Music That Matters: New Opera Scenes

July 24, 2019 @ 7:30 pm
Opera Scenes


Wednesday July 24, 2019
7:30 pm



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Falk Auditorium
Winchester Thurston School
555 Morewood Ave
Pittsburgh PA 15213
(Entrance on Ellsworth Avenue)

In 2015, Pittsburgh Festival Opera launched “Music That Matters,” a series of new opera commissions that speak to important contemporary issues. This series is part of our ambition to keep opera relevant, and create artworks where all communities can see their lives reflected onstage.

We started with A New Kind of Fallout, an opera about environmental issues inspired by Rachel Carson. Our next commission, A Gathering of Sons, explored issues of racial conflict in America. Our new project in this series is Fight for the Right, focusing on the struggle girls and women across the world for access to education.

Night Flight of Minerva’s Owl

Guang Yang: composer
Paula Cizmar: librettist


An opera that weaves together stories of three girls from different parts of the world in different times. Each girl desperately desires an education that has been denied her, and the stories are linked by the time – and space-defying presence of a visionary creature, The Owl, the sacred bird-companion of Minerva, goddess of wisdom.

As the opera begins, three girls are under the night sky, longing for knowledge, longing to escape the limited future that awaits: MINNIE, from 19th -century America; MIN, from early 20th -century China; and MINA, from 21st -century Morocco. The girls don’t see each other, but they sing a lament for what they can’t have, with a tinge of bitterness, but also accompanied by hope. Though they’re from different cultures, different times, and though each girl’s theme is musically distinct, a shared desire for learning unites them.

Virgula Divina

Karen Brown: composer
Jessica Lanay Moore: librettist


In a near future, post-apocalyptic society with a scarcity of seeds, water, and a lack of horticultural knowledge, a highly stratified society has arisen. Strict in their spiritual and governmental customs as a response to the chaos of their unpredictable natural environment, they now face a new challenge. The High Vestal, Constance, who leads the religious order of the community, is endangered as the parliament questions her abilities. Indeed, none of her prayers have brought water or edible plant life. Meanwhile, the Parliamentary Minister Jason, driven equally by his genuine love for Constance and his genuine love for power, convinces Constance that her station will be secured if they marry. Aware that the High Vestal does not share his passions, Jason pushes forth nonetheless with this plan. Constance, however, has a card up her sleeve. One of her maidens and lovers, Hortense, has the knowledge and ability to make their colony’s remaining seeds grow. Through her scientific knowledge, which seems like magic to those around her, Hortense produces water. Although initially perceived as miraculous, this horticultural ability throws into question their hierarchical society and joint futures. Constance urges Hortense, under threat of love lost, to grow the remaining seeds and Hortense obliges. But there is a secret, the fruit of the plant is poisonous; Constance and Hortense agree that it is the vehicle of their freedom, they will poison Jason. Before they can get their plan under way, Jason confiscates the plant along with the fruit and banishes Hortense from the colony. What happens next is up to the fates, as the piece takes one of two endings decided on in real time by the software written for the opera.

Will Hortense return to find Constance and the ruling order dead? Or will Hortense return and find her love has carried out their plan to poison Jason?