The opera juxtaposes the whimsical and mystical qualities of dreams with real problems of contemporary children.
The piece opens with a prologue during which we see all the children and the two adult soloists telling us about the quality and power of dreams – dreams which allow us to see our daily lives in an abstract, and thus more helpful, way.
The surreal prologue becomes reality and a group of school children are seen visiting a museum of natural history. Despite the enthusiastic ramblings of the museum guide, the children find the exhibits boring. Finally, they are shown a noosha, and ancient tribal dream stick. A superstition suggests that when placed under the sleeper’s pillow, the noosha makes it possible to communicate with one’s ancestors.
All the children are intrigued, but the noosha makes a particularly strong impression upon Talia, Jasmin and Seth. The children are offered noosha sticks by the guide and Talia, Jasmin and Seth gladly accept the gift, ignoring the derisioin of the other children who tease them for being superstitious.
In a classroom, a spelling be is interrupted when the teacher discovers Talia drawing pictures instead of working on her spelling. When the other children ridicule Talia, Mrs. Walsh sends them away and gently tries to encourage Talia to attend to her studies. When she is asked to spell “purple hippopotamus,” Talia is disinterested in the spelling but draws a magnificent rendition of the animal. Exhausted by her spelling efforts, Talia falls asleep and dreams. Her great-great grandmother appears to her, telling her of times past and her own gift of drawing. “You are a part of me,” she tells Talia, and “my talent is your gift.” Talia awakens and happily begins to sketch.
Jasmin suffers a ghastly piano lesson. The pedantic playing of scales bores her and when she suggests to Mr. Ostinato, her piano teacher, that she prefers to compose her own music, he becomes hysterical. Jasmin tries again to practice scales but drifts off to sleep out of boredom. Various ancestors, some going back hundreds of years, appear to her and urge her to listen to her own voice.
Seth is at home daydreaming. Seth’s father, once a professional baseball player, is no longer alive and Seth retains but a vague recollection of him. As he daydreams, Seth imagines the sights and sounds of a professional baseball game with his father as the star player. His mother interrupts the reverie reminding him that his father will not come back into his life. Seth places the noosha branch under his pillow, dreams of his father, and asks him to teach him to play baseball. His father tells him that he is and will always be part of Seth.
As Seth’s father kneels behind him to help him lift a bat previously too heavy for him, we notice Jasmin who as constructed a wonderful portable rack from which hang fantastical things: bells, wind chimes, and gongs. Jasmin proceed to play them as Talia uncovers a canvas many times bigger than herself, a painting of boldness and dazzling color. All three children find the confidence to pursue their dreams.
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Approximate Runtime (hh:mm)
Number of Acts
Lyrical Chamber Opera
Vocal & Musical Forces
Soprano, Baritone, Three Trebles(two girls and one boy), Children’s Chorus(trebles), Flute, Two Percussion, Piano
Amanda Squitieri as Walsh/Grandmother/Seth’s Mom, Hyung Yun as Museum Guide/Mr. Ostinato/Seth’s Father, Arianna Geneson and Meaghan Tarquino as Talia, Claire Lyon and Fairouz Foty as Jasmin, Joseph Temple as Seth