Libretto by Judy Ramey

Music by Steven Luksan

Valparaiso is a chamber opera set in a retirement home that explores the humor and pain, the love and loss, of four residents as they navigate the changes and challenges of advancing age. It hopes to offer seniors a moving artistic expression of their experiences in aging and an opportunity to feel seen, heard, and respected.

Performance History & Upcoming Performances:

Project History:

The libretto was first presented in a public reading on April 28, 2023 at Horizon House in Seattle, WA, which attracted attendance of over 100 residents and was greeted enthusiastically. 

The opera premiered on March 22, 2024 at Horizon House in Seattle, Washington.

Performance Archive:

March 22, 2024 - Horizon House (Seattle, Wash.)

March 24, 2024 - Horizon House (Seattle, Wash.)

April 13, 2024 - Des Moines United Methodist Church (Des Moines, Wash.)

June 1, 2024 - Music Center of the Northwest (Seattle, Wash.)

Upcoming Performances:

September 13, 2024 - Women's University Club (Seattle, Wash.)

For inquiries about future performances, please contact Steven Luksan (Contact)

The Characters and Story:

Ron and his ex-wife Dorothy: Ron has lived in the retirement home for several years, and Dorothy has just moved in. He hopes to revive their love, but she immediately sets off with a new lover on a tour that ultimately arrives in Valparaiso, Chile. It does not go well for her.

Sam, a widower and Ron’s best friend: Sam is cranky, salty, but also suffering from the loss of his dear wife Mary.

Sarah, a widow: In her dementia she can’t accept the loss of her late husband Thomas.

Dorothy returns home with a broken wrist and a new appreciation of what she might have with Ron. Sam and Sarah learn that they both have found a deep source of comfort for their loss.

Audience Reaction and Reviews:

Residents of Horizon House (Seattle) gave the world premiere of Valparaiso rave reviews, saying:

"We in the audience were spellbound. It was a profound interpretation of the lives of our generation. An enriching experience for all of us."

"Very impressive and touching, and expresses what our current lives are about and how senior living places get us through this stage of life with grace, friendship, and assistance when needed."

"A remarkable success. The libretto is rich in meanings and it wonderfully captures the complexity of life in a retirement center. And it is eminently singable. And where did you find the composer? He is brilliant, and his score enriches the wonderful words. The simple stage is delightful: we all get it."

"The opera is a marvel!  Funny, witty, very clearly observed, and poignant.  Very close to the bone for folks of a certain generation.  We were very impressed. The music served the libretto very well."

Instrumentation and Duration:

Valparaiso is composed for 4 singers (2 treble voices and 2 bass voices) and piano.  The vocal writing is melodic and suitable for most voice types. The work opera is in English, with one brief passage in Spanish.

Run Time

The show run time is about 90 minutes, and it is divided into 3 acts and an intermezzo.

Act 1: 25min

Intermezzo: 10min

Intermission: 10-15min

Act 2: 20min

Act 3: 20min

Musical Excerpts:

Thomas! Those Blue Eyes!

In this scene we meet Sarah, who mistakes her friend Ron for her late husband Thomas. In her dementia, she cannot accept the loss of her dear Thomas. 

Intermezzo (excerpt)

In this excerpt, Dorothy (sung by Nerys Jones, mezzo soprano) waits to set off with her new “friend” Andrew on her trip to South America. In her excitement, she questions who she is, and who she is meant to be, as she enters a new chapter in her life. She is not done yet, she wants more!

The Creative Team

Judy Ramey, Librettist

Judy is a librettist living in Seattle, WA.

Photo by Libby Lewis Photography

Steven Luksan, Composer

Steven is a composer and pianist making music in Seattle, WA.

