ROSENCrantz & guildenstern are dead

Music and libretto by Herschel Garfein
Based on the play by Tom Stoppard

About the Work Creators Video/Audio Gallery Press Performances


Based on the 1967 play of the same title by Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead retells the story of Hamlet from the point-of-view of two minor characters in the Shakespeare play. Since the significant events of Hamlet are unfolding offstage, just out of view of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, they are powerless to understand the implications of those events for their fate. When the characters from Hamlet do sweep onto stage, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern can do nothing but play their assigned roles from Hamlet verbatim. Allowed only a highly restricted view of the tumultuous events of Hamlet unfolding around them, and deceived by nearly everyone, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern play games to pass the time and tirelessly devise strategies to make sense of their place in the grander scheme.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is an opera-in-progress. When complete, it will be in two acts, lasting approximately two hours, ten minutes plus intermission. Featured are six principal roles (Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, The Player, Alfred, Hamlet, Ophelia), three smaller roles (Gertrude, Claudius, Polonius) and several comprimarii. All singers except those in the four largest roles also sing in the chorus of players.

Learn more about the opera here:


AOP First Chance development for Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead was sponsored in part with a generous grant from the National Endowment of the Arts. 

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Herschel Garfein is a GRAMMY® award-winning writer, composer, and stage director. He conceived, wrote, and directed the theater piece My Coma Dreams, a collaboration with jazz composer-pianist Fred Hersch. My Coma Dreams premiered at Peak Performances at Montclair, and has been in Berlin, San Francisco, and New York City. 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. Garfein was awarded the 2012 GRAMMY® award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition for what BBC Music Magazine called his "wildly operatic libretto" to Robert Aldridge's Elmer Gantry in a performance by Florentine Opera (Milwaukee). Released on Naxos, the album won a second GRAMMY ® for Best Engineered Classical Recording. He is currently at work on the libretto for Sister Carrie, commissioned by Florentine Opera for its 2015 season. Garfein received his training at Yale University (cum lade) 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 2012-2013 academic year, he was awarded The Excellence in Teaching Award.

Tom Stoppard 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 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, opened 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) Arcadia (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.

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May 8 & 9, 2014 - UPCOMING
Scenes from the opera-in-development
Frontiers Festival 2014
Presented by Fort Worth Opera
1300 Gendy Street, Fort Worth, Texas 76107

October 18, 2010
Opera Grows in Brooklyn
Galapagos Art Space, Brooklyn, NY
Excerpts from opera
PERFORMANCES BY: Matthew Burns, Matthew Morris, Carla Jablonski.

April 10-11, 2010
Coproduction with Boston Classical Orchestra
Faneuil Hall, Boston, MA
Concert reading of scenes
PERFORMANCES BY: Krista River, Chad Sloan, David Kravitz, and Lindsay Conrad, Ashley Kozak, Abigail Krawson, Lila Palmer, Sean Lair and Brock Johnson.

November 20-21, 2009
Mark Morris Dance Center, Brooklyn, NY
Concert reading of scenes
PERFORMANCES BY: Keith Phares, Matthew Burns, Matt Morgan, Lucy Schaufer
PIANO: Kelly Horsted


May 8-9, 2014
Safe Word at Fort Worth Opera Frontiers Showcase
McDavid Studio
Fort Worth, TX

January 2008
Mark Morris Dance Center, Brooklyn, NY
Staged reading of scenes
PERFORMANCES BY: Keith Phares, Andrew Garland, Monica Yunus, William Ferguson, Matthew Burns.

May 6, 2006
New York, NY
Part of VOX 2006: Showcasing American Composers
Orchestral reading by New York City Opera.

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