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Music Text

Libretto adapted by Peter Sellars and John Adams from poems by Rosario Castellanos, Gabriela Mistral, Hildegard von Bingen, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Rubén Darío, Vicente Huidobro, Martin Luther, and texts from the King James Bible, The Wakefield Mystery Plays and gnostic gospels. (E-S)


S,M,Bar,3CT; chorus; children's chorus
2(I,II=picc).2(I,II=corA).2(II=bcl).2(II=dbn)- tgl/gong/almglocken/guiro/maracas; II=crot/almglocken/gong/hi cowbell/3tgl/tpl.bl; III=gong/chimes/crot/claves/2tgl/2temple bowls-harp-pft(=cel)-2kbd (I=pft,cel;II=sampler,cel)-2steel string gtr-strings(minimum

NOTE: The hiring of a sound designer is a condition/requirement for permission.

For complete technical specifications go to: mhgrey.wordpress.com

Abbreviations (PDF)


Boosey & Hawkes (Hendon Music)

This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the world.


World Premiere
Châtelet, Paris
Dawn Upshaw/Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson/Willard White/Peter Sellars, director
Conductor: Kent Nagano
Company: Deutsches Symphonie Orchester/London Voices


Male Ensemble of 3 Countertenors
Time and Place

Time and place for stage action not specified; optional accompanying film by Peter Sellars is set in the 1990s, Los Angeles, CA


El Niño tells the story of the Nativity, along with reflections on the wonders and tribulations of motherhood itself.  Mary’s virtue is praised; she is visited by the Holy Spirit, who tells her of the miracle to come.  Joseph is angered to discover that Mary is pregnant.  He is reassured by an angel of the Lord.  The birth of Jesus is heralded by a star in the east.  Three wise men arrive in Jerusalem in search of the child; Herod, hearing that a new King of the Jews has been born, sends the wise men to find him.  They present Jesus with precious gifts.  An angel of the Lord tells Joseph and Mary to flee to Egypt, for Herod wants to destroy the child.  Herod, who has been mocked by the three wise men, orders that all of the children in Bethlehem shall be killed.  Jesus performs miracles to rescue and protect his mother as they travel with Joseph through the desert to safety.



Recommended Recording

Dawn Upshaw/Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson/Willard White/Theatre of Voices/London Voices/Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin/Kent Nagano
Nonesuch 7559796342
Buy the MP3 album from Nonesuch 

Arthaus Music PAL 100 200 (DVD Video)
Click here to purchase the DVD video from Amazon


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