Silent Light

2019

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Silent Light

A new chamber foley opera

Music by Paola Prestini

Libretto by Royce Vavrek

Stage Director & Designer Thaddeus Strassberger

Based on the film Stellet Licht by Carlos Reygadas

Silent Light is a new Opera based on the film Stellet Licht by Carlos Reygadas. Commissioned by Banff Centre for the Arts.

Silent Light finds intimate beauty in the sounds of silence.

Review, Calgary Herald

Set within a Mennonite community in northern Mexico, the opera follows a pious husband and father, Johan, who’s strongly held spiritual obligation to his marriage, family, and community is put to the test when he falls in love with another woman from his faith.

Silent Light provides a glimpse of a society that is often misunderstood and simplified by people outside of the faith and lifestyle, presenting commonalities of human experience.

Music by Paola Prestini
Libretto by Royce Vavrek
Stage Direction, Scenic and Costume Design by Thaddeus Strassberger
Lighting Design by Jason Hand
Foley and Sound Design by Sxip Shirey

Musical Direction by Christopher Rountree

Artists’ Statement:

We decided on “Silent Light” because of the vast emotional canvas the films characters offer. There is no score, location sounds seem hard-edged, and when a hymn is sung, it is not a tune but a dirge. It was the perfect skeleton for an opera.

Set among the 100,000 or so Mennonites living in Mexico, the leads double as a choir and embody them- people who deeply hold their values and try to act upon them, and yet who do not seem to be zealots.

“Silent Light” has a beauty based on nature and the rhythms of the land. It opens with a sunrise and closes with a sunset, and is a solemn and profound film about a man transfixed by love, which causes him to betray his good and faithful wife. How he fell into this love, we do not know. Certainly, Johan isn’t the kind of man to go straying. Nor is Marianne, the woman he loves, a husband stealer. That they are both good to the core is the source of their pain.

Esther, Johan’s wife and the mother of their six children, knows Marianne and knows about the affair. Johan has told her. He is a religious man and has also confessed to his father and his best friend. There is the sense that he will never leave Esther and never stop loving Marianne. He and Esther say they love each other, and they mean it. You see how love brings its punishment.

At the end, Marianne tenderly kisses Esther and resurrects her. Ritual, every day life and finally, a moment of the surreal, tie the story together. This is a story of people trying to do their best.

“How does one direct so that the opera breathes with its own artistic life and not the life of a movie put onto stage? …The answers came from an at-once pellucid and oftentimes deeply emotional score by Paola Prestini, set to Vavrek’s bang-on minimalist libretto…”