Introduction of my Chamber opera “Colors of Obsessions”

Synopsis:

Act One
A female writer lives in an imaginary country without free speech. Language is distorted by the governing dictatorship and centralized religious authorities. (This distortion is represented symbolically first by a musical collage—a recording of political speeches in seven languages, including words of a trial after Chinese culture revolution, a Stalin speech, a Hitler speech, a Mussolini speech, a FDR speech, a Taliban recording, and a young Japanese Nazi speech, and second by a religious organ music) In this depressed and restrictive environment, people shout meaningless and ridiculous slogans. Meanwhile, the writer suffers painfully because her waking consciousness stands out among the fury of the world. After a long period of depression, the writer gradually becomes an aphasic. She cannot control her words whether it is in writing or speaking. Her language disorder causes her to act crazily. On one hand, she keeps repeating “pink” (the symbol for vulgar in the libretto) obsessively; on the other hand, her sober consciousness stimulates her nausea towards society. An important sentence of the first act is “people are dolls that are manipulated by society, morality, government, religions, nationalism, class contradictions, boundaries, majorities, norm!” At the end of Act One, the writer completely loses herself in the mental disease, isolating her from the world.

Act Two
In Art Two, “Colors of Obsessions” expands to other colors, as the writer starts her inner-self journey. Each color symbolizes an extremely painful life experience: black for dictatorship; white for nihilism; red for violence; green for claustrophobia, yellow for fury, and blue for sorrow. Colors are the all-pervasive pain, which fills the writer’s soul. The seven colors’ journey also symbolizes a path going towards the highest level of wisdom, the “purple heaven”. Although the writer commits suicide at the end of the opera, her soul flies to the purple paradise; she achieves the wisdom that cannot be found during her lifetime.

Original Stage Design
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Act One, Scene 1 (Prelude): A devil makes poison by putting different colors’ ink into one container. Each color symbolizes a thinking illness.[/caption]

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Act One, Scene 2: A female writer lives in an imaginary Country without free speech. In this land, language is distorted by doverning dictatership and centralized religious authorities. After a lond period of depression, the writter gradually becomes an aphasic. She repeats "pink" (the symbol for vulgar in the libretto) obsessively.” width=”225″ height=”300″ class=”size-medium wp-image-17″ /> Act One, Scene 2: A female writer lives in an imaginary Country without free speech. In this land, language is distorted by doverning dictatership and centralized religious authorities. After a long period of depression, the writter gradually becomes an aphasic. She repeats “pink” (the symbol for vulgar in the libretto) obsessively.[/caption]

1512438_10152461232476439_4704166741503659277_n
Act one, Scene 3: The writter’s dream–13 dead angels hang in the sky. They are Sarah Kane, Haizi, Ernest Hemingway, Akutagawa Kyunesuke, Sylvia Plath, Stenfan Zweig, Virginia Woolf, Anne Sexton, Sergei Yesenin, Henri Mayppassant, Yasunari Kawabata, Sappho, and Sara Teasdale. This is an omen of the writer’s death by suicide.[/caption]

10805755_10152461232481439_1487649384563824844_n
Act One, Scene 4: Soprano paint a large paper to pink crazily, and singing: “Pink is the criminal behavior that transcended language; pink is the barbarity that transcended civilization, pink is the nausea that transcended emotions, pink is the longing that transcended reality.”
[/caption]

10410599_10152461232486439_2343111539656605954_n
Act Two, Scene 5: The writter stands inside 7 cages of seven colors. The colors reflect the prelude’s seven colors of ink. The colors of ink symbolized the thinking illnesses and the poison in the prelude, but now they symbolize the writter’s spiritual shackles.[/caption]

20700_10152461232621439_7280256474126106635_n
Act Two, Scene 6: In the writter’s delusional world, she flies to a purple heaven—the highest level of wisdom, where she finds relief and liberty.[/caption]

1507025_10152461232626439_1917285670311830951_n
Act Two, Scene 7: The writter wakes uo from her purple delusion and drinks the poison that was prepared by the devil in the prelude. Writter ends the opera by stating: "the thuth has died, the wisdom reborn."” width=”225″ height=”300″ class=”size-medium wp-image-31″ /> Act Two, Scene 7: The writter wakes uo from her purple delusion and drinks the poison that was prepared by the devil in the prelude. Writter ends the opera by stating: “the thuth has died, the wisdom reborn.”
(Paintings Copy Right@ Joan Chen)

Notes of Composer/ Playwright:
“Colors of Obsessions” is dedicated to thirteen suicidal writers, symbolically represented in the libretto by the “thirteen dead angels” who appear in the female writer’s dreams: Sarah Kane, Haizi, Ernest Hemingway, Akutagawa Kyunesuke, Sylvia Plath, Stenfan Zweig, Virginia Woolf, Anne Sexton, Sergei Yesenin, Henri Maupassant, Yasunari Kawabata, Sappho, and Sara Teasdale. I grew up reading their profound literature works. They dedicated their lives to art that is everlasting. While I continue to be inspired by their works, I feel their suicidal deaths are like a nightmarish transmigration. Their works and deaths leave me a speechless intensity that has to be expressed through music. The suicide of writers to me is a very serious cultural and spiritual phenomenon with complicated reasons including: an excessive dedication to art; the conflict between imaginative worlds and reality; the sensitivity of seeing through the weaknesses of human nature; and the over-exposure of personal emotions, causing nervous breakdowns. I want to explore this phenomenon further through the depiction of a writer’s inner-self journey from creative life to death.

