An Opera in Two Acts
Based on a novel by John Updike, S. is set in present-day Boston and Boston’s North Shore, in Florida, in England and Holland, at an ashram in Arizona, and on an island in the Bahamas. It follows Sarah Worth, a wealthy doctor’s wife and a loving mother, as she flees her suburban life to join her guru, a charismatic Hindu religious leader known as the Arhat, at his ashram in Arizona. A hilarious romp through ’80s American culture. Contemporary tonal music with Indian raga elements.

Opera Cast:

Sarah Worth, an upper-class WASP in her mid-forties (Lyric soprano)
Charles Worth, Sarah’s husband, a doctor (Lyric baritone)
Pearl, Sarah and Charles’ college-age daughter (Coloratura soprano)
The Arhat, a founder of Ashram Arhat, Forrest, AZ (Lyric tenor)
Durga, chief administrator of the ashram (Dramatic mezzo-soprano)
Alinga, a staff member at the ashram (Lyric soprano)
Gilman, Charles’ lawyer (Bass-baritone)
Mother, Sarah’s mother, a widow retired in Florida (Lyric mezzo soprano)
Midge, Sarah’s best friend on the North Shore (Soprano)
Miles Murrow, a TV talk show host (Sprechstimme role)
Swiss Banker (French speaking role)
Ducky Bradford, Charles’ investment advisor and Dr. Podhoretz, Sarah’s dentist (Tenor)
Sheriff Yardley, Sheriff of Dorado County, AZ and Dr. Epstein, Sarah’s psychiatrist (Bass)
Chorus (minimum about 24, evenly distributed SATB); travelers, sannyasins, local people, TV crew, IRS agents and others (including a few small designated solo parts such as Fritz, Racher, Navajo Man, Minister, etc).

Instrumentation: 2 flutes (2nd doubling piccolo and alto flute), 2 oboes (2nd doubling E.H.), 2 clarinets (2nd doubling alto sax, bass clarinet), 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, harp, percussion (2 players), sitar (may be performed on synthesizer), optional tambura, strings. Alternative chamber version: 2 pianos (2nd doubling synthesizer), optional tambura, percussion (2 players).

Libretto by: Constance Congdon, Based on the novel by John Updike
Original Conception/
Artistic Collaboration:
Mark Harrison
Composed: 1995
Duration: 2 hours, 25 minutes
Publisher: E. C. Schirmer Music Company
Catalog Number(s): Libretto, 5751A
Piano/Vocal Score, 5751
Full score and parts available for rental.


“Perera took a bold step six years ago in his first opera, The Yellow Wallpaper, where we watch and listen as a woman sings her way down to madness. In S. he takes another bold step, setting to music Updike’s epistolary portrait of a vastly different and far more interesting person: Sarah is intelligent, strong, witty, passionate, and cunning. Entirely without malice, she knows what she wants and gets it… Perera’s music, memorable mainly for its texture and style, does beautifully in setting mood, defining character, underlining humor, and distinguishing the sounds of two worlds.”

The Valley Advocate-9/28-10/4/95


Score Excerpt:

View Score

Audio Excerpt:

Excerpt is from Act I, scene 5. Singers include Jane Bryden, James Maddelena, Brenda Dawe, Paulina Stark, David Ripley, Jon Humphrey, and Stephen Curylo, with Monica Jakuc and Clifton J. Noble, Jr., pianos, and Peter Tanner and John Kelly, percussion. Paul Flight, conductor.