A new opera in one act
Music by Sivan Eldar
Text by Cordelia Lynn
I dreamt the world cracked open like an egg,
said one lover to the other,
and you came spilling out /
said the other, interrupting.
No, said the dreamer,
Two lovers, loving.
Each so bound up in the other that the world fades from view. They are one person, one thought, one touch, one song.
They begin to remember themselves, they begin to remember the boundaries of their identity, of their flesh. They begin to notice the world.
Other people inhabit this world. People with their own lives, concerns, desires. People with inner worlds and relationships as rich as the lovers’ own. There are other things to do and see, and other people to talk to, to touch, to love.
As the outside world becomes strong and visible around the lovers, the form of their love must change, but can it, and should it, survive?
Like flesh is a modern love story, a new expression of the most central theme of opera. It explores the experience of love and loving, of the profound world created between lovers when love is at its most intense, of the bittersweet reality that life goes on around us and we are required to take part in it.
Like flesh is written with a gender ambiguous text, reflecting a subtler spectrum of sexual identity and orientation. It questions the conventional male/female binary that opera traditionally offers its audience, and brings the operatic love story to a more modern, curious and queerer generation.
The text of Like flesh offers a radical departure from the traditional dialogue based libretto.
It begins as a monologue, shared between its two soloists to express their experience of one-ness. Different fonts indicate where one character speaks, were another continues, where they both sing together. As the characters split into their defined selves, the text on the page will split into interconnected columns, using a form we have successfully explored with the operatic scene The White Princess (see below). Finally, the vocal ensemble enters as other characters become apparent, and a rich and full world of figures builds to completion.
Like flesh is an experience of growth, opening and revelation, as a dark, interior and abstract world reveals itself to be our world, light and busy and full of life and movement.
At its core, Like flesh is an opera about the beauty and complexity of the human voice, and its relationship to human expression, connection, and the body. Echoing the characters' shifting states of awareness and intimacy, their voices exist on a spectrum where thresholds are naturally mutable and amorphous: Presence is accentuated through absence; action is explored through intention. Musical worlds are echoes that never quite touch, and in return, listening becomes the most intimate of musical spaces.
Like flesh is scored for two solo voices (soprano with low extension and mezzo soprano), a vocal ensemble (4-6 voices), a chamber ensemble, and electronics. It is an opera in one act, with a running time of one hour.
The work of composer Sivan Eldar has been described as “vividly imagined” (The Boston Globe), “ethereal” (Oakland Musical Examiner), “beautifully melancholic” (Opera Plus), “radiating with poetic sounds and silences” (ResMusica) and "with a unique sensitivity to dramaturgy" (Diapason). She has worked with many of today’s leading ensembles, including the Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra, Berkeley Symphony Orchestra, Divertimento Ensemble, Ensemble Multilatérale, Exaudi Vocal Ensemble, International Ensemble Modern Academy and Ensemble Musica Nova, at festivals such as Festival ManiFeste, Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, Royaumont Voix Nouvelles, Impuls Festival, Accademia Musicale Chigiana and Festival Tzlil Meudcan, at diverse venues including Boston’s Symphony Hall, Paris’ Maison de la Radio and Le Centquatre, Oslo’s Baerum Kulturhaus, NY's The Cell, and Berlin’s RADIOALSYSTEM-V.
Sivan began her musical education in Tel Aviv at the age of 5, studying classical piano and voice. At the age of 15 she moved to New Mexico to continue her education at the United World College, where she studied composition while becoming involved in environmental and political work. She continued her studies in Boston at the New England Conservatory (BM), where she studied composition, piano and ethnomusicology, alongside courses in gender studies and ethics. She moved to California to pursue her PhD in composition at UC Berkeley with Franck Bedrossian and Edmund Campion with an emphasis in new media studies at the CNMAT (Center for New Music and Audio Technologies) and the BCNM (Berkeley Center for New Media). Most recently, she was in residence at IRCAM under Hèctor Parra (Cursus 2016-17), where she developed new tools for vocal writing, and began to collaborate with writer Cordelia Lynn and set designer Aurélie Lemaignen.
