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Playlist and Libretto | Program and Cast

Suite for Piano from Ammon and the King
Deon Nielsen Price, composer and pianist
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Interfaith Center at the Presidio

Interfaith Center at the Presidio

Unleashing the Power of Interreligious Cooperation

AMMON and the KING:
Immigrant Speaks Truth to Power

Chamber Opera Concert Performance

Sunday, March 17, 2019, 4:00 PM
Presidio Chapel, 130 Fisher Loop, San Francisco, CA 94129


Darryl Taylor, countertenor, Zeezri
Esteban Rivas, bass, King Lamoni
Linda Baird, mezzo soprano, Abish
Anthony P. McGlaun, tenor, Ammon
Maryam Donovan, soprano, Elmish, Angel
Timothy Martin, tenor, Melish
Phillip Harris, baritone, Lemlish
John Walker, bass, Amliki, Omulish
Rachel Payne, mezzo soprano, Zoraki, Angel
Biraj Barkakaty, countertenor, Lamish, Noraki, Angel
Mengjun Chen, Ballerino Ammon (Smuin Contemporary Ballet)
Erin O’Meally, coloratura soprano, Queen Sarai


Christy Kim, flute
Christina Simpson, viola
Jorge Maresch, cello
Taylor Chan, piano
Samuel Nelson, violin
Deon Nielsen Price, Conductor
Chunzi Duan Yang, Assistant Conductor


AMMON and the KING: Immigrant Speaks Truth to Power is an ancient story with a message for modern times. The two-act chamber opera was composed in 2018 by internationally recognized composer Deon Nielsen Price, who resides in California. 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 a neighboring 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 villagers and their wicked 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!”



Strong and Ferocious – Zeezri


Ammon – King Lamoni; Servants: Abish, Elmish, Melish, Lamish, Lemlish, Omulish, Ammon; Villagers: Zeezri, Amliki, Zoraki, Noraki
Hands – Ammon, King Lamoni, Zeezri, Elmish, Zoraki, Abish, Noraki, Melish, Lamish, Omulish, Lemlish
Pleasure – Zeezri
Faith, Fear – Ammon, Elmish, Melish, Lamish, Lemish, Omulish, Zeezri
Battle Ballet – Ballerino Ammon
Not a Few – Melish, Lamish, Lemish, Omulish
Great Spirit – King Lamoni
We Do Know – Abish, Elmish, Melish, Lamish, Lemish, Omulish
Now I Know – King Lamoni
Where is Ammon? – King Lamoni, Abish
Horses, Chariots – Ammon
Murders, Woe! – King Lamoni, Ammon, Abish
O King – Ammon, King Lamoni, Abish, Elmish, Melish, Lamish, Lemlish, Omulish
Creation – Angels
Words – King Lamoni
Plan – Angels



Splendor – Queen Sarai
Woe! – Queen Sarai, Elmish, Abish, Melish, Lamish, Lemlish, Omulish
He Sleepeth – Queen Sarai, Abish, Elmish, Melish, Lamish, Lemlish, Omulish
Not a Few (reprise) – Melish, Lamish, Lemlish, Omulish
My Queen – Queen Sarai, Abish, Ammon
Take Him – Ammon, Elmish, Abish, Melish, Lamish, Lemlish, Omulish
Do You Believe? – Queen Sarai, Ammon, Abish
Veil – Angels
Blessed – Queen Sarai, Ammon, King Lamoni
Hope – Elmish, Abish, Melish, Lamish, Lemlish, Omulish
Glory – Abish
King is Dead? – Zeezri , Noraki, Zoraki, Amliki
Sextet – Zeezri, Abish, Queen Sarai, Ammon, Melish, Lamish, Lemlish, Omulish, King Lamoni
Our Hearts Are New – Entire cast, but not Zeezri!


Linda Baird (Abish), mezzo soprano, is praised for her resonant, flexible singing, She has sung in numerous opera companies and symphonies including Seattle Opera, Vancouver Opera, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Northern Czech Philharmonic, San Jose Opera, Prince George Symphony, and Burnaby Lyric Opera. Her 2017 season includes her debut as Kate with San Luis Obispo Opera’s Madame Butterfly and Suzuki cover; her debut as Fricka with Heroic Opera’s Die Walkure in Vancouver, Canada; and Tisbe in California Opera’s La Cenerentola. Linda is a native of North Vancouver, BC, Canada, and a Master of Music in Opera graduate from The University of British Columbia. Linda resides in San Francisco and works as a teaching artist for San Francisco Opera.

