Overview

Music by Nevada Jones
Libretto by Kevin Lawler
Performed in English with English supertitles

About the opera:
Stranger from Paradise is a world premiere opera and co-production of Opera Omaha and the Great Plains Theatre Conference. Based on the life and work of the prophetic artist William Blake and his longtime collaborator and wife Catherine, the opera explores the struggle of creation while weaving through themes of love, death, and art as social conscience. Experimental in its approach, Stranger from Paradise infuses opera with an intimacy in text, design, performance, and tone that draws from the strengths of contemporary theatre production practices.

Stranger from Paradise is an official event of:

William Blake, prophetic poet and painter, works at his desk. The man is dying, but in his stubbornness, he refuses to rest. Finally encouraged to bed by Catherine, his wife and longtime collaborator, he is comforted by a familiar sight: heavenly beings, long the subject of his own visions, who now crowd his bed and look upon him.
 
From there, Stranger from Paradise travels back, skipping from moment to moment, work to work, leaving no stone unturned. We meet Robert, William's sick younger brother, whose health declines as William and Catherine's love grows. Catherine's own visions are revealed in real time, and William encourages her to pursue them. Their lives, so often flitting between happiness and misery, are laid bare. The opera eventually catches up to its beginning, with William's powerful Romantic-era work - reimagined for our time - peppered throughout.
 
Back in the present, William and Catherine continue to rest. William, ever stubborn, insists he will draw her, but his once-great strength finally fails him. He is blessed with one more vision before he passes: an image of angels surrounding a great feast, his brother in the distance, and Catherine's brilliant, golden light, shining eternally.

STRANGER FROM PARADISE follows the visions and memories that arise in William Blake as he is dying. The scenes move between key moments from William’s life, primarily with his wife Catherine, and the life of major characters in the poems and visual art created by the Blake. 

Prelude 

Songs of Innocence 

Male Ensemble sings from the INTRODUCTION to the SONGS OF INNOCENCE

Death Scene
Old William Blake is in bed dying. His wife Catherine is by his side.

The Nurse’s Song 

From the SONGS OF INNOCENCE. The Nurse and Children sing and play on the green as the sun begins to set.

Enitharimon

Enitharimon is a demigoddess in Blake’s cosmology whose characteristics were inspired by William’s wife Catherine. In this scene she beckons all of the lost and tormented spectres that are stuck in a hellish limbo to come to her loom where she is weaving them the bodies of infants so that they may born, pass into our world and eventually die and be released to paradise. It is a reflection for the birth from William as a young boy to the birth of William the young man, artist and prophet.

The River
Young Catherine has a shocking vision along the River Thames and realizes that she has a purpose here in the world even though she does not yet know what that is.

Young William and Young Robert

William’s frail and dearly loved brother Robert asks William if he might join him in his great artistic work as several visions of their childhood arise in their memory.

The Lion

Young Catherine struggles with not being able to read, write or to share her passions and visions with anyone.

The Walk
Young William and Young Catherine share their dreams and commit their hearts to each other.

The Chimney Sweeper
We hear from actual legislation regarding child chimney sweepers in 1788 in London, then a verse from the SONGS OF EXPERIENCE version of THE CHIMNEY SWEEPER and finally from Blake himself.

Sunbathing
William and Catherine are sunbathing in the privacy of their walled-in garden when they share an unspoken sorrow with each other. The scene ends with a surprise visit from Robert which catches everyone off guard, and after some roughhousing between the two brothers, Robert collapses in his brother’s arms.

Urizen
Urizen, another demigod in Blake’s cosmology, is the god of reason who seeks to divide and order existence into what is measurable. He is the cause of much of the great pain and suffering of humanity. The text he sings is from Blake’s prophecies with pieces of text from several more recent brokers of power mixed in. 

Robert & Albion Death Scene
While Robert dies in William’s arms we see a scene that Blake wrote of Albion dying (from eternity/paradise to this fallen/temporal world) in the Divine Council’s (Jesus’) arms.

Paper
William, suffering with the loss of his brother and the strains of an almost complete rejection of all of his work by the social and cultural world of London, lashes out at Catherine.

The Tyger
Considered one of the greatest poems ever written. The poet looks at all of the pain and suffering in the world and wonders, without judgement, what immortal hand could have created this.

The Fallen World
Four outside perspectives of Blake and his work taken from actual texts written about him during his lifetime.

The Bard’s Song
Old William sings of his life’s work from the purview of old age.

The Laughing Song
Old William sees, once more, the deep vitality that he and Catherine had when they were young and just beginning their lives and work together. The lyrics are taken directly from the poem titled THE LAUGHING SONG in the SONGS OF INNOCENCE.

Poverty
In a stark shift, we see Old William and Old Catherine packing to move to a smaller living quarters because they are nearly penniless.

