What is Bright Bottles about? Bright Bottles is an opera in 3 tableaux, each to be premiered in a different city that has had a significant impact on my life, Houston, Texas, Toronto, Ontario and Montreal, Quebec. Each tableau expresses a different aspect of feminine vulnerability; in the first, strength, in the second love and in the third, life.
Here in Houston, I will be premiering the first tableau; demonstrating strength in vulnerability. Our main characters, homeless women from Mexico, have had their dignity and power stripped from them by society, but in this state of extreme vulnerability they find meaning and beauty in each other and in life.
At the end of this tableau, a man, being the fool that all men are, sees these women only for their vulnerability and mistakes it for weakness. Seeing himself in a position of power, he offers them some of his worth but the women simply laugh him off the stage. Our main character the soprano, however, sees the danger in the chaos. Despite his flaws, the man offers what he knows, and by treating him with disdain, the women lose some of their own strength and beauty. They give in to the temptation of allowing their vulnerability to make them cruel and weak.
The soprano sends him, and the rest of the world off with a poem that returns in each tableau; walk away, and breath the story I always knew. Walk away, as we skip along behind your salty hue. Walk away, but smile with open heart, knowing a burning brown will soon depart.
In what way is this a new kind of opera? I consider myself a new 'kind' of opera - 'kind' being the German word for child. My biggest influences on operatic writing have been Wagner and Bach, and I have found true expression in the creation of opera; the culmination of philosophy, drama and music. As a child of this all encompassing genre, I strive in Bright Bottles to open myself and my audiences to a new and deeply personal experience.
Why did you write Bright Bottles? Vulnerability is an issue in 2019. Most of us are afraid of our own insecurities and the rest of us think we have none. We see this not only in every day life, but in politics, in school and at work. All these are symptoms of vulnerability in some way or another and we are already seeing the consequences; hostility, mistrust and worst of all, deafening silence. Men and women will not to speak to each other, liberals and conservatives, immigrants and citizens, the list goes on and on. Deafening silence in my own life compelled me to write this opera. Vulnerability and insecurity; these are things that are unavoidable in this life.
How is Bright Bottles scored? Bright Bottles is scored for organ, strings, and bass. The reason behind this is threefold, starting with the grand organ hall at Rice University. This space is absolutely stunning, both acoustically and visually and sets the perfect backdrop for a new kind of opera. The second is because a composer should be the most eager person to play their own music. By putting myself in a significant role as a performer, it allows me to take responsibility for my own music and to help guide the listeners and performers through the premiere. The final reason for the scoring of this opera, is to bring to light the power and relevance of the pipe organ. An instrument, often seen only for its contributions to church and historical music, the pipe organ is perhaps the most well suited instrument to contemporary classical music, with its wide range of abilities both sonically and technically. I hope to show audiences the true magic of the organ.
Tell us about the rest of the program for April 14! While premiering the first tableau of Bright Bottles, I will also conduct the premiere of the epilogue to the second tableau, scored for a special group of students at Rice University, the Artist Diploma candidates. This is a highly exclusive program, designed for exceptional young musicians who possess both extraordinary musical talent and potential to flourish in the highly competitive contemporary music world, i.e. those aiming towards a career focused on performance in the highest level. After meeting and working these brilliant musicians, I could not help but compose a piece for all of them to play together. The work features them all in different ways, and allows the audience to hear some of the best young musicians from across the United States.
Following this, I will perform music by one of my biggest influences, Olivier Messiaen, a French twentieth century composer and organist. It is from his opera, St. Francois d’Assise that I learned to set an opera in tableaux, to allow for greater artistic freedom. Messiaen was a composer who knew the joy of playing music, and like Bach, dedicated his life to playing organ, piano, and composing to the Glory of God.
Finally, the program will conclude with an improvisation on submitted themes by the audience on the Grand Organ of Rice University. Improvisation lies at the heart of music making, and unlike performing or composing, it is done completely spontaneously, allowing the audience to witness the live creation of music.