Scenes from imaginary operas

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Reed, Russell Mathew

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Scenes From Imaginary Operas is a large concert work comprised of four scenes scored for a variety of ensembles and voices. The theme of this work is transformation embodied in the persona of the central character, Espantine. Loosely based on the idea of disappearance and duality developed by E.T.A Hoffmann in Lebens-Ansichten des Katers Murr Nebst Fragmentarischer Biographie des Kapellmeister Johannes Kreisler (1820- 1821), Espantine, a noted performer, mysteriously disappears; her friends later discover poems scattered throughout her abandoned apartment and realize that she has led a secret, mystical life centered around her ideas of love and its relationship to our perceived reality. The first scene introduces Espantine, tells the story of her disappearance and the discovery of the poems. The poems “Evidences of the Kisses” and “Note found on the Bed” expose her thoughts about The Kisses–– a name she gives to her general idea of mystical love. “Song of the Sky-Children” sets up the idea of the collapse of the horizon or the blending of the sky and the earth—another concept of mystical love investigated by Espantine. The second scene describes Espantine before her disappearance. Her stage name was Moanicia Snow, and this scene presents her triumphant return to the stage after surviving a suicide attempt. The third scene presents a nameless post-operative transsexual, who may or may not be Espantine. The purpose of this scene, in terms of the largescale structure, is to draw the dramatic tension toward the darker side of transformation—mutation, loss of identity, manipulation, death. The political tone of the dialogue creates tension and distance between the ideas of transformation, or transfiguration, and the limitless self-protective stagnation that power craves. The final scene presents Espantine as a saint/deity who returns to our reality to proclaim her love trompe l’oeil and announce the arrival of the magic pillow. Love trompe l’oeil refers to an imagined reality, or idea of love, that is drawn over, or grafted onto, perceived reality. The magic pillow is the transport to this new reality.




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