Brooklyn Repertory Opera
622A President Street, Brooklyn, NY 11215-1141
CONTACT: Brett Wynkoop (917-642-6925) January 15, 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Veil of Forgetfulness
Libretto and Music by Susan Stoderl
Real-Time Art Installation by Sarah Olson
February 27 and 28, March 6 and 7, 3:00 PM
In medieval Britain, Sister Regina is determined to become Abbess of
Shaftesbury. As time grows short, little does Regina know that she will
be forced to choose between saving Abbess Marie and her mystical band of
heretics or fulfilling her quest for power. As the music moves from the
mysterious and hypnotic to joyous and soaring, Lay Sister Sarah depicts
the inner workings of this cloistered community.
Brooklyn Repertory Opera has two occasions to celebrate-a new
home at Littlefield, located near Park Slope's Union Street
subway stop, in Brooklyn, New York, and a world premiere! BRO is pleased
to present Susan Stoderl's The Veil of Forgetfulness, a 21st century
mystical opera in two acts, for eight women's voices, chamber orchestra,
chorus, and a real-time art installation by Sarah Olson. Performances
will be on February 27 and 28, and March 6 and 7, 3:00 PM, at
Littlefield, 622 Degraw Street (between 3rd and 4th Avenue),
Brooklyn, New York, 11217. An art installation created in real time by
artist Sarah Olson (http://www.Sarah-Olson.com), will depict the inner
thoughts of the characters. The composer, Susan Stoderl
(http://www.SusanStoderl.net), will serve as conductor of the work.
Stage direction will be provided by Charmaine Chester. General admission is
$20, students and seniors $10. Tickets may be purchased online at
http://www.bropera.org. Depression-special tickets for the unemployed
may be purchased for $5 by anyone presenting a current unemployment
insurance check stub at the box office on the day of the performance
(limit one ticket per purchaser). Detailed directions to the theater can
be found at http://www.littlefieldnyc.com/directions.
This project is sponsored in part by the Greater New York Arts
Development Fund of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs,
administered by the Brooklyn Arts Council, Inc. (BAC).
ABOUT THE OPERA
Set in Shaftesbury Abbey, 1199 C.E., The Veil of Forgetfulness tells the
story of Abbess Marie and her band of spiritual renegades as they
struggle against the stranglehold of the codified Medieval Church, as
personified by the dogmatic Sister Regina. These "Keepers" of The Veil
of Forgetfulness must find and initiate their seventh member before they
are denounced as heretics. When the mystical group reaches seven members
and a new First Keeper is found, the Keepers will ascend to eternal
bliss, completely enlightened and freed from further incarnations. If
all seven members cannot be initiated before their death, or if the Veil
falls into evil hands, the cloth returns to its original tiny square and
the process begins again, trapping the Keepers in a wretched cycle of
Abbess Marie, the First Keeper of the Veil, is secretly the famous
twelfth-century poet Marie de France and bastard sister of King Henry
II. Regina was once the mistress of King Henry and was promised the
position of Abbess upon their parting. The sisters have lived with their
secrets in close proximity, with little privacy, for many long years.
For some it is a gift, but for Sister Regina it is a bitter trial, of
which she intends to be the victor.
Each Keeper fulfills the call of the Veil, a summoning from an older
teaching of the Divine to serve and better mankind unconditionally, by
choosing to practice a spiritual lesson that comes from the tragic or
flawed lives they have led. In this way, they aid man's progression
along the many and diverse spiritual paths, particularly in times of
intolerance and hatred. Now, before the seventh member dies and the
soldiers arrive, the Keepers must, without her knowing, teach Regina the
ways of the Veil and entice her to become the new First Keeper. Will
Regina choose to continue her quest for power or will she answer the
Who Was Marie de France?
Few know I am Marie of France,
Who writes of legends and romance.
From their towers and from their shroud,
Woman's whispers I tell aloud.
Abbess Marie, Act I, Scene 1
The Norman poetess, Marie de France (ca. 1136/7-1216), was famous for 15
lais (romantic tales of love set in octo-syllabic verse). Her human
insight as well as her well-known stature as a woman writer were quite
unique at the time. Through these lais she helped expand such famous
legends as King Arthur, and Tristan and Iseult. Her stories described
and commented upon what many women faced in their feminine roles during
this time. Often this was quite contrary to Church teachings.
In addition to the lais, Marie de France translated into French The
Ysopet, a collection of 103 fables originally translated from Latin into
English by Henry Beauclerc.
Her religious texts include The Purgatory of Saint Patrick and The Life
of St. Audrey. The first tells of an Irish knight, who upon his descent
into a cavern, witnesses both torment and happiness. The second work is
a hagiographic text describing the life of Saint Audrey.
Exactly who the real Marie de France was is unknown. One theory,
although not the most prevalent, is that she was Marie, Abbess of
Shaftesbury, and/or the illegitimate sister of King Henry II.
The characters found in The Veil of Forgetfulness have been inspired by
the lais of the historical Marie de France. Her stories have been
altered to fit this story. The lais can be found in published book form
as well as on the Internet in Anglo-Norman French, in rhymed English,
and in story form.
The character of Abbess Marie is inspired by one of the lesser-favored
theories of her actual identity. The real Abbess Mary of Shaftesbury
lived until 1216, becoming Abbess in 1189. For purposes of this story,
the years were slightly altered and she is Marie de France.
Abbess Marie: Kathleen Keske & Lorene Phillips
Regina: Tracy Bidleman & Tamara Cashour
Azenora: Barrett Cobb & Suzannah Ancellr
Dympha: Pamela Scanlon & Ilya Speranza
Margarette: Marcella Caprario & Christine Reimer
Brigid: Evan Crawford & Kember Lattimer
Deborah: Erin Carr & Gretchen Mundinger
Joan: Nika Leoni & Ruth Ann Cunningham
Sarah (Artist): Sarah Olson