AMMON and the KING: Immigrant Speaks Truth to Power - An Opera by Deon Nielsen Price Artwork by Charlie Roses

Ammon and the King: Immigrant Speaks Truth to Power. An ancient story with a message for modern times.

New opera by internationally-recognized composer Deon Nielsen Price will be premiered in a concert version March 17, 2019 at the Interfaith Center at the Presidio of San Francisco. Principal roles for bass, lyric tenor, mezzo soprano, coloratura soprano, countertenor. Servant and Villager ensemble roles for male quartet, mixed quartet and treble trio. All roles paid.

TO APPLY: By December 20, 2018, email the following to deon@culvercrest.com

  1. name of the role(s) for which you are auditioning
  2. description of your training and recent experience
  3. your contact information
  4. link to an online performance that shows your range and voice quality (YouTube, Google Drive, iCloud, etc.)

Callbacks will receive a PDF of a portion of the music for the role they applied for to prepare for the final live auditions.

Final auditions will be scheduled during the week of January 20 – 25, 2019 at a location in the Presidio of San Francisco. An accompanist will be provided. Printed Vocal/Piano scores for each role will be furnished to those singers selected. Singers selected for roles will sign an agreement as independent contractors with Culver Crest Publications regarding compensation and the required rehearsal, performance, and recording dates.

All events will be at locations in the Presidio of San Francisco.
Dates and Times are Mandatory:

  • Rehearsals 6:30 pm – 10:00 pm M T W TH March 11 - 14
  • Dress rehearsal Friday March 15, 6:00 pm – 10:00 pm
  • Performance Call Sunday March 17, 1:00 pm
  • Performance Sunday March 17, 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm
  • Recording sessions Monday March 18, 10:00 am – 1:00 pm and 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm
  • Recording sessions Tuesday March 19, 10:00 am – 1:00 pm and 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Note: not all roles are needed for all hours. Specific dates and hours for each role will be given to the selected singers.

Fully staged performances and additional partially staged or concert performances may be scheduled following the premiere and recording sessions.

Cast in order of appearance

(All members of cast have similar appearance (for concert performance, black pants and black shirts), except Ammon and solo dancer Ammon who have a stark, contrasting appearance (same light medium blue shirt and pants or tights)

Zeezri (countertenor) Wicked Villager, villain, physically strong, rough, arrogant, bully, buffoonish

King Lamoni (bass) strong, authoritative, anything he does, even murder, is considered acceptable. He is thoughtful leader, values his possessions.

Abish (mezzo soprano) responsible, female, head servant, busy-body, well-meaning but naïve.

Elmish (soprano; doubles as third female in trio) Servant

Melish (tenor I) Servant

Lamish (tenor II) Servant

Lemlish (baritone) Servant

Omulish (bass-baritone) Servant

Amliki (bass) Villager

Zoraki (soprano) Villager

Noraki (alto) Villager

Ammon (lyric tenor) hero, young man, strong physique, calm, confident, minister of peace

Queen Sarai (coloratura soprano) frivolous, enjoys jewels and luxuries, loves the King, discovers her inner strength and deep faith

Solo Dancer Ammon good physique, strong dance motions and pantomime

An immigrant speaks truth to power—an ancient story with a message for modern times. Ammon and the King is a two-act opera composed in 2018 by Deon Nielsen Price. The libretto is adapted by the composer from one of the stories about a group of people who emigrated from Jerusalem about 600 BC, as told in The Book of Mormon (Alma 17-19). By the time of this story, the group has evolved into distinct cultures with differing ethnicities, philosophies, and mores. King Lamoni reigns in a society where greed prevails and there is excessive scheming, plundering and murdering. His people frequently provoke war with an agrarian kingdom, whose fathers, they mistakenly believe, had stolen their own fathers’ rights hundreds of years earlier. Ammon, a God-fearing and idealistic young man from the distant kingdom, along with his brothers, emigrate to Lamoni’s proud, fierce kingdom to bring a message of hope, peace and good will. Because of his own great faith in God, the brothers’ father has blessed them to be preserved in the foreign land, and also to have extreme physical power, great knowledge, and divine insight, according to their righteous desires.

The wicked villagers and their leader, Zeezri, capture Ammon, whose strange appearance threatens them. They contend with each other what to do with him—“Slay him!!” “Put him in prison!” “Cast him out of our land!” They take him to the King who decides to let him stay. Ammon becomes a servant to the King. He then becomes a hero when he saves the King’s flocks as well as the King’s servants. The King wants desperately to know if Ammon is the Great Spirit; what is the source of his supernatural strength? He listens to Ammon’s message of peace and believes his words. Queen Sarai and Head Servant Abish are women who discover their own inner strength and faith in God. They, the servants and many villagers—but not Zeezri—are won over by Ammon and are taught miraculously by angels. They proclaim, “We are changed, our hearts are new!”

