Tuesday, April 8, 2014 | 8:00 pm
Roulette | 509 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn
Commissioned by Roulette and the Jerome Foundation, Bodiless is the first evening-length opera by Gabrielle Herbst. The work, with libretto by Iceland-based Canadian writer Angela Rawlings, takes its inspiration from French feminist writer Hélène Cixous’ dream diaries Dream I Tell You. Vocalists Ariadne Greif, Lucy Dhegrae, and Gabrielle Herbst will be joined by Contemporaneous. Costumes, lighting, and set design will be combined in Puerto Rican/Brooklyn-based designer Zaida Adriana Goveo Balmaseda’s unique original costumes, which weave a web of lights into each outfit.
Progressing through three dream-like non-narrative tableaux exploring themes such as birth, life, and death, the three singers simultaneously embody each of the three bodiless fates, singing text which ranges from abstract vocalises, to surreal associative poetry. A rule of three holds true throughout the opera. The instrumentation is comprised of trios of singers, flutes, clarinets, strings, a trio of plucked and struck stringed instruments: harp, piano, electric guitar, and finally percussion. The opera’s three movements through birth, life, and death are echoed in linguistic experimentation in the libretto. The first movement explores prefixes and pronouns (birth of identity), the second movement full sentences describing dreams (life experience), and the third movement which, through suffixes and text from earlier in the piece, moves towards ending with breath (death).
Bodiless was first commissioned as a ten-minute opera short presented by Experiments in Opera and Issue Project Room in 2013. New Music Box called the piece “…an erotic journey beyond the body, and whose love music, all echolalia and vocal arabesques, similarly eschews singularity and sense.” Further development was commissioned by Roulette and the Jerome Foundation.