The Gift of the Magi

A Chamber Opera in 1 Act

Richard E Brown composer
Nancy Grobe librettist

Janáček Philharmonic Ostrava | Jiří Petrdlík conductor
Bree Nichols soprano
Pavol Kubáň baritone

Release Date: October 14, 2022
Catalog #: NV6455
Format: Digital
21st Century
Vocal Music

Composer Richard E Brown and Navona Records present THE GIFT OF THE MAGI, a chamber opera in one act that tells the beloved story — first published by O. Henry in 1905 — of a young married couple who, despite being very poor, sacrifice their most cherished possessions to demonstrate their love for one another. This chamber opera adds even greater breadth to the composer’s output, which has also included works for concert band and orchestra, instrumental solos and ensembles, church music, piano solos, and scores for ballet, opera, and musical theater. The virtuosic performances heard on THE GIFT OF THE MAGI lend a moving emotional dimension to this heartbreaking yet ultimately uplifting story of love and sacrifice.


Hear the full album on YouTube

Performance Video

Richard E Brown – The Gift of the Magi

Track Listing & Credits

# Title Composer Performer
01 Scene I Richard E Brown; Nancy Grobe, libretto Janáček Philharmonic Ostrava | Jiří Petrdlík, conductor; Bree Nichols, soprano; Pavol Kubáň, baritone 17:09
02 Scene II Richard E Brown; Nancy Grobe, libretto Janáček Philharmonic Ostrava | Jiří Petrdlík, conductor; Bree Nichols, soprano; Pavol Kubáň, baritone 5:54
03 Scene III Richard E Brown; Nancy Grobe, libretto Janáček Philharmonic Ostrava | Jiří Petrdlík, conductor; Bree Nichols, soprano; Pavol Kubáň, baritone 7:41

Recorded January 31 – February 1, 2022 at Dům Kultury města Ostravy (The Ostrava House of Culture), Ostrava, Czech Republic
Session Producer Jan Košulič
Session Engineer Aleš Dvořák
Assistant Engineer Pavel Paluřík

Editing & Mixing Jan Košulič
Mastering Melanie Montgomery

Executive Producer Bob Lord

A&R Director Brandon MacNeil
A&R Danielle Lewis

VP of Production Jan Košulič
Production Director Levi Brown
Production Assistant Martina Watzková
Audio Director Lucas Paquette

VP, Design & Marketing Brett Picknell
Art Director Ryan Harrison
Design Edward A. Fleming, Morgan Hauber
Publicity Patrick Niland, Aidan Curran

Artist Information

Richard E Brown

Richard E Brown


Dr. Richard E. Brown, a native of New York State, has been active as a composer-arranger and music educator for many years. His training includes M.M. and D.M. degrees in Composition from Florida State University, as well as a B.A. in Music Education from Central College, which named him a Distinguished Alumnus in 1983. His principal composition studies were with Carlisle Floyd, John Boda, and Charles Carter. He is a member of ASCAP and is represented in the catalogs of several trade publishers, as well as his personal imprint Dacker Music.

Janáček Philharmonic Ostrava


The Janáček Philharmonic is a world-class symphony orchestra based in Ostrava, Czech Republic and an emerging figure on the international performance scene. With over 100 top-level musicians, the orchestra aims to introduce unique, quality repertoire while showcasing their own recognizable sound.

Jiří Petrdlík


Jiří Petrdlík (b. 1977) is appreciated as one of the most respectable conductors of his generation. He studied piano, trombone, and conducting — 1995–2000 at Prague Conservatory, and 2000–2005 at Academy of Performing Arts Prague — with Hynek Farkač, Miroslav Košler, Miriam Němcová, Radomil Eliška, and Tomáš Koutník, and took part in the masterclasses of the New York Philharmonic Principal Conductor Kurt Masur and the BBC Philharmonic Principal Conductor Jiří Bělohlávek. Petrdlík also successfully took part in several competitions, including the Donatella Flick Conductor Competition in London.

Bree Nichols


Bree Nichols is a young American soprano praised for her “rich vocal disposition” (KlasikaPlus) and compelling stage presence. A Fulbright grantee to the Czech Republic, Nichols is known for her sensitive interpretations of Czech vocal music as well as over a dozen operatic roles spanning a diverse repertoire. Her career has taken her to the stages of Symphony of the Mountains, Capitol City Opera, Opera Roanoke, Lewisville Lake Symphony, Opera on the James, Opera Experience Southeast, the Olomouc Baroque Festival, and more.

Pavol Kubáň


Further plans include revivals of La Bohème and Don Giovanni in Prague, Ford in Verdi’s Falstaff in Košice, a revival of Rachmaninov’s Francesca da Rimini and The Miserly Knight in Liberec and Prague as well as Guglielmo in Così fan tutte in Halle.

For his performance of Lanciotto Malatesta and the Baron in Rachmaninov’s Francesca da Rimini and The Miserly Knight, the artist was nominated for the Thalia awards in the category Best Male Opera Performance of the 2018/19 season in the Czech Republic.

