As I write these comments, the cast and crew of Guerilla Opera have just started the staging rehearsal process for Giver of Light. This is my first collaboration with the company, and I have been impressed with their dedication to fostering innovation in opera production. I am excited to work in an environment that is so supportive of new work, and I share their enthusiasm about the vital place of music theater in the world today.
The inspiration behind Giver of Light is the life and work of the 13th-century poet and mystic Rumi. When I first sat down with the composer Adam Roberts for lunch at Symphony Sushi several months ago, he shared his thoughts about the background of the opera and its source material. Roberts has transformed figures and ideas from ancient strands of poetry, religion, and mysticism into an opera that is a contemporary parable about what happens when a happily married couple that “has it all” — success and stability in career and family — finds their lives suddenly disrupted by an unanticipated shift in the emotional landscape around them.
Photo: Aliana de la Guardia and Brian Church. Photo from Giver of Light staging rehearsal by Andrew Wang.
The opera presents its story through a series of exchanges that toggle between the way we live day to day on the artificial “surface” of our lives and the hidden “depth” of our inner worlds. It is a true ensemble work on all levels, and the four singers and four instrumentalists have to bring intense concentration to their virtuosic performance of this compact drama. At certain moments in the libretto, the entire ensemble functions as a chorus in the traditions of the ancient theater, commenting upon and manipulating the action. Here again, the line between contemporary art and ritual is renegotiated by this new work.
The staging process is always a period of exploration and discovery, and no more so than in the creation of a world premiere. As we add layer upon layer to the opera in the coming weeks, we look forward to sharing our work with you in performance.
Boston, May 12, 2013