The Song of Los
Los, another demigod in Blake’s cosmology, is thought to be Blake’s incarnation of himself within his prophetic world. Here, Los is trying to help us see the true nature of our lives here on earth.

Old Catherine’s Aria
Old Catherine is returning to William’s death bed after being sent out by him to spend their last money on pencils so that he can keep working. She stops for a moment to rest.

Albion’s Song
In this culmination of the vision, passion and energy of Blake’s work, the chorus (Albion - all humanity) sing of resonant moments in life as Young William discovers the archetypal words to convey the mission of his life’s work.

Death Scene
We return to the moment of the death scene that we left at the beginning of the opera and move through the end of William’s death. 

Creative Team

Kevin Lawler, Director

Stage Director Kevin Lawler is a poet, playwright, producer, director, designer and actor. He is the producing artistic director of the Great Plains Theatre Conference, a co-founder of the award-winning BLUEBARN Theatre, and the founder and artistic director of the National Institute for the Lost. Since the 1980s, he has helped write, produce, direct, design and act in many seasons of theatre, including numerous premieres and original works. He served as the BLUEBARN Theatre’s artistic director from 1998 to 2002. His plays have been produced across the country in theatres that include The Kennedy Center, Here Space, Lied Center for Performing Arts, Baby D Theatre, New York International Fringe Festival and Minnesota Fringe Festival. His film Seeing Beauty was shot and premiered as part of the 2006 RipFest. His poems have been published in The Cape Cod Literary Review, Zink Magazine and The Lake Region Review. His travel writing was featured as a year-long journal in Medium Magazine. He is a member of the first American Acting Program at the Royal National Theatre of Great Britain. Mr. Lawler received a B.F.A. from the Professional Theater Training Program at the State University of New York at Purchase.

Hal France, Conductor

During a thirty five-year professional career as an opera conductor, Hal France has led organizations and performed with opera companies and symphony orchestras around the United States. In recent seasons his expanded activities include speaking and advocating for the arts. His positions include Executive Director of KANEKO (2008–2012), Artistic Director of Opera Omaha (1995–2005), and Music Director of the Orlando Philharmonic (2000-2006). He made his professional debut in 1981 at Washington’s Kennedy Center. He served the Houston Grand Opera first as Associate Conductor and later as Resident Conductor over a four-year span. He has conducted performances for the New York City Opera, Seattle Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Santa Fe Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, Opera Company of Philadelphia, Calgary Opera, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Chautauqua Opera, Minnesota Opera, Utah Opera and Symphony, Cleveland Opera, Dayton Opera, Shreveport Opera, Opera Carolina, Wolf Trap Opera, Opera Festival of New Jersey, Tulsa Opera, Portland Opera, Kentucky Opera, Hawaii Opera Theater and Orlando Opera.

Nevada Jones, Composer

Nevada Jones is a composer and voice teacher currently living in Portland, Oregon. His music has featured in stage plays, short films, dance and movement productions, and audio books. Nevada has collaborated several times with longtime friend and mentor, Kevin Lawler. Notable works include the soundtrack to Lawler’s original play, The Tulip (2008), performed at Omaha’s Blue Barn Theatre, and music for Lawler’s innovative production of Eugene O’Neill’s play, Hughie (2012). Their current collaboration, Stranger From Paradise (2017), is Nevada’s first opera and largest musical work to date. Other works include music for the play, The Caterer (2009); and for the web series pilot, Secret Bedfellows (2012); both productions written by Brian Alan Lane. As a composer, Nevada is self-taught. He has trained as a singer (countertenor) with Linda Brice in Portland, and studied piano with Emil Vajda in New York City.

Design Team

    • Ali Hall, Design Team Member
    • Simon Harding, Design Team Member
    • Pei-Wen Huang-Shea, Design Team Member
    • Valerie St. Pierre-Smith, Design Team Member
    • Cecilia Durbin, Design Team Member

Cast

    • Matthew Clegg
    • Terry Hodges
    • Elijah Brown
    • Elizabeth Kelly, Ensemble
    • Kelsey Park, Ensemble
    • Sebastian Sorensen, Ensemble
    • Timothy Madden, Ensemble
    • Amanda DeBoer Bartlett
    • Mary Carrick
    • Caroline Kouma, Ensemble
    • Karina Brazas, Ensemble
    • Michael Gray, Ensemble
    • Jesse Wohlman, Ensemble
    • Evelyn Hill, Young Girl

Details

Metropolitan Community College South Omaha Campus
Industrial Training Center Building


 Fri, May 26 | 7:30pm


Sat, May 27 | 2:00pm


Sat, May 27 | 7:30pm


 

Approximately 90 minutes

No intermission


RESERVE SEATS

This is a free event, reservations required.

Production Sponsors

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