Thursday, September 12, 2013

Well, it's now been over a year since my last post - again!  There's good reason for it, though.  Over the last year, I've been teaching music theory, passing my doctoral comprehensive exams, finishing my dissertation, and graduating from my doctoral program at Rice University (technically, now I'm Dr. Halka).  Oh, and writing some music.  I've also been doing a lot of traveling to festivals and workshops, and -- and this is why I get to write a new post today -- it just happens I find myself once again in Lithuania... writing another opera.

Only this time I'm not in Vilnius, but in the small town of Kražiai, where I've been living for a month at the M.K. Sarbievijaus Cultural Center.  I was invited for a month-long residency here to write a new chamber opera for the Baltic Chamber Opera Theater (Baltijos Kamerinis Operos Teatras).  And tomorrow, some of Kražiai's residents and I will get to hear some excerpts from the work, which I finished last week.

"Well, what's it about?"

The opera uses as its starting point the phenomenon of hikikomori. Before I came to Kražiai, I was introduced to the composer and librettist John Grimmett, who, lucky for me and for the opera, agreed to write a libretto based on this theme.  John is a great writer, and his one-act libretto, And Jill Came Tumbling After (also the title of the opera), was immediately inspiring.  One of its two main characters, Jack, is a hikikomori who has confined himself to his room at his mother's house.  The other main character, Jill (whose name you probably guessed), is a successful businesswoman with an overbearing father.  Both are childhood friends reconnecting through letters after more than a decade of not seeing each other.  Without going into a detailed synopsis, I can say that both characters go through a process of discovery and self-evaluation while learning what it truly means to be lonely and isolated.  Perhaps I'll give a more detailed synopsis in a subsequent post.

The opera is scored for 4 soloists (soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, and baritone), clarinet, bassoon, and piano.  Tomorrow, I will accompany baritone Jonas Sakalauskas and soprano Ilona Pliavgo in a performance of two arias from And Jill Came Tumbling After, but I will also show excerpts from Julius, play some of my other music, and talk about my work in general.

I should also mention here how great it has been to complete my first artistic residency.  The peace and quiet, the great weather, the idyllic setting, the uninterrupted time to create - they have all contributed to an incredibly rewarding and productive experience, and I've learned a lot about myself as an artist.

I'll be in touch again after I return from Lithuania and have more news about a full production of the new opera, but for now, here are photos of just some of the many beautiful moments to which I was treated over this past month (the fourth photo is of one of my workspaces).  Talk to you soon and thanks for reading!

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