Christabel: A Chamber Opera in 2 Acts

The premiere of my new chamber opera Christabel will be premiered Sunday, April 28th at 9pm at Eastman School of Music in the Ray Wright Room (ESM 120).

The three principle roles are:
Narrator, performed by Pablo Bustos
Christabel, performed by Natasha Drake
Geraldine, performed by Emily Mills

Attached are audio files from a rehearsal. For the performance, the singers will all be amplified. The narrator was unable to be at this rehearsal.

For the composition portion of my dissertation, I wrote a chamber opera titled Christabel, using Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “Christabel” as a libretto. For the purpose of the opera, my colleague Alexandra Tursi and I worked together to shorten the version of the poem in addition to incorporating stage cues and indicating which character is speaking or singing. The opera is approximately 35 minutes in duration, and the cast comprises five roles: Narrator, a tenor; Christabel, a lyric soprano/coloratura; Geraldine, a soprano with a darker timbre; Sir Leoline, a baritone; and Bard Bracy, a tenor. Inspired by the set design and synopsis of Stravinsky’s Histoire du soldat, I am also considering the possibility of having dancers act out the roles while the singers are off to the side of the stage singing the text.

The ensemble of instrumentalists comprises flute, clarinet in B-flat/bass clarinet, string quartet, piano, 2 percussion, jazz drum set, and bass.

In the first act, the narrator introduces Christabel, the young, pure, and beautiful daughter of Sir Leoline, as she is walking by herself in the forest. Suddenly, she notices a woman lying in the forest in distress. The woman introduces herself as Geraldine, and after explaining to her that soldiers kidnapped her and then left her in the forest to die, she persuades Christabel to take care of her in her father’s castle. As she is traveling back with Christabel, weird events occur that foreshadow Geraldine being evil: she shrieks in pain as she crosses the threshold of the gate, the dog barks at her, and when they arrive to Christabel’s bedroom, she starts casting a spell on her. The first act ends with Christabel unrobed and lying in bed next to Geraldine.

The second act begins with Christabel and Geraldine waking up. Christabel brings Geraldine to her father, Sir Leoline. She then recounts the story to her father about who Geraldine is and how she was found. Sir Leoline realizes that Geraldine’s father had been a friend of his, but long ago, after a horrible altercation, they stopped speaking. Sir Leoline feels sorry for Geraldine, and out of respect for his old friend, wants to make sure Geraldine is taken care of and escorted back to her father. He summons his knight, Bard Bracy, to accompany Geraldine back to the castle. However, Bard Bracy tells Leoline of a horrible premonition he had last night: that a beautiful white dove was being strangled in the forest by a snake. Sir Leoline is so enraptured by Geraldine at this point that not only does he think the dove is Geraldine, but he also does not notice that Geraldine is casting a spell on Christabel, causing her to act strange, possessed, and snake-like. Sir Leoline is so disgusted with his daughter’s actions that he leaves her on the floor coiled up and hissing, while he escorts Geraldine out of the room.

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