About the Opera

    Herschel Garfein is a GRAMMY® award winning composer, writer and stage director. He is the composer/librettist of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, based on the play by Tom Stoppard. In reviewing a workshop performance of the opera in November 2009 TimeOut New York wrote of him: "Garfein has all the makings of a post-millennial Carlisle Floyd. His music and themes are deeply American and rooted in the mores of Gens X and Y."

Herschel Garfein

Garfein accepting his GRAMMY®
for Elmer Gantry, 2012

Garfein's recent work recent work includes three new songs for the 20th Anniversary AIDS Quilt Songbook premiered on World AIDS Day, 2012 at Cooper Union; a song-cycle The Divine Image, forthcoming on GPR Records; and the libretto for Sister Carrie, an opera based on the Dreiser novel, scheduled for a premiere by Florentine Opera, Milwaukee in 2015

Listen to excerpts from other works by Herschel Garfein >


He conceived, wrote and directed the theater piece My Coma Dreams, a collaboration with jazz composer-pianist Fred Hersch. My Coma Dreams played at the Miller Theater (NYC) in 2013 to rave reviews, having previously been seen in Montclair, Berlin, and San Francisco. "My Coma Dreams is scary and sad and beautiful and damn funny in parts... a mighty range of expression..." Jazz Times "Disturbing, lovely... [with] deeply funny moments throughout ..." The Wall Street Journal. It has been embraced by the medical community for its reflections on the patient's experience of contemporary medical practice; in Berlin it was produced by the European Society for Intensive Care Medicine, its 2013 NYC premiere was produced by The Program in Narrative Medicine at Columbia University Medical School.

As a librettist, Garfein was awarded the 2012 GRAMMY® award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition for his "wildly operatic libretto" (-BBC Music Magazine) for Robert Aldridge's Elmer Gantry in a performance by Florentine Opera, Milwaukee. Released on Naxos, the disk won a second GRAMMY® for Best Engineered Classical Recording.

Garfein first gained recognition for Mythologies, (lyrics and music) an evening-length dance triptych for The Mark Morris Dance Group, based on essays of Roland Barthes, which premiered at the BAM ‘Next Wave' Festival. Mr. Garfein collaborated with famed experimental theatre group Mabou Mines and noted mezzo Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, writing both music and lyrics for Sueños ("First-rate theater music" -The Boston Herald) which opened at the Hasty Pudding Theater in Boston and ran Off-Off- Broadway at the Manhattan Triplex Theater. In 2001, he composed incidental music for a new Off-Broadway production of Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida, directed by Sir Peter Hall (Theatre for a New Audience).

Concert music compositions include American Steel for the Alabama Symphony; and two string quartets -one written for the Lark Quartet.

Other libretti include Parables for Robert Aldridge, a symphonic oratorio on issues of religious tolerance, premiered by the Topeka Symphony Orchestra; Alzheimer's Stories for Robert S. Cohen, commissioned by the Susquehanna Valley Chorale in 2009, broadcast on Pennsylvania Public Television, and subsequently seen nationally in multiple venues, supported by the Alzheimer's Association of America; and Edison Invents, also for Cohen and commissioned by the Westfield Symphony (NJ).

Garfein received his training at Yale University (cum laude) and The New England Conservatory of Music. He has won awards and fellowships from The National Endowment for the Arts, the Massachusetts Artists Foundation, The National Institute for Opera/Music Theater, and the MacDowell Colony. He lectures in Script Analysis and teaches Composition at The Steinhardt School, New York University where, in the 2012-13 academic year, he was awarded The Excellence in Teaching Award.

World Premiere, October 2016

Sister Carrie: A new American Opera
by Robert Aldridge & Herschel Garfein
World Premiere October 7-9, 2016
Florentine Opera Company, Milwaukee

Listen to excerpts from
other works by Herschel Garfein

Two excerpts from American Steel (for large orchestra).
The Alabama Symphony, Christopher Confessore, conductor

"Cumbia and Trio" from String Quartet No. 1., The Lark Quartet

"London" from Places to Live.
The Boston Classical Orchestra, Steven Lipsitt conductor

Tom Stoppard [author of the play] is widely acknowledged as one of the world's leading dramatists. His first major success came with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, which catapulted him into the front ranks of modern playwrights overnight when it opened in London in 1967. The play, which chronicles the tale of Hamlet as told from the worm's-eye view of the bewildered Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two minor characters in Shakespeare's play, was immediately hailed as a modern dramatic masterpiece. The Broadway production won the Tony Award for Best Play.

Stoppard's trilogy The Coast of Utopia recently completed a critically lauded, sold-out run at the Lincoln Center Theater. It won a record-breaking seven Tony Awards, including Best Play. His latest play, Rock 'n Roll, will open on Broadway in November, 2007, transferring from a highly successful run in London's West End.

Among Stoppard's best-known plays are Jumpers (1972) Travesties (1974) The Real Thing (1982) Aracadia (1993) and The Invention of Love (1997). His works have won numerous awards, including nine Evening Standard Awards, the Italia Prize for radio plays, four Tony Awards and the Shakespeare Prize.

In addition to his work for the stage, Stoppard has written a number of screenplays including The Human Factor (1979), Empire of the Sun (1987), and Billy Bathgate (1991). He co-authored the screenplay for Brazil (1985), which was nominated for an Academy Award in 1985, and in 1999, he won an Oscar for "Best Screenplay" (with Marc Norman) for Shakespeare in Love.

Garfein's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead is the first operatic adaptation of a Stoppard play.