Interview with Deon Nielsen Price about her new opera, AMMON AND THE KING: IMMIGRANT SPEAKS TRUTH TO POWER, November 2018. By Jeannie Gayle Pool.

JGP: You have written plenty of vocal music over the last fifty years, including art songs, choral works, and an oratorio. Why did you decide to write an opera?

DNP: In December 2017, I was visiting countertenor Darryl Taylor who encouraged me to add an opera to my long list of compositions, so in January and February 2018, I wrote one. He has been singing my music for nearly three decades.

JGP: What is the story of the opera?

DNP: I talked to some poet friends and librettists who were tied up with other projects, so I was reading, and this story just popped out at me. The way that it was written was like a libretto. It quoted what each character was saying, and the words were well suited to set to music. This ancient story is about a group of people who emigrated from Jerusalem about 600 BC. By the time of this story, the group had evolved into distinct cultures with differing ethnicities, philosophies, and mores. King Lamoni reigns in a society where greed prevails and there is excessive scheming, plundering and murdering. His people frequently provoke war with an agrarian kingdom, whose fathers, they mistakenly believe, had stolen their own fathers’ rights hundreds of years earlier.

JGP: There are principal roles for bass, lyric tenor, mezzo soprano, coloratura soprano, and countertenor. There is a male quartet, a mixed quartet, and a treble trio. I understand the source of this libretto is a passage from the Book of Mormon. How much did you have to change to adapt the original text for your libretto?

DNP: The only thing I did was to turn some phrases around, to make musical sense, but basically 95% of the words are the original.

JGP: The main character is “Ammon.” Who is he?

DNP: Ammon is a God-fearing and idealistic young man from the distant kingdom. Along with his brothers, he emigrates to Lamoni’s proud, fierce kingdom to bring a message of hope, peace, and reconciliation. Because of his own great faith in God, the brothers’ father has blessed them to be preserved in the foreign land, and to have extreme physical power, great knowledge, and divine insight, according to their righteous desires.

Ammon becomes a servant to the King. He then becomes a hero when he saves the King’s flocks as well as the King’s servants. The King wants desperately to know if Ammon is the Great Spirit; what is the source of his supernatural strength? He listens to Ammon’s message of peace and believes his words. Queen Sarai and Head Servant Abish are women who discover their own inner strength and faith in God. Eventually, Ammon wins over the servants and villagers who are taught miraculously by angels. They proclaim, “We are changed, our hearts are new!”

I could have named the opera “Queen Sarai and Head Servant Abish,” because the character of these women is most inspiring. They are women of great faith.

JGP: Why is this story so relevant to the contemporary situation?

DNP: Today’s immigrants—refugees—all around the globe, are being vilified, persecuted, and killed. In this story, the Villagers capture Ammon and debate whether they should deport him, put him in prison, or slay him. They take him to the King to decide. The King lets him stay. The lesson we can learn from the story is that immigrants help build the strength of our nation.

I’m a descendant of immigrants like most Americans are. When we close our doors to immigrants, we will no longer be a beacon of light to the rest of the world. Our society benefits immensely from the talents, perspectives, contributions, innovations, and energy of immigrants. In the opera, Ammon’s strong message of peace and hope changes the hearts of the people—but not all of them. He comes to unify the two societies and points out to them that “we are all brothers and sisters.” He tells them that they had been pitted against one another based on an ancient lie.

JGP: The premiere will be Sunday, March 17, 2019, at 4 pm, at the Interfaith Center at the Presidio of San Francisco. I understand it will be a concert performance and that you will record the opera during the following week. Do you hope to get a professional opera company interested in the work so that they will undertake a fully-staged production?

DNP: Yes! The Interfaith Center holds only about 120 people. The concert is free and open to the public. There is some staging, some props and choreography. I hope an established opera company, once they hear the work, will agree to do a production. Producing a fully-staged opera is quite an undertaking.

JGP: You have been performing a suite from the opera for solo piano and for chamber groups.

DNP: Yes, at UC Irvine, the Presidio Chapel, Mu Phi Epsilon District Pacific Northwest District Conference in Hayward, Mimoda Studios in Los Angeles, and for private gatherings. The response has amazed me because the music was dictated by the words. In the suite, I’ve taken away the text, and people are responding just to the music and it seems to have a powerful effect.

JGP: Congratulations! I can’t wait to hear the opera in March.

DNP: We are now auditioning singers. For details, please visit http://culvercrest.com/ammonandtheking/

JGP: This performance is part of a series?

DNP: It is co-sponsored by the Interfaith Center at the Presidio and is the first in a series of four operatic works. The others represent the views of Jewish, Quaker, and Hindu traditions. The other works are Meira Warshauer’s Elijah’s Violin, Zenobia Powell Perry’s Tawawa House; and my Light of Man (based on a story in the Upanishads).

Jeannie Gayle Pool, Ph.D. is a musicologist, composer, and music producer, residing in Southern California.