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Thriller ‘The Thirteenth Child’ premieres at Santa Fe Opera

Mezzo-soprano Tamara Mumford will make her Santa Fe debut as Queen Gertrude in “The Thirteenth Child.”

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — In “The Thirteenth Child,” the Brothers Grimm meet Hitchcock.

Forget about those magic beans and bowls of porridge. This fairy tale is a down-to-the-wire thriller.

In 2016, Danish composer Poul Ruders read a cryptic short story by the Brothers Grimm and turned it into a fairy tale opera.

“It was the once upon a time elements that drew me to one of the lesser known Brothers Grimm stories ‘The Twelve Brothers,’ ” Ruders said.

The opera is not based on the original story, but suggested by it, Ruders said.

The first act spans 18 years from the birth of the main character Princess Lyra, the 13th child in the title. The libretto takes Lyra through the deaths of both her father King Hjarne and of her mother Queen Gertrude. By the second act, Lyra’s brothers have been turned into ravens by an evil spell. If Lyra utters a single word, they will remain that way, never returning to human form.

Ruders described the music as “ear candy with chile peppers.”

Canadian soprano and a winner of the 2017 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, Kirsten MacKinnon, will star as Lyra. Mezzo-soprano Tamara Mumford will make her Santa Fe debut as Queen Gertrude. Tenor Joshua Dennis is Frederic and Metropolitan Opera tenor (“The Magic Flute,” “Tosca”) Bradley Garvin will sing Drokan. New York bass David Leigh will play King Hjarne in his Santa Fe Opera debut.

One of today’s most highly acclaimed composers, Ruders wrote “The Handmaid’s Tale,” hailed as a “riveting, kaleidoscopic score’ by the New York Times. “The Thirteenth Child” is his fifth opera and Santa Fe’s 16th world premiere.

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