I wrote an opera about nihilism and it's premiering on Saturday!

Hello ThinkAtheist!

It's been a few years but I have an old account somewhere on here with a completely forgotten password. I remember the community fondly though, and I thought some of you might appreciate my latest project.

I'm a graduate composer at the University of Delaware and I've written a chamber opera which will be premiered on October 3 at 8PM in Newark, DE. I'm trying to get the word out and find an audience for the work, and I wanted to reach out specifically to ThinkAtheist because of the nature of the story.

My opera is called Death and the Drifter, and is very loosely based on the short film Backwater Gospel. The idea is that a preacher in a small town leads his congregation astray by speaking for God and using that authority to enforce his own hatred. My libretto borrows heavily from verses that are used to justify either a hateful or loving reading of the Bible, and explores themes of nihilism and the fear of death.

Tickets are free, and the performance will only take about half an hour. I also believe the music is very accessible, so it should be entertaining even for people who might not otherwise have the patience or musical background to have watched or appreciated opera before.

If you are in the area and are interested in finding out more or putting it on your calendar, I made an event on this site: http://www.thinkatheist.com/events/death-and-the-drifter-a-new-chamber-opera

Or the Facebook event page is here (if that’s easier): https://www.facebook.com/events/1594311934122938/

And finally, here's a link to the plot summary in case anyone is interested in reading it: https://docs.google.com/document/d/17hWWHWa03_omD1mtxbLJb8NbOPy_ND0...

Especially since this is a forum post, I’d love to answer any questions or concerns anyone has about my opera’s story, music, philosophy, etc. I think it--and the short film it’s based off of--contains some very evocative ideas, and I do hope they inspire discussion.

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I wish I lived close enough, I would go! I'm wondering if you can explain what is the Backwater Gospel? I've not heard of it. How did you get interested in these themes and how did they all mesh together for you? I know for us creative idealist types it seems that things blend together that one might normally not think go together, but....it does!! LOL....

Anyway, Please do share more about your passion. I'm interested to know how nihilism is presented in an opera! How does that work exactly?

It's a short film that's actually available on YouTube for free and definitely worth watching! The link is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVkDrIacHJM

My opera is aesthetically very different from the film, but I used the same archetypal characters in the story, like a Drifter (a dramatic soprano instead of a gravelly-voiced guy), Death (equivalent to the Undertaker) and the Preacher. The Drifter most represents nihilism in her attitude and speech, explaining to the congregation that the church and especially the preacher won't save them from Death in the end, so they should find the people they love and spend their time with those people instead of in the church. The character isn't afraid of Death, and better understands its nature.

The preacher, on the other hand, represents the dangers of religion--in my opera, he often says things like "I speak the word of the Lord" and generally acts as if he's a mouthpiece for God, when really he is simply using the authority of God to justify his hatred.

The other main characters are Death, who is the personification of the inevitability and mercurial nature of death, and a character I called the Ingenue, who is meant to represent the positive aspects of religion. She has a conversation with the preacher where they exchange Bible verses that encapsulate their viewpoints of loving others or hating/punishing others for their sins, respectively. There is also a congregation, which in my opera is the choir; they are influenced by the preacher and ultimately prove themselves to be more afraid of Death than they are faithful.

As for how I got interested in the themes, I've been really interested in writing about religion and philosophy since I started writing music. I grew up in a church and I've always spent a huge portion of my time pontificating on how I feel or what I believe about God and death and existence, and that comes up a lot in my music. Plus after I saw the film I couldn't stop thinking how well those themes would work for opera, so I wrote it.

I know that's a little rambling, haha. I just had a two-hour rehearsal with the full company and I'm sort of loopy I think.


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