This month has been opera month at our house. We finally reached the premiere of the opera Chris and I have been working on for the past three years - and lately I have been walking around marveling at the fact that we wrote a show that has sold out five performances in two locations! By the end of the month about 1300 people will have seen it. That is kind of amazing to me, still.
Last night, as I sat and watched and listened, I could remember doing the research for the story, learning about life in a small Wisconsin town in 1900, about lumberjacks and logging camps, about the nearly unmentioned abundance of "crazy" old men living hermit-style just outside the towns, almost all of them amputee veterans of the Civil War (call it Soldier's Heart or PTSD, it has always been there), about folksongs. I learned so much more than what made it into the opera! And then starting to put the story together, learning the characters, the false starts and abandoned plots.
The opera was commissioned to be about a moment in a small town's history, a moment when the town changed its name in the hope of attracting a factory, more jobs, more people. I wanted to be sure that, while staying true to the historical moment, it was also a story that was about people now as much as it was about people then - about having to make choices, about the hard choices we have to make when something changes, about how far a person might be willing to compromise, and when compromise becomes unacceptable. It's a story I certainly recognize, and it has been rewarding to hear that other people have, too.