For the past five years I have been involved with seven women and a little girl: Tosca, Butterfly, Turandot, Lucretia, Cordelia, Letty Mason, Hester Prynne and her daughter Pearl. My aim has been to re-imagine and transform their roles as heroines, to write strong roles for strong women in new operas and new endings to existing operas.
I began this work while I was a Fellow at the Bunting (now Radcliffe) Institute at Harvard University in the mid-nineties. In 2015, as a Visiting Artist at the American Academy in Rome, I began it anew.
Since my time in Rome I have re-written and re-composed the endings to two Puccini operas, Tosca and Madama Butterfly, and created six full-length libretti Butterfly in America, The Scarlet Letter, The Wind, The Once and Future Turandot, Salt, and The Resurrection of Lucretia, to which I am now composing music. All of my work is inspired by existing sources.
My interest in retelling dates back to my graduate days at Harvard, where, under the direction of Hilary Putnam, I wrote and published a philosophy dissertation on Freud’s theory of mind, and to my own psychoanalysis, where I first discovered the empowering role of retelling.
My interest in music goes as far back as I can remember. I always played the piano. Then I fell in love with Bach and learned to play the harpsichord. I studied music and philosophy as an undergraduate at UCLA. After graduate school, I turned my attention from Freud to the philosophy of music. I taught and wrote philosophy in the mid-nineties. Some of my papers are collected here.
Thomas Schultheiss, photography
Keiko Tanabe, artwork