S T R A N G E R L O V E
an opera in 3 acts
Music by Dylan Mattingly | Libretto by Thomas Bartscherer
Concept by Thomas Bartscherer and Dylan Mattingly
Stranger Love — a familiar story, altogether new. Act I is the tale of two lovers, in the tradition of Orpheus & Euridice, Heloise & Abelard, Rick & Elsa. Written to the rhythm of the seasons, Spring is the encounter; Summer, the unfolding; Autumn, the threat from without; Winter, the threat from within. Narration and abstraction vie for preeminence, as the protagonists struggle to comprehend the paradox of human love — the bondage that is liberation, the coincidence of fate and freedom, of pleasure and pain, of time and transcendence. Act II re-frames the story: no longer individual, it is now archetypal. The singers, who were on stag in Act I as in traditional opera, join the instrumental ensemble and the action on stage belongs to six dancers in three pairs, each pair moving toward one another slowly, inexorably. The music and lighting retrace the progression of seasons. Jet trails unfurl across a Summer sky. Light snow falls in Winter. The dance on stage culminates differently for each couple: one pair meets in a kiss; one pair collides and falls; one pair... misses. After a second intermission, Act III begins in complete darkness. No singers, no dancers: just a constellation of lights scattered vertically through the space which move away from the center a slightly different speeds, creating depth as though the audience is traveling into the negative space. The music, however, is not a dying away, but a revelation of vitality, pure joy, the velocity of universal expansion. The opera ends in pitch black.
The unstated architecture of the opera is drawn from Plato's Symposium. Act I presents love in a human and personal frame, as in Alcibiades' speech. The second act follows Aristophanes in depicting an archetypal account love. Act III is inspired by the vision of divine love — a love supreme — that Socrates attributes to the priestess Diotima.
Stranger Love One-Sheet
Contemporaneous Press Kit
Below are two movements from Dylan Mattingly's Bakkhai (2013). In this work, Mattingly sets the choruses from Euripides' play of the same name in the original Ancient Greek and in an original tuning system. The music is performed by Contemporaneous.
The following is an excerpt from the beginning of Act II of Stranger Love. The recording is drawn from a performance of excerpts of Act II by Contemporaneous.