Sivan is currently based in Brooklyn, NY. [CV available HERE]
Cordelia is a playwright and librettist. She trained as a pianist until the age of sixteen at the Gnessin Academy, Moscow, and The Yehudi Menuhin School, UK. She then went on to study literature and write, taking her English BA at the University of Bristol, and her MA in Modern Literature at University College London.
Her play Lela & Co. (2015) premiered at the Royal Court Theatre to critical acclaim, and her one-man monologue, Best Served Cold (2016) was performed at Vault Festival in London. She is under commission to the Royal Court, Headlong Theatre Company and The Yard Theatre. She is a graduate of the Royal Court Young Writers Programme, and is the recipient of the Harold Pinter Commission 2017.
Cordelia is a regular participant in workshops and residencies at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, including the Opera Creation Workshop (Willem Bruls), The Women Opera Makers Workshop (Katie Mitchell), and the Pinocchio Residency with her collaborator, composer Sivan Eldar. Cordelia and Sivan’s piece you’ll drown, dear was performed at Manifest, Centquatre, Paris, and their operatic scene The White Princess premiered at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence in the Maynier Courtyard (both 2017). Cordelia wrote the libretto for Miranda, a new opera after Henry Purcell, directed by Katie Mitchell at the Opera Comique, Paris (2017).
She has also worked as a dramaturg, collaborating with Mitchell on the revival of her radical version of Lucia di Lammermoor at the Royal Opera House (2016/17).
Cordelia has lived around the world and is now settled in London, where she was born. [CV available HERE]
YOU'LL DROWN, DEAR (2017)
for mezzo-soprano and electronics
A collaboration between Sivan Eldar, Cordelia Lynn, and stage designer Aurélie Lemaignen. Developed at and produced by IRCAM, under the guidance of Hèctor Parra and Jean Lochard. Premiered at Festival Manifeste, Le Centquatre, Salle 400, June 20th 2017.
A woman in a room. In a chair. Reaching, pulling, closer, deeper, to silence.
Cordelia Lynn’s text, inspired by Rilke’s symbolist play "The White Princess" explores conflicting states: internal and external worlds, fantasy and reality, movement and stasis. In her musical setting, Sivan Eldar blurs the boundaries between the extremes. She resolves the conflict into a process of release – an emptying of the voice. It is an undressing in search for clarity.
Click HERE to read Cordelia's text.
THE WHITE PRINCESS (2017)
An operatic scene for two sopranos, percussion and electronics
An expansion of you'll drown, dear. A collaboration between Sivan Eldar, Cordelia Lynn, and Aurélie Lemaignen. Commissioned by the Academy of the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence. Premiered at the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence, Hôtel Maynier d'Oppède, July 20th 2017.
We wanted to set up a conflict and tension and difference between the two characters. Age seemed to be one way to represent this. There are other differences as well: the Old Woman is very still, the Young Woman is very active, the Old Woman is very internalised, concerned with her inner world, the Young Woman is very externalised, concerned with the world around her. But they are more connected than they think, and when they really meet something very explosive will happen. The boundaries of their worlds will blur and disintegrate. It is very hard for diverse worlds to coexist.
Click HERE to read the full interview with the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence.
NEW WORK (2018)
for six voices and electronics
A collaboration between Sivan Eldar, Cordelia Lynn, and Aurélie Lemaignen. Commissioned by the Royaumont Foundation for Exaudi Vocal Ensemble. Co-produced by IRCAM. To be premiered at Festival Voix Nouvelles, Jardin de Royaumont, September 2018.
We will explore text, music and movement ideas as they relate to the vocal ensemble. This piece will form the basis of the use of the ensemble in Like flesh