Getting down and dirty brings happiness. Or so is the lesson from Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden, lifted wholesale from Voltaire's injunction to cultivate one's garden. The cherished 1911 book has now been adapted into a family opera by a co-production of SF Opera, Cal Performances and Houston Grand Opera, which opened on Friday night at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley.
Written by Nolan Gasser with a libretto by Carey Harrison, it follows the book closely, telling a story of multiple awakenings: a bratty lonely girl who learns to appreciate others, her crippled cousin who discovers he can dance, and his widowed father who realizes he can still love. All through the cathartic labor of gardening.