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Lux et Tenebrae (2011)

Instrumentation: 3 Sopranos, 1 Mezzo-Soprano, 3 Baritones, Violin, 'Cello, Piano
Duration: ca. 30'
Libretto by Douglas Buchanan and Caitlin Vincent
Commissioned by The Figaro Project
Premiere Date: April 1, 2011, Baltimore, MD

Program Note

Creation stories have always fascinated me, whether they relate to a mythos, the cosmos, or the creative consciousness. When Caitlin Vincent of The Figaro Project, at the time a chamber opera company in Baltimore, asked me to write a piece for their spring Contemporary Opera Trio in 2011, I knew I wanted to work within a mythic narrative structure. In addition to synthesizing tropes from different mythoi, I also blended in concepts from theories regarding the evolution of music and language, being embroiled in studying these for my doctoral dissertation. Thus, the characters, whom The Child encounters, gradually increase not only in number but complexity, hinting at the emergence of symbolic meaning while also striving for an underlying, mythic ur-narrative (the Snake with Two Names, for instance, hints both at the Biblical, tempting symbol, and the regenerative signifier in Eastern traditions, while the Three Moons reference the triune Mother-Maiden-Crone template, and, in their lament, hint at the sacrificial Agnus Dei text from the Latin mass text).

Needless to say, the first draft was obtuse, obscure, and heavy-handed.

I am thus deeply grateful for the craft and care of Caitlin Vincent, who recognized the ideas I was attempting to explore, and gracefully edited them into a usable libretto. The premiere was conducted by Jim Stopher alongside works of Paul Mathews and Joshua Bornfield on April 1 and 2, 2011, at the University of Baltimore.

— Douglas Buchanan


Lux et Tenebrae



Lux et Tenebrae
Premiered by the Figaro Project as part of their Contemporary Opera Trio project in 2011.


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