Opera Proposal

To be fully realized, the story of What Does She See When She Shuts Her Eyes needs amplification into a journey beyond the disease and death of the author/subject to provide an even more substantial experience for the audience.

In the second version of this piece, more linguistic and musical complexities will unfold. The viewer will be surrounded by four walls of video where the filmic space is disrupted not only by flying text, but by flat cartoon characters: two twelve-year-old girls conducting a heady discourse on life and death. Based on Dante’s Commedia, the Sabina character as Virgil instructs the Dana/Dante character on death, sin, love, redemption, and the afterlife. The film program combines with a live choir in an operatic deep-space experience. This plan can be adjusted to a one-, two-, or four- screen installation and the music program can be presented both with live choir and recorded at different times.

I’m writing the libretto in terza rima, the three-line stanzas used by Dante in the Commedia; the musical composition will be commissioned and performed by the singing-composing-conducting collective C3LA. I’m developing the libretto in conjunction with Jack Grapes’ writing workshop. Finally, I’ve consulted a psychic who called up a description of Sabina’s experience in the realm of death, the imagery from which I'm basing the first scene.

I hope the work will amuse, move, and disturb. Sabina Ott believed that art could have a healing effect on trauma. For the installation in Chicago, my goal was to provide a measure of healing for Sabina's community from the loss their beloved artist, teacher, and organizer. Healing was evident in the performance and discussion event organized for the close of the exhibition, called “The Dear Friend”: people cried in the installation and when telling stories about friendship. Indeed, Sabina was right about what art can do.