Biraj Barkakaty (Lamish, Noraki, Angel), is a native of London, England, whose recent engagements include The Huntsman in John Blow’s Venus and Adonis with New Camerata Opera in New York City, the title role in the staged world premiere of Cavalli’s Xerse with Ensemble OrQuesta in London in July, the Third Israelite in Handel's Esther with Music of the Baroque under Jane Glover in Chicago, and the world premiere of Sasquatch: The Opera at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Performance highlights include role of Mago Cristiano in Rinaldo for Opera Mission in New York City, Oberon with the Aspen Music Festival under Jane Glover, and the title role in the US premiere of Handel's Silla. Biraj was a full time member of the Queen’s Choir at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle for 4 years, where he performed in many tours, recordings and royal events. Biraj is a graduate of the University of Manchester, Trinity College of Music in London, and the Manhattan School of Music. After being based in New York City for a decade he moved to Washington DC in 2016 where he is currently a staff singer with the full time professional choir at the National Cathedral.

Taylor Chan (Piano) recently completed her M.M. in Collaborative Piano under Timothy Bach at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where she is now a staff accompanist for both Pre-College and Collegiate Divisions. She also serves as rehearsal pianist and accompanist to the Grammy Award-winning Premier Ensemble of the San Francisco Girls Chorus, preparing newly commissioned scores for premiere performances with guest artists such as Kronos Quartet, and Philip Glass Ensemble. As a student, she had the pleasure of meeting Meredith Monk while performing her piece Ellis Island with San Francisco Contemporary Music Players pianist Kate Campbell. Upcoming performances include Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians at the 2019 Hot Air Music Festival and a new children's opera, "Xochitl and the Flowers," with Opera Parallèle.

Mengjun Chen (Ballerino Ammon), a native of Wenzhou, China, trained at the Beijing Dance Academy and Joffrey Ballet Academy of Dance. After receiving his Bachelor of Fine Arts from Beijing Dance Academy, he joined Milwaukee Ballet where he performed major roles in Giselle, Swan Lake, Romeo & Juliet, The Nutcracker, Don Quixote, Cinderella, Dracula, and La Bohème. Chen also performed contemporary works by Matthew Neenan, Gabrielle Lamb, Ma Cong, Amy Seiwert and Val Caniparoli. In 2014, he was a finalist in the USA International Ballet Competition. Chen joined Smuin in 2015.

Maryam Hahvi Donovan (Elmish), soprano, has sung all over Europe and the United States. Maryam has performed at Carnegie Hall, was featured at the Festival of New American Music in Sacramento, and recently recorded an album of Spirituals at Skywalker Sound with baritone Lester Lynch. Maryam recorded the role of Eva Perón in Carlos Franzetti’s opera Corpus Evita that was nominated for a Grammy. She starred in Teatro ZinZanni, singing duets with Joan Baez, and sings on the Spy Kids soundtrack, recorded at Skywalker with the San Francisco Symphony. Maryam performed as Countess Almaviva at Mission City Opera in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro and has appeared as Donna Anna in Don Giovanni and Leonora in La Forza del Destino. She received her Bachelor’s from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and continues vocal training at Manhattan School of Music.

Phillip Harris (Lemlish), baritone, has sung as a soloist at Carnegie Hall and as a soloist with the San Francisco Symphony in Davies Hall. Upcoming engagements include solos at Lincoln Center and an opera gala in celebration of Dr. Darryl Taylor, his mentor and teacher at UCI. He has won awards from the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, the National Association of Teachers of Singing, and the Pacific Musical Society. Phillip has sung with organizations that include The Aspen Music Festival, The Hawaii Performing Arts Festival, Opera in the Ozarks, Opera Las Vegas, Island City Opera, Pocket Opera, San Francisco Opera Chorus, and the University of Michigan Opera Theater. He just finished a CD entitled Phillip Harris in Recital, with Damien Sneed and is finishing a book, The Life and Music of Jacqueline Hairston. He holds a BM from UC Irvine, a MM from the University of Michigan, and a DMA from UNLV.

Christy Kim (Flute) is a California-born flutist who enjoys an active career as an orchestral and chamber musician. She has performed with the Chicago Symphony, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and the St. Louis Symphony, joining them on their International Tour in 2017. She has performed alongside Yo-Yo Ma, and under conductors Esa-Pekka Salonen, Riccardo Muti, David Robertson, Han-na Chang, Christoph Eschenbach, and Leonard Slatkin. Christy has spent summers at the Aspen Music Festival, Music Academy of the West, and National Repertory Orchestra. From 2016-2018, she was a member of Civic Orchestra of Chicago, becoming the Flute Fellow in 2017-2018. Christy is currently the flutist of San Francisco-based chamber ensemble Nomad Sessions.