Libretto:
Colors of obsessions–Act One
–Lights settings’ instructions are in the brackets

(Prelude about 2 minutes, dark on stage, only spot light on soprano)

The truth has died, (open all the light after this) the wisdom reborn.

I’ve always been thinking, (close half lights) what makes a human’s soul? The sensitive nerves, the subtle pains, the continuing spilt personalities during the process of growing up, and the radical, inevitable human natures. The four parts functioning together within each individual’s thinking makes a human’s soul.

(Spot light on soprano, dark stage, there’s a few seconds in between when you can change the lights) She exists without a soul, and frozen inside the free emptiness. (Pitch dark on stage during players whisper about 30 seconds)

(Open all lights before this) Delusion and reality, society and individual, fury and peace, happiness and pain, loyalty and betrayal, belief and desperation, freedom and bondage, nobility and shame, wisdom and ignorance! Everything is vague! Everything us fake! Language is being distorted, language is being destroyed!

Pink, white, black, pink, red, yellow, red, green, blue, pink, pink, pink, pink, pink……pink doll!!!

Look at the world! Then look at the doll!!!!
(Turn on and turn off all the lights quickly during this part , to make a theatrical unstable effect, then slow turn off all lights when the organ staying on the last 2 long chords)

(Dark stage and spot light on soprano before she counting these numbers) 1, 2, 3, 3, 5, 10, 11, 4……..so cold……… 7, 7, 8, 9, 3, 8, 3……..so dark…….7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13! 13 dead angels! The purist souls are full of transparent tears and deep, deep scars. (Half lights on)
Sarah Kane, Haizi, Hemingway, Akutagawa Kyunesuke, Sylvia Plath, Zweig, Virginia Woolf, Anne Sexton, Yesenin, Maupassant, Kawabata, Sappho, Teasdale…..
Is wisdom to heavy for people to bear? 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13!!!!! (Open all lights)
Welcome to the reality! Look at the broken city, it’s full of pink doll that made by humans. Pink lights, pink sky, pink hair, pink girl, pink…..mask, mask of immensity. We are Sharing a huge mask! A heavy and breathless mask, that made of man-made ignorance. Gradually, uniqueness decays.

People are dolls (Pink lights on) that manipulated by society, morality, government, religions, nationalism, class contradictions, boundaries, majorities, norm! And norm! ( shift to normal lights, no pink color)

My language doesn’t compromise with the world!!

My body is a sleeping doll; my soul is painful straggling consciousness. They are fighting inside and tearing me up into parts.

Pink illness had been scattered on the painful ground; boundless world had been covered by the ignorance veils; violence had penetrated everything; forces had killed languages!

(Pink lights on) Pink cup, pink bed, pink hair, pink clock, pink shoes, pink nails, pink wall, pink wine, pink scarf, pink fire, pink bird, pink car, pink pen, pink screen, pink note, pink skin, pink desk, pink window, pink sheet, pink food, pink eyes……

(After all players whisper again, when they stop whisper, turn off pink lights then open only half lights on stage in the music before the next aria come in)

The people without freedom are shouting freedom;
The people without a soul are shouting belief;
The people without love are shouting loyalty;
The people without a heart are shouting morality.

I can’t avoid sympathizing with the internal spirits that are tormented by morality;
I can’t avoid feeling the emptiness of spiritual barrenness;
I can’t avoid acknowledging the conflicts between languages and thoughts;
I can’t avoid outguessing the ugliness of complicated humanity.

(Open all the lights with the soprano singing “ideal me”) Ideal me, small me, great me, real me, altogether building a revolution that never ends!

Obsession, colors, drama, poison, soul, gender, love, philosophy, poetry, purple, transcend, destiny, dualism, talent, catharsis, transparent, personalities, sufferings, desires, vulgar, absolute, depression, intoxication, ambiguity, tragedy, delusion, ah!!!!!!!
My paper, my pen, my ink, my broken language! On the earth, whose soul has no flaws?

Pink rumors, pink war, pink slogans, pink violence, pink madness, pink chaos, pink benefits, pink society, pink politics.

