Sylvia (2012)

A one-act Chamber Opera based on a true story. Scored for soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, baritone, clarinet/alto saxophone, cello & piano.
Libretto by Julia Adolphe
50 minutes

1. Sculpture Aria

2. Close Your Eyes

3. New Life Will Grow

Bargemusic, Brooklyn, NY
March 21-23, 2013

Review by Out West Arts >

Review by Jayson Greene, emusic >

Sylvia's Story

Based on a true story, Sylvia is an intimate, one-act chamber opera that links two distinct, traumatic events: the sexual assault of a young girl at the hands of a family friend and the tragedy of the Holocaust. The opera delves into the memories of its title character, a young Jewish woman in psychodrama therapy. Sylvia recalls for her doctors, fellow patients, and the audience, how, as a teenager, she engaged in a sexual relationship with Nathan, a much older man who was a friend of her father.

Sylvia is set in psychodrama therapy, a unique branch of psychoanalysis where patients and doctors work together to explore past traumas through role-playing and reenactment. The 50-minute opera is scored for clarinet doubling alto saxophone, cello, and piano. The characters include Sylvia, a soprano, Female Doctor, a mezzo-soprano, Male Patient, a tenor, and Male Doctor, a baritone. The story unfolds over the course of a single therapy session where Sylvia is the protagonist, the patient chosen to re-create and re-imagine events from her personal life with the aid of the group. Together, the singers move fluidly through past, present, and an imaginary future; they show a single character through multiple perspectives, often simultaneously. The Male and Female Doctors, along with Sylvia and the Male Patient, portray important figures in Sylvia's life. They take turns transforming into Sylvia, her Mother, her Father, Nathan, Nathan's Wife, and Nathan's Son. They embody objects that hold significance for Sylvia, such as her Father's sculptures or the walls of the dressing room. In this manner, the format of psychodrama delivers an operatic experience that is bold, intimate, and exposed. Its structure reflects the ephemeral nature of childhood memory.

Sylvia suggests that we are all remnants of a past, of a psychological or cultural narrative, and that our only hope to move forward is to confront these histories and forge our own future. Creative self-expression, the sharing of one's life stories, leads to understanding, resilience, forgiveness, and redemption. Sylvia's imaginative exploration of her dreams and memories, of her hopes and fears, illuminates the path towards personal freedom.

Alternate Scoring

soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, baritone, flute/alto flute, clarinet/bass clarinet, alto saxophone, percussion, violin, viola & cello.

Performance History

Brooklyn, NY
March 21-23, 2013

The Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust
Los Angeles, CA
April 22, 2012

The Lost Studio Theatre
Los Angeles, CA
April 14-15, 2012

Eric Guinivan, conductor; Maureen Huskey, director; Sylvia: Sophie Wingland, soprano; Female Doctor: Jessica Mirshak, mezzo- soprano; Male Patient: Thomas Leighton, tenor; Male Doctor: Mario-Diaz Moresco, baritone; John Lowery, clarinet/alto saxophone; Mariel Roberts, cello; Ada Jeon, piano