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Island City Opera proudly announces four performances of “The Wreckers“,  by Dame Ethel Smyth, March 20 through 28, 2020 at the Alameda Elks Lodge Ballroom, 2255 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda, CA.   The opera will be sung in English with English supertitles, fully staged and costumed, and will be performed with a complete orchestra led by music director Jonathan Khuner, directed by Richard Bogart.

“Its greatest strength is in its dramatic strategy, strikingly prophetic of (Britten‘s) Peter Grimes in details such as the offstage church service set against the foreground confrontation in Act 1.”


Old tales of Cornish villages where, on stormy nights, the inhabitants lured passing sailing ships onto the rugged Atlantic coast were commonplace in the nineteenth century. The cargoes plundered were regarded as legitimate reward for the hardships endured in this isolated and barren part of the country.

Therefore, when looking for a suitable theme for her third opera, it is little wonder that Smyth’s thoughts should turn to this dramatic, yet romantic subject. It was after a taking a walking tour in Cornwall in 1886 that the idea came to her. For several years, Smyth visited places where shipwrecks were said to have been engineered and interviewed anyone with evidence or memories of the wreckers. [4] Fuller quotes from Smyth’s memoirs about the pull of the subject matter:

“Ever since those days I had been haunted by impressions of that strange world of more than a hundred years ago; the plundering of ships lured on to the rocks by the falsification or extinction of the coast lights; the relentless murder of their crews; and with it all the ingrained religiosity of the Celtic population of that barren promontory.
Eventually she passed her notes on to Henry Brewster, a close personal friend and writer, to prepare the libretto. Although an American by birth, he had been brought up in France and it was agreed that libretto should be in French, partly because Brewster was happier working in French, but also it was felt that there was a more realistic chance of the work being produced in France or Belgium than in England.[6]

Smyth encountered considerable difficulty in getting this work published; her persistence in doing so was very commendable, notes Charles Reid: “For five years Ethel Smyth, wearing mannish tweeds and an assertively cocked felt hat, had been striding about Europe, cigar in mouth, trying to sell her opera The Wreckers to timorous or stubborn impresarios.”

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“The plot is strong, with opportunities for vivid characterization, dramatic conflict and powerful choral scenes. The wreckers of the title are not an outlaw band of criminals but the honest, God-fearing majority of the late eighteenth-century Cornish community among whom the drama is set. They are poor, and salvage rights are their subsistence; their belief in this ‘right’ is as firmly held as their pious Methodism.”

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Ethel Smyth (1858-1944) was an English composer and suffragette. A leading musical figure of her era, she became the first female composer to be awarded a damehood, while her March of the Women became the official anthem of the Women’s Social and Political Union.

Determined to have a career in music, despite the wishes of her father, Smyth’s studies took her to the Leipzig conservatory at the age of 17. There, she studied with Reinecke, and met composers including Dvořák, Grieg, Tchaikovsky, Clara Schumann and Brahms.

Smyth wrote everything from songs and piano works to orchestral pieces and large-scale works, while her operatic success saw her become the first woman to have an opera performed at the New York Metropolitan Opera. She was also a gifted writer, publishing works of non-fiction and autobiography
But where should you begin with getting to know her music? Here are six of the best pieces by Ethel Smyth.


Opening Night Friday, March 20th, 2020 at 7:30PM

Sunday Matinee, March 22th, 2020 at 2:00PM

Thursday Night, March 26th, 2019 at 7:30PM

Closing Matinee, Saturday March 28th, 2020 at 7:30PM

Opera run time is approximately 2 hours

Anchor Society Lectures


Island City Opera’s Anchor Society invites you to join them for the Anchor Society Lectures held one hour prior to the curtain.



General Admission Adult $48, Senior $43, Student 21 & under $10, Child 12 & under FREE

Reserved Sofa seats are $48.

Large Table Seats $75.

Front Row Cafe Table Seats $90

Drinks will be on sale at the Bar at the rear of the Ballroom before the performance and during intermission and immediately afterwards.  Wine will be on sale from the rolling bar near the stage before the curtain and during intermission.

Concessions will be on sale before the performance and during intermission from a variety of concessionaires who will be announce via email prior to the performance.