The Original Cast:

Nerys Jones (Dorothy)

Nerys Jones, mezzo soprano, brings great stage presence, lovely sound, and “crystal clear diction” to her creation of the role of “restless Dorothy.” A native of Wales, she achieved great success in London at the English National Opera and performed with numerous other companies in the Uk and Europe. She made her Seattle Opera debut in 2019 as Inez in Il Trovatore and returned to sing Giovanna in Rigolettto. Learn more about her career at:

Charles Robert Stephens (Ron)

Charles Robert Stephens (Baritone) has enjoyed a long career spanning a wide variety of roles and styles in opera and concert music. In his 20 years in New York City, he sang leading roles with the New York City Opera and was reported by the New York Times to be "a baritone of smooth distinction." He also appeared frequently in Carnegie Hall with the Opera Orchestra of New York in a variety of roles and was active in regional opera throughout the US. On the international stage, he sang opera roles in Montevideo Uruguay, Taiwan, Santo Domingo, and Mexico City.

Now based in Seattle, Charles has sung with the Seattle Symphony, Northwest Sinfonietta, Tacoma and Spokane Symphony, Spokane Opera, Portland Chamber Orchestra and many other orchestras and opera companies in the Pacific Northwest.

Career highlights include the role of Tiresias in the Boston Early Music Festival's lavish production of Steffani's NiobeQueen of Thebes. With the New York City National Company, he sang the role of Germont in La Traviata in forty-three performances across the US. Among his ten appearances with the Seattle Symphony include Beethoven’s 9thMessiah and "Opera Festival." He premiered and recorded the role of Rudyard Kipling in John Muehleisen's world premiere cantata entitled But Who Shall Return to Us Our Children? A Kipling Passion.

The 2022-23 season includes performances of the Vaughan Williams Sea Symphony and Messiah (Spokane Symphony), Judge Turpin in Sweeny Todd (Helena Symphony), Bach B Minor Mass (St. Paul Music Guild,  Salem, OR), Mozart Requiem, Bellingham Symphony,  Mozart C minor Mass, Seattle Pro Musica, Haydn The Seasons (Harmonia Seattle ), Verdi Requiem ( Symphony Tacoma) and a Paris debut in Bach’s St. John Passion (Les Fetes Galantes).

Glenn Guhr (Sam)

Singer/actor, Glenn Guhr has always prided himself on his versatility, being equally at home in everything from Shakespeare to Sondheim and Monteverdi to Verdi. He has appeared in operas, operettas, musicals, plays, film, and voice-over with the Pacific Northwest Ballet, Seattle Opera, Civic Light Opera, Tacoma Opera, ACT Inc. (St. Louis), The St. Louis Shakespeare Company, Theatre Factory St. Louis and others in such roles as Gianni Schicchi, Papageno (The Magic Flute), Ford (Falstaff), Germont (La Traviata), Guglielmo (Così fan tutte), and Fred Graham/Petruchio (Kiss Me, Kate). Mr. Guhr is also a stage director, currently preparing for a production of Rossini’s Cenerentola with Kitsap Opera. He teaches voice at Pacific Lutheran University and the Tacoma Music Academy.

Karen Early Evans (Sarah)

Karen Early Evans is a regular on stage throughout the Pacific Northwest. She is a regular member of the Seattle Opera chorus where she has been featured as a soloist in La Traviata, Suor Angelica, Turandot, and Nabucco. Most recently with Seattle Opera she was featured as soprano soloist during their holiday concert in Respighi’s Lauda Per La Nativita del Signore. Ms. Early Evans is also frequently heard as a soloist with Music of Remembrance, most recently performing in their Art From Ashes concert.

One of her favorite local organizations to sing with is Puget Sound Concert Opera. Through this organization she has been able to sing numerous roles that are not part of the prominent opera repertoire. Puget Sound Concert Opera productions featuring Ms. Early Evans include Beethoven's Fidelio (where she she sang the role of Leonore) and Puccini’s Sour Angelica and La Rondine.

Ms. Early Evans was an Associate Artist with Utah Opera where she sang the roles of Marzeline in Fidelio on the main stage and Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte with the young artists in residence. She has also been seen in such roles as Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro and Donna Anna in Don Giovanni with Tacoma Opera, First Lady in The Magic Flute with Bellevue Opera and Skagit Opera (now Pacific Northwest Opera), and Micaela in Carmen with Tacoma Opera.

Set Design and Construction by  Arts Tech Center

Thank you to the supporters of our project:

Horizon House
(Seattle, WA)

This project was supported, in part, by an enrichment  grant from Horizon House.

(King County, WA)

This project was supported, in part, by a grant from 4Culture.