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Bones of Girls, youngest of the three sister operas, finished!

Updated: Jan 9, 2020

Ryan Suleiman, Cristina Fríes. photo by Jeffrey Day

I've happily drawn the double barline on the third and final "sister-opera," Bones of Girls, which was an expansion / overhaul of Moon, Bride, Dogs; an opera-song, and Moon, Bride, Dogs (fully staged).* It has been such a trip exploring the material so in-depth and from different angles with this collection of pieces, and having just had Moon, Bride, Dogs produced by NANOworks in Atlanta (see last blog entry), I'm anxious to see what Rogue Music Project, under the direction of Omari Tau, will do with it this coming January 2020 (link here for details on the 3 showings Jan 24-25).

This newest version is the longest of the three. The first time around we were under some time constraints (just over 10 minutes), so I had to make the librettist, Cristina Fríes, cut a lot of her material. I felt bad about that. So for this latest version, I asked her take a lot more freedom. The result is this piece (30-40 minutes).

One of the things that I realized in working with this new libretto was the challenge of re-imagining the same piece, now with the proportions of sections shifted around significantly. In the previous two versions, the turning point occurs about 2/3 of the way through, where the protagonist, Idiot Girl (soprano), is eaten alive by the Dogs and tells her story. In the new libretto, we spend much more time exploring this process of recollection, and now that turning point occurs about halfway through, which is big.

For me, this is a very interesting shift. Rather than being one stop on the way to the end of the piece, her being devoured is actually a more expansive part of the work where we spend time thinking and watching her life flash in front of her (and our) eyes, listening to her story. I feel most satisfied and happy with this version and with Moon, Bride, Dogs. And I'm even more happy that both of these versions exist side by side. Having two radically different versions of essentially the same project is a rarity for me, and it has been a very unique and eye-opening experience. Neither is definitive, and both are "the real version." Feel free to ask me about the two versions.

Here's the synopsis Cristina provided:

Inspired by Charles Perrault's fairy tale “Donkey Skin,” in which a princess is forced to flee after her father takes her as his bride, this surrealist story follows Idiot Girl (soprano) after she's run away from her abusive father. Instead of finding safety, she lands in a post-apocalyptic wasteland inhabited by a hoard of hungry dogs (baritone), and cannot remember how she got there. Idiot Girl searches for her lost memories while the Dogs, starving for food and knowledge, run in excitement toward this new source of nourishment. The Moon (tenor), who has watched Idiot Girl her whole life, comments dispassionately on the events unfolding below. Desperate for knowledge, the dogs tear away at the young bride's body, which is paradoxically the only only way she is able to access her memories. Idiot Girl remembers her mother's love, and mourns her death. Finally, she relives the night just before her departure from home, relishing the feeling of freedom and camaraderie of spending time with her girlfriend. When she got home, she met with her father who demanded that she marry him. Upon remembering her traumatic story of love and abuse, Idiot Girl grows triumphant at her will to escape her father, and sees the power of finally being seen inside-out, and thus, she is proud to be known. 

*note: Moon, Bride, Dogs was premiered with a suffix, i.e. "Moon, Bride, Dogs II." The "II" has since been axed.


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