INSECTAPHOBIA or BUG OFF!!!
by SALVATORE MACCHIA
A WORLD PREMIERE PRODUCTION
Sunday, March 24, 2013, 7:00pm
7:00 p.m. (tix at 1-800-ECU-TICKETS)
A.J. Fletcher Recital Hall
Monday, March 25, 2013, 7:00pm
Tuesday, March 26, 2013, 7:00pm
School of Music
10th St. & College Hill
live stream here
Notes about the opera by composer Salvatore Macchia
Insectaphobia, or Bug Off!
(Insect-a-phobia) is a one-act chamber opera that
was composed in 1997 at the request of the late soprano Dorothy Ornest.
The libretto is loosely based on The Insect Play (“
And soad infinitum”
) by Josef and Karl Čapek, a work that was
completed in 1920 andwas first performed at the National Theatre Brno, Czechoslovakia on March 8,1922. After its debut on May 5,1923 at the Regent Theatre in London, The Insect Play
great international success but has been only rarely performed in recent years.
When I first read the Čapek play in the early 1990s, I was struck byhow the author’s vision of 1920 Prague society’s mores and expectations- particularly those regarding poverty, mental illness, the health of the planet and the lingering and deteriorating effects of a prolonged war-mirrored in many ways the prejudices and problems of our own time. I felt that the tragic/comic nature of the basic tale, which is part fable, part revue, part morality play, reflected my own experiences as a concerned citizen at the end of the twentieth century worried about poverty, inequality and the very real threat to our planet’s ecological health. It is distressing to realize that Capek’s themes are still so timely some 93 years later.
Insectaphobia or Bug Off, is written for a fairly large cast of singers, includingthe Homeless Woman, The Professor, two students who “discover “ the homeless woman in the park in which she lives, and nine smaller roles all with substantial solo exposure. The chorus plays a major role in the action, first as the students in the Professor’s classroom and later as a large variety of insects in the work’s final moments. The opera (and the original play) can be seen or heard as a meditation on the passing of time and time’s cycles; the chorus sings at one point: “light, night, eat, sleep, work, give birth, die, eat, sleep, work, night” etc.
Insectaphobia was given its workshop performance debut in the spring of 1998 and has been considerably re-worked for the current production, its official world premiere. In particular the roles of the Homeless Woman (re-fashioned to reflect the beautiful voice of ECU Professor Jami Rhodes) and the Professor (originally a spoken role now a multi-dimensional singing/acting/speaking part) have been revised and re-imagined. The entire piece has a new orchestration constructed to reflect the strengths of ECU’s impressive School of Music.
The opera takes place in a large a modern metropolitan city and highlights the strain, anxieties and sheer difficulties of a mentally ill woman who finds herself living alone and homeless in a public part. In the course of her last day on earth, she encounters a range of humans (a crazed butterfly collector, two self-righteous young students) and an imaginary or perhaps not- so imaginary vision of the life and death cycle of moths. I looked for humor and pathos in the text to suggest and reflect on some very basic human dilemmas.
The original version of Insectaphobia was commissioned by and composed for Dorothy Ornest in honor of her retirement from teaching, after a 35-year career in music.It is dedicated to Ms. Ornest (the original Professor) and Stephen Coombs (Stage Director) who gave the work a successful workshop performance (with piano) in the spring of 1998.