(Turn on, turn off quickly in this section while soprano shouting through a megaphone and electronic are the background) Pink is the criminal behavior that transcended language; pink is the barbarity that transcended civilization, pink is the nausea that transcended emotions, pink is the longing that transcended reality. (With the electronic end, turn off all the lights, until the second act begins)

Colors of Obsessions– Act Two

我怕…(Spot light on soprano, dark stage)
When I am reborn from the inner-self being,
I hear and see the broken heart, in these insomniac nights,
Shinning stars reflect the profound silence and melancholy,
Goddess abandoned the intense suffering into the dark night sky

It’s broken, it’s broken! (Spot light off, open half-lights on stage)

(Spot light on soprano again, dark stage) You tear up my longing for love,
You ruin my life because I long for your love
Morality cheated me of my emotions
I forced (Open all lights) vomited meaningless words just for responding to the untruthful conversations!!!!
(Open half-lights) I’m scared of politics, it’s force and violation;
I’m scared of gender, it’s a scar that’s left by history;
I’m scared of love, it’s jealous and delusion.

In black, the brutal storm robs me of freedom, and left me the eternal question that has no answer. My mysterious and deep delusions finally condense into a mere square of black ice.

In white, I’m facing to the boundless emptiness and all-pervasive pain. Tell me, how to bear the absurd life? I clearly knew there’s nothing can ever fulfill the intense emotions inside me, nor anything deep enough connected to me.

I red, (Open all lights) my blood calls out self that was lost so long ago. I hide in mist, reject memories. My rage is without end, and directs my passion and talent, the ultimate catharsis.

In green, (Green lights on) I’m watching my dying youth, it cuts me open into two parts; one laughs loudly, one cries silently. Only the two inner-selves can truly be in love with each other. Green understands that the riddling bodies deceive men and women.
(When player start to whisper this about 30 seconds, turn off all the lights) I don’t understand, I don’t understand, I don’t understand…….
Why? (Open all light after this immediately) I don’t understand!!!!!

In yellow, the sight of witch-hunt became an angry sword, slashing out from my heart, piercing out from my heart. I nobly wonder forever and keep bleeding on the blinding yellow ground.

In blue, (Open blue lights) my ideal love fades away from the innocent tears, as transparent as the sky, as wispy as the sky. I picked up the unbearable dignity; I drown myself into the dark blue ink.

In pink, (Open pink lights) the arrogant and vulgar excludes my pure and absolute being, I thought I could protect my girlhood dream in the cruel adult world. I was wrong, the dream will never come true, it is already broken.

At the end of the world, (Turn off and turn on all lights quickly) colors symbolize everything! Destruction and rebirth are happening at the same time. The frozen eternity is sealed inside the nightmarish transmigrations.
(Open all light before this) The ambiguity of human nature is determined to destroy the purity, the weaknesses of human nature are determined to turn our languages to lines!

We use the exquisite artistic expressions to:
Catharsis our desires; conceal our desires; admire our desires; judge our desires; fade our desires; despise our desires; torment our desires; expand our desires; discover our desires; plead our desires; lash our desires; release our desires; explain our desires; forgive our desires; dissolve our desires; devour our desires; return to our desires…..

Destroy our desires!!!!!

Idealism sublimes nobly, (Purple lights on) and illuminates the desolate reality. My poems become my wings that take me to the purple fairyland. Purple connect to purple, purple depends on purple. Sacred lights eases all the pains and forgives all the desires. My heavy, bright-colored and gleaming goddess, your eyes have collected the precious wisdom of colors. The radiance from your body shrouds into the whole future time!

A purple prophet. A purple prophet.
(Spot light on soprano, dark stage)
The truth has died, the wisdom reborn. (Turn off all lights while the opera close to the end)

Program notes:
“To be or not to be, that is the question”–that is the eternal question with such strong power and sober implications. Yiguo’s second chamber opera — a melodrama exploring a female writer’s inner journey towards suicide — makes a philosophical statement on the inevitable conflicts between life and death. The libretto’s almost morbid pessimism combine with the musics’ exaggerate expressionism and polystylism to produce an artistic totality. In the opera’s symbolic language, the absurd, scattered, and abstract words contain various meanings and thoughts.
In “Colors of Obsessions”: each color symbolizes a thinking illness:
pink—vulgarity
black–dictatorship
white–nihilism
red–violence
green–clithrophobia
yellow–fury
blue–sorrow
**”purple-wisdom, heaven, goddess, female, sacred”**
Besides purple, the other seven colors are not only the extremely painful experiences of life, but also the path towards “purple”–the top level of wisdom, the heaven of intelligent atheist.
Premiere concert: December 7th, 2013
Conductor – Jeffrey Means, Soprano – Aliana de la Guardia, Violin I – Lilit Hartunian, Violin II – Annie Hsu, Viola – Justin Ouellet, Cello – Kett Lee, Piano – Elaine Rombola Aveni, Percussion – Nick Tolle, Organ/Celesta – Alexander Lane,
Electronic Assistant – James Praznik, Stage lighting – Richard Chowenhill, Concert Manager – Jared Redmond
Composer, Playwright, Stage/Light settings/Performing design – Yiguo Yan

Premiere Pictures

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