Opera Scotland

Niño El Niño, The Little Boy (i.e. Christ Child)

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John Adams


The Composer


Extracts from a long list of literary and spiritual sources in Spanish, English and Latin. Sources include Rosario Castellanos, Gabriela Mistral, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Rubén Darío, Vicente Huidobro, Hildegard of Bingen, Martin Luther, the Wakefield Mystery Plays and various biblical and spiritual sources.



First Performance: Paris (Théâtre du Chatelet), 15 December 2000.

First Performance in UK: to be confirmed.

First Performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (Usher Hall), 13 August 2010 (concert).

Scottish Opera première: N/A.



John Adams’ oratorio concerns the miracle of the nativity. Women’s voices and experiences are central to this retelling of the story, unusually seen from a mother’s perspective. Like many composers before him, such as Bach and Schütz, Adams tempers the holy rejoicing with deeply personal expressions of pain.

The baritone soloist acts as Narrator, while also portraying, at different times, Joseph. God and Herod. The role of Mary is allocated to two female singers, soprano and mezzo. At the Paris première these three soloists were Dawn Upshaw, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson and Willard White. The three counter-tenors act as commentators.



The oratorio recounts the life of Mary and Joseph, and the birth and early life of Jesus. The first part consists of a meditation on the Immaculate Conception and the Nativity. This is followed by Herod, the Three Kings and the Flight into Egypt.

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