Jorge Maresch (Cello) is a San Francisco based freelance cellist with a passion for contemporary chamber music. He made his solo debut performance playing the Elgar Cello Concerto with the Las Vegas Philharmonic in 2011. He moved to San Francisco in 2011 to work on his BM with Jean-Michel Fonteneau and received his MM with Jennifer Culp from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Jorge is a dedicated teacher at Syntonique Studios in SoMa and loves coaching chamber groups. He specializes in chamber music performance and is excited to be a part of the ASTRAEUS String Quartet to share musical works that inspire us.

Timothy James Martin (Melish) began studying voice at Yuba College under the direction of Joaquina Calvo Johnson. Timothy participated in many fundraisers including choir concerts, opera scene performances, and recitals to raise funds for the Yuba College Music Scholarships and the Yuba-Sutter Regional Arts Council. He volunteered with the Borga Maria Lyric Opera Company that was created under Joaquina. In 2010 Timothy began singing with the Oakland East Bay Gay Mens Chorus until his acceptance to the SFSU Music Department where he got his B.A. in Music in 2018. Timothy has three memorable roles that he holds close to his heart: His first main role with Joaquina, the Toad from "The Wind in the Willows," and his last role with her, Melchor from Ammol and the Three King's, and the 2015 SFSU Music Department production of Beatrice And Benedick by Hector Berlioz where he played the role of Don John.

Anthony P. McGlaun (Ammon), a Detroit, Michigan native, received a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Morehouse College and a Master of Music from the University of Northern Iowa. Upon his return to Detroit, Mr. McGlaun joined the faculty of Marygrove College where he served as Director of Vocal Activities and Assistant Professor of Music from 2004-2009. He also was a member of the Michigan Opera Theater Chorus and was an Apprentice with the company in the 2008-09 season singing the roles of Uncle Yakuside in Madame Butterfly and Remendado in Carmen. In the fall of 2009 Mr. McGlaun relocated to New York City to pursue a full-time performance career. During that time, he appeared in a national tour of Porgy and Bess and a national broadcast of the Messiah as Tenor Soloist. McGlaun also performed the role of PoPo in the Chicago premiere of Troubled Island, and Robert, in the world premiere of Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line To Freedom. Anthony McGlaun is a member of the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA), Screen Actor's Guild (SAG) and the Actors Equity Association. McGlaun is also a member of Associated Solo Artists. Mr. McGlaun is a much sought-after soloist, recitalist, lecturer and Master class presenter. He specializes in the Negro Spiritual and work of African-American composers.

Samuel Nelson (violin) is a native born South Dakotan who began his string studies at the age of eight with Carol Knowles and Coral White. He is a graduate of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music where he studied with Jodi Levitz, and Mark Sokol. He has performed throughout the world as a soloist, chamber musician, and orchestral musician. Sam is currently a violinist in the Astraeus String Quartet - an ensemble dedicated to performing exciting works of past and present. In addition, he currently performs as a principle player in the unconducted chamber orchestra, One Found Sound. His mission is to present, perform, teach and revive Western Art Music so that it can be accessible and enjoyable to anyone who is curious.

Erin O’Meally (Queen Sarai) is a San Francisco based lyric-coloratura soprano. Erin recently celebrated garnering First Prize in the Henry and Maria Holt Scholarship Competition in 2018, First Prize in the East Bay Opera League Competition in 2017 as well as being awarded Third Prize in the James Toland Tier II Vocal Competition earlier in 2017. During the summer of 2018, she sang “Mable” with Lamplighters Music Theater and was nominated for “Outstanding Performance in a Principal Role in a Musical” with Theater Bay Area. Upcoming performances include singing “Magda” in Pocket Opera’s production of La Rondine in Spring of 2019, and she makes her company debut with West Edge Opera singing “Lucy Brown” in the production of Threepenny Opera during their 2019 summer festival. Ms. O’Meally earned her Master Degree in Vocal Performance from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in 2016. She is currently studying Jane Randolph.

Rachel Payne (Zoraki) is a native of San Jose, California. As a classical singer living in Los Angeles, her performing experiences varied from main stage opera and musical theatre to video games and commercial jingles. This year Rachel performed Euridice in Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice for the Independent Opera Company. Some of her favorite stage roles have been Nedda in Pagliacci and The Beggar Woman in Sweeney Todd with Pacific Opera Project. Recently, Rachel released a new collaborative classical album entitled Mourning which takes listeners through the process of wanting, having, losing, and keeping hope after the loss of a child. Her first album, Twisted Folk, is a solo recording featuring the work of contemporary composers fusing classical folk melodies in modern classical settings.