Highlights of past seasons include Mr. Astley in Prokofjev’s The Gambler in Basel, Ford in Falstaff in Košice, Morald in Wagner’s Die Feen in Košice, the title role in Jaromir Weinberger’s Švanda Dudak at Semperoper Dresden, Guglielmo in Così fan tutte in Halle, Don Alvaro in a new production of Rossini’s Il Viaggio a Reims at Zürich Opera staged by Christoph Marthaler and conducted by Daniele Rustioni, the title role of Švanda Dudak at the Teatro Massimo in Palermo as well as Killian in Weber’s Der Freischütz and Nibbio in Domenico Sarro’s Dorina e Nibbio at Dresden Semperoper.

At the Festival of Valle d’Itria in Martina Franca he performed Pantul in Alfredo Casella’s La Donna Serpente conducted by Fabio Luisi, Volano and Satiro in Stradella and Cavalli’s Il novella Giasone, Henric in Tuttino’s Le Braci, as well as Bastian in Giacomo Tritto’s Il Convitato di Pietra and was heard in several concerts.

Kubáň performed Mahler’ s song cycle Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen with the Severočeská Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Alfonso Scarano.

Kubáň was a member of the young artist’s program at Semperoper Dresden and took part in masterclasses with Alberto Zedda, Bruno Bartoletti, Sherman Lowe, Tiziana Fabbricini, Stefania Bonfadelli, Raul Gimenez, Alfonso Antoniozzi, Sonia Prina, Daniela Dessi, Vincenzo de Vivo, Gianni Tangucci, and Dolora Zajick at La scuola dell´Opera Italiana in Bologna.

He had the opportunity to study at the Accademia del Belcanto di Rodolfo Celetti and took part in several international voice competitions.

In 2009 he participated in a concert tour in the United States, where consequently he took an educational stay in Kingston for six weeks, where he regularly sang concerts.

Kubaň studied at the University of Performing Arts in Bratislava.


O. Henry is the pen name of American writer William Sidney Porter (1862-1910), and The Gift of the Magi is probably his most popular and best-loved short story. First published in 1905, it tells of a young married couple who have very little money, but dream of buying extravagant Christmas gifts for each other. It is a tale of love and sacrifice that features one of O. Henry’s characteristic “twist” endings.


SCENE 1: It is the morning of Christmas Eve, 1898. Jim is in the parlor of the cheap flat he shares with his wife Della reading the morning paper. It is nearly time for him to leave for work and he wants to say goodbye to Della, but she is still in the bedroom putting up her hair. She emerges, obviously proud of it, and Jim pokes some good-natured fun at her: if the Queen of Sheba lived nearby, Della would be sure to brush her hair in full view, just to make her envious. Della responds, pointing out that Jim is just as proud of his pocket watch, and if King Solomon kept his treasure in the basement, Jim would be sure to show off his watch to him every chance he had. Jim then defends his watch. After all, it has been in his family for three generations and has run perfectly for over a hundred years! Then Jim notices the time and rushes off, almost forgetting the precious watch. As soon as he is gone, Della takes out her purse and counts the money she has saved for Jim’s Christmas present: $1.87. She laments about how hard it is to save money when they are so poor. Jim deserves a really special gift, but there is nothing exceptional that she can buy with such a small sum of money. As she is drying her tears, she notices her reflection in the mirror, takes down her hair and studies it for a moment. Then she collects her things and leaves.

SCENE 2: Jim is out in the streets, bustling with holiday shoppers and a band playing Christmas carols. His dilemma is the same as Della’s: he wants to buy her a truly special gift, but has no money. While Jim window shops and soliloquizes on the extravagant gifts he wishes he could buy for her, Della is briefly seen entering a business in the background. As Jim pulls out his watch to check the time, he stops and looks at it thoughtfully for a moment and then walks off purposefully.

SCENE 3: Back at the flat, Della has cut off and sold her hair to a wigmaker to get 20 dollars to buy a present for Jim. Now she is having second thoughts: Jim will be appalled when he sees her like this! But he will certainly like the gift she has bought him. It is a very fine gift. As she hears Jim coming up the stairs, Della panics. He’ll call her a Coney Island chorus girl! He enters and is struck dumb at the sight of her. She stammers that she had to do it; she couldn’t bear the thought of not having a gift for him, and her hair will grow back. After recovering from the shock, Jim assures Della that he likes her just as well with short hair or even no hair. He gives her a little package, explaining that she will see why he was so shocked. She opens the package to find the set of tortoise shell combs that she had been admiring in a store window. She is thrilled, then remembers that her hair is gone. Jim gently reminds her that her hair grows awfully fast. Then Della gives Jim the present she has bought him, a beautiful silver chain for his watch. When she urges him to put it on his watch, Jim just smiles and suggests that they both put their gifts away and keep them for a while. He has sold his watch to buy the combs for her hair. Embracing, they wish each other Merry Christmas.


The Gift of the Magi

Libretto by Nancy Grobe, Music by Richard E. Brown