News from the Opera and a Farewell to One of Our Own
I’m writing this at 9 p.m., a little tired, from the lobby of the Sheraton Hotel in Syracuse, just having given a reading and gone to dinner with my beloved Program. I’ll be meeting with my third-year workshop for three intensive sessions on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. It is always so rich to be back here in Syracuse, among this crazy repository of talent…
It’s been a travel whirlwind these last few days; Paula and I flew to Cincinnati on Friday to attend a workshop for the Lincoln in the Bardo opera, written by Missy Mazzoli, with libretto by Royce Vavrek, commissioned by the Met and done under the auspices of Cincinnati Opera and the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music.
We heard a recording of the full production on Saturday, and then a public performance of excerpts on Sunday afternoon (and flew back to L.A. Sunday night, and then I flew back to Syracuse yesterday.
Honestly, I’m still a little stunned by what I heard in Cincinnati. It was one of the most powerful artistic experiences I’ve ever had. The opera is so, so good: new, crazed, lyrical, funny and absolutely brimming with heart. Missy and Royce have done something so wonderful that I find I don’t have the words to describe it.
It was a bit of an out-of-body experience, hearing this work that seemed to be coming both from outside me (shaped by two operatic geniuses) and inside me (I was rocketed back to the last year of working on the book and all of the deep and new emotions the writing was leading me to).
Within a few seconds of the first section, Paula and I were doing this thing we sometimes do, where I look to see if she’s crying just as she’s looking to see if I am - and…we both were.
On the plane Sunday night, she said it all: “The thing about that opera was….it made me believe in the power of art again.”
I’ve had a long and fortunate career but this was…the very best day(s) of my professional life. So, I want to thank Missy and Royce and all of the singers and musicians and everyone at the Metropolitan Opera and the Los Angeles Opera (co-producers) and the Cincinnati Opera.
It was so instructive and inspiring to see how these things get made - the astonishing open-heartedness of the artists; the way the more established operatic performers worked lovingly alongside student artists; the incredibly high-wire technical feats everyone was engaged in.
It was a blessing, literally, to be among such people. I came away thinking: If such people can exist, all is not lost…
Mostly, I can’t wait for you all to hear it too. The opera will receive its world premiere in 2026, first at the Los Angeles Opera, then moving to the Met, directed by the wonderful Lileana Blain-Cruz.
Some of you will remember that back a few weeks ago, when we were working on “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall,” a member named Annie Overly wrote with news that she had just received a difficult diagnosis. You, collectively, as you always do, responded with great warmth and compassion.
Well, another member, Tod Cheney, recently wrote to let me know of Annie’s passing, and to share this beautiful tribute to Annie and to a friendship that blossomed between the two of them after that exchange in the Comments.
It’s quite moving and I will let it speak for itself. Thank you, Tod, for writing it, and thank you Annie for the light you brought to all of us here at Story Club.