist, Sanctuary Road

On January 26 and 28, 2024, the Virginia Opera presents a staged version of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Paul Moravec and fellow Pulitzer-winner librettist Mark Campell’s acclaimed oratorio Sanctuary Road. Kimille Howard directs, and Everett McCorvey conducts both performances at the Harrison Opera House in Norfolk, VA.

Sanctuary Road is scored for five soloists, chorus and orchestra, and Campbell’s libretto is directly based after the writings of American historic figure William Still — the son of a former slave, a Philadelphia-based businessman, writer, philanthropist, historian, abolitionist and a conductor for The Underground Railroad. Still helped almost 800 slaves escape to freedom, and meticulously and passionately documented many of their lives in his 1872 memoir, The Underground Railroad Records. The 45-minute oratorio was commissioned by the Oratorio Society of New York who premiered it in May 2018 at Carnegie Hall, conducted by Kent Tritle. In March 2022, Sanctuary Road subsequently received its first staged-production at the North Carolina Opera, directed by Dennis Whitehead Darling and conducted by William Henry Curry.

Adam Turner, Virginia Opera’s Artistic Director shares some thoughts about the company’s production. “At Virginia Opera, we are committed to bringing stories that resonate with the heart and soul of our community. Sanctuary Road is not only a tribute to our region’s rich history, but a testament to the enduring power of opera to connect us to our shared past and inspire our future. With Paul Moravec’s beautifully accessible score and Mark Campbell’s richly evocative text, these performances promise a transcendent experience for our audiences. The final words of the opera could not be more powerful and resonant, evoking such a jubilant expression of freedom – ‘Shout from every rooftop. Loud as can be: free.’” For more performance details, and to view a short trailer, visit the Virginia Opera here.

More Sanctuary Road news: also happening this month, soprano Alicia Russell Tagert joins the Virginia Symphony for two performances of the aria-excerpt “Rain” from Sanctuary Road which will be conducted by Everett McCorvey. The aria is featured as part of the orchestra’s “Tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr.” celebration.