Esteban Rivas (King Lamoni), Basso Cantante (a Lyrical Bass), is a graduate of Universidad Autonoma de Nayarit where he majored in vocal performance/classical vocal singing. While attending school he was part of the opera workshop of the Universidad Autonoma de Nayarit, the Coro Del Estado de Nayarit, and the Coro Universitario Giuseppe Verdi. He was also a special member of the chorus Guillermo Zarabia in the city of Mazatlan. Since returning to Southern California, Mr. Rivas’ most recent operatic roles include the title role in Le Nozze di Figaro, Coline (La Boheme) and First priest (Die Zauberflo). Recently he was featured soloist with the Coachella Valley Symphony under the direction of conductor John Mario Di Constanzo. This summer Mr. Rivas will be singing with Temecula Symphony with maestro Di Constanzo.

The performances of Darryl Taylor (Zeezri) have been noted for their compelling artistry and authority. Recent performance highlights include singing the title role in Phillip Glass' Akhnaten for Long Beach Opera; L.A. Opera’s groundbreaking production of Dido and Aeneas; Pergolesi and Vivaldi Stabat Mater with Lyra Baroque Orchestra of St. Paul, Minnesota; performances with the Carmel Bach Festival; the Bach Collegium San Diego under Richard Egarr, and performances at New York’s Carnegie Hall. He was also heard performing Solomon with the City Choir of Washington under Robert Shafer. Founder of the African American Art Song Alliance. his recordings on Naxos and Albany record labels have received lavish praise. Please visit

John Walker (Amliki, Omulish) is a native of Salt Lake City, Utah, and now lives in San Francisco. He currently teaches music at Grace Cathedral and has performed in various choral ensembles and productions. In his free time he enjoys the outdoors, running, and composing.

Musicologist/composer Jeannie Gayle Pool is the producer of numerous international music festivals, concerts, radio broadcasts, documentary films, and more than 50 compact discs and other recordings. A published author of books on women in music, American music, and film music history, she served as consultant to Paramount Pictures Motion Picture Music Department from 1995 until 2012, where she preserved and catalogued the studio's extensive music collection. Currently President of the Los Angeles Chapter of the National Association of Composers U.S.A., she is on the Board of the American Society of Music Arrangers and Composers. Jeannie Pool's own compositions for orchestra and chamber ensembles have been performed throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, and in China. She holds a Ph.D. in music from the Claremont Graduate University.

Chunzi DuanYang (Assistant Conductor) comes from a musical family. She received her Master's degree in orchestral conducting from China Conservatory of Music. She is currently studying orchestral conducting directed by Maestro Eric Dudley at San Francisco Conservatory of Music. In her conducting career, she has actively participated in various conducting engagements and collaborated with many famous orchestras. She conducted the original epic opera Confucius with the Symphony Orchestra of Shandong, presented at the 10th China Art Festival and won the Excellent Dramas Show award. She worked as an assistant conductor with the China National Traditional Orchestra.

Deon Nielsen Price is a commissioned composer, award winning pianist, performing and recording artist, conductor, vocal coach, author, church musician, retired professor, and advocate for women in music and for living composers. Dr. Price’s CD recordings on the Cambria label, including the 2017 release, Radiance in Motion, are highly acclaimed: “fascinating, rewarding music” (Fanfare 2019). Her book, Accompanying Skills for Pianists, and sheet music for her now 300 compositions are available at and are being archived at Brigham Young University. Price’s 2019 commissions include a work for clarinet and piano in celebration of the Centennial of Los Angeles Alumni of Mu Phi Epsilon; and the orchestration of “Behind Barbed Wire,” about life in the Japanese-American incarceration camps 1942-1946. The Metro Chamber Orchestra, with Chika Inoue, saxophone soloist, will perform it in the Roulette Theater in Brooklyn (NY) on May 11, 2019. Recently relocated from Southern California to the Presidio of San Francisco, Price currently coordinates the Interfaith Center Sunday Concerts at the historic Presidio Chapel. Her academic degrees include a B.A. Brigham Young University; an M.M. University of Michigan; and a D.M.A. University of Southern California.


Jeannie G. Pool, Ph.D., Producer
Mitchell Holman, Audio Recording Engineer
Jesse Chandler, Video Engineer
Alexis Exstrom, Photographer

Ammon and the King Opera Committee:
Linda Baird, Timothy Martin, Camilla Smith, Karen Merrill, Deon Price

Interfaith Center at the Presidio:
Mary Zamboukos, Staff
Gerald Caprio, Camilla Smith, Fred Fielding, Rita Semel, Henry Baer, Marla Kolman Antebi, Susan Strouse, Deon Price, Board of Directors

The Presidio Trust

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

  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

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

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.