Mark Hernandez


Mary Pleasant at Land’s End
An Opera in Two Acts

Mary Pleasant – one of the most complex, mysterious, and imposing figures in the history of the nation – comes alive in Mary Pleasant at Land’s End, an opera by composer David Garner and librettist Mark Hernandez.

The opera traces much of Pleasant’s astonishing life, beginning with her days as a shepherd for the Underground Railroad. Arriving in San Francisco during the Gold Rush, she becomes a beloved leader in the young city. Eventually, this daughter of enslaved persons stands as one of the richest and most influential individuals of the time. Her championing of people and causes, however, brings her into conflict with a more familiar face of wealth and power, and the ensuing struggle plays out in a notorious courtroom drama that mesmerizes the public. Sensationalist press coverage demonizes Pleasant, playing on attitudes towards her race and gender. An essential figure in the founding of San Francisco, and indeed the state of California, she is forgotten even as the city bursts into world prominence.

Mary Pleasant at Land’s End is comprised of two acts (about two hours of music total), and calls for four principal artists, eight comprimario artists, and mixed chorus. Garner’s first full-length opera, it is replete with the soaring vocalism for which he is so widely admired, and also uniquely employs rhythmic motifs from Haitian Vodou traditions. Hernandez’s libretto draws on colorful language and situations from San Francisco’s Barbary Coast days.

In January 2017, a musical workshop took place at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

Act I of the Workshop Performance
Act II of the Workshop Performance
Interview with David Garner and Mark Hernandez

Garner and Hernandez are currently editing the work, and Garner expects to complete the orchestration in 2019. For up-to-date information, visit Garner's website.