Oliver Sacks and Tobias Picker

World Premiere of “Awakenings” Opera in St Louis

Nearly twenty years ago, Oliver Sacks wrote a letter to his friend Tobias Picker, whose opera, An American Tragedy, premiered recently at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Dear Tobias…
I really think you have written a masterpiece … I could not think of the Music, the Drama and the Staging separately – they came together as a marvellous whole. It is easy to believe that it has demanded ten years of work, of your life… I cannot help wondering what will come next … (as a sort of creator myself) I know that one is always thinking, consciously or unconsciously, of new ideas, projects, etc. In particular, of course, I wonder if you have had any further thoughts about Awakenings. — Oliver Sacks

Oliver shared many deep interests, especially in music, with Tobias Picker and his husband, Aryeh Lev Stollman, and they began discussing an operatic version of Awakenings in the late 1990’s. Stollman, is, like Sacks or Chekhov, a literary physician, who combines the acute eye and observational skills of a doctor and a novelist. In his libretto for Awakenings, he gives authentic life to the patients’ stories, these Sleeping Beauties who had missed living a normal life for so long, awakening as strangers in a new world.

We at the Oliver Sacks Foundation are enormously grateful to Tobias Picker, Aryeh Lev Stollman, and the Opera Theatre of St. Louis for bringing this new work to the world, reminding us all of the power of love, music, and human resilience.

The Awakenings Opera is composed by Tobias Picker, with libretto by Aryeh Lev Stollman, and commissioned for the Opera Theatre of St. Louis. Performed in English with projected English supertitles, accompanied by members of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. Dates: June 5—24, 2022

Awakenings Featured On BBC World News: Talking Movies With Tom Brook


New York Times An Oliver Sacks Book Becomes an Opera, With Help From Friends 

Opera News — An Opera By Tobias Picker and Aryeh Stollman Opens In St. Louis 

St. Lous Post-Dispatch OTSL World Premiere Recalls ‘Sleeping Sickness’ That Attacked Brains A Century Ago 

NPR Awakenings’ Opera Premiering In St. Louis Came From Couple’s ‘Mutual Inspiration’

St Louis Public Radio An ‘Awakenings’ opera that shows Oliver Sacks as his friends knew him — a gay man 

Plan Your Break in St Louis

St. Louis has world-class opera…and much more! Plan a fun getaway and enjoy many other cultural attractions that are unique to this vibrant city. Here’s your itinerary!

Day 1:
-Arrive at hotel
-Stroll through the Missouri Botanical Garden, one of the oldest botanical institutions in the United States! Grab a traditional Italian dinner nearby on The Hill
-Feeling adventurous? Try two of St. Louis’ most famous foods: toasted ravioli and gooey butter cake.

Missouri Botanical Garden

📷 The Climatron® at Missouri Botanical Garden. Photo by Cassidy Moody, via Instagram

Day 2:
-Visit the World Chess Hall of Fame*
-Browse the shelves at Left Bank Books

-Enjoy a yummy lunch at Crown Candy Kitchen, an historic St. Louis establishment
-After lunch, explore the St. Louis Art Museum*
-Head back to hotel to freshen up

-Leave for the opera!
-Enjoy a picnic in the OTSL gardens before the opera
-Return to the gardens after the show for cocktails

St. Louis Art Museum

📷 Saint Louis Art Museum, via Instagram

Day 3: 
-Breakfast at a local coffee shop
-Return to Forest Park to visit the St. Louis Zoo*, named the nation’s best zoo in 2018 by USA Today!

-Go wild for lunch at the City Foundry, St. Louis’s hottest new food hall
-Tour Scott Joplin’s former home*, which is now a U.S. National Historic Landmark
-Back to hotel to change

-Leave for the opera!
-Enjoy a picnic in the OTSL gardens before the opera
-Return to the gardens after the show for cocktails

📷 The Gardens at OTSL. Photo via Instagram

Day 4:
-Play Mozart’s “Papagena” aria on repeat at the Gateway Arch

-Pack up, head to airport
-Marvel at the amazing time you had in St. Louis while you wait for your flight!

📷 Photo of Tobias Picker and Oliver Sacks by Bill Hayes