The Dream of Ariadne
(or Joseph Cornell Observes a Constellation of Regrets)for voice, piano and voice samples (2014)
|Premiere||October 3, 2014; "Born into Flames" series at Spectrum, New York City; Joan La Barbara (voice and piano)|
In 2014, Monique Truong and I began work on an opera inspired in part by the life and work of 20th century American artist Joseph Cornell, starting with a solitary song. We focused on one of his poignant, dream-infused boxes, "Observatory: Corona Borealis Casement," that contained a cage from which a bird had apparently escaped and flown into a star-filled night sky. Our research into the eponymous constellation led us to the myth of Ariadne, weaver of the thread of life, who saved Theseus from the labyrinth of the Minotaur only to be betrayed by him. Beginning with reaching gestures in piano, punctuated by bell-like octaves, sparkling like stars, the voice relates a tale of endless giving, abandonment, and fantasies of revenge. Sprechstimme, ululation and multiphonics extend the word painting toward the final open-palmed hit on the lowest wound strings inside the piano, a gesture of fury opening a black hole of resonance to absorbs the sorrows. That the singer provides her own accompaniment adds to the poignancy of the abandonment.
- Joan La Barbara