Amelia Lost by Larry Delinger is an opera that I hold near and dear to my heart! It is the first of many world premieres that I have worked on, and one that I have performed many times all over the world! It is emotional and stirring, and there was something that drew me to it from the first few hand written pages of score that I sang through.
In 2014, the University of Tennessee decided to premiere Larry Delinger's Medea and created a Delinger Fest where many of his other chamber music and solos were performed in concert while he was in residence here in Knoxville. Kevin Class, music director for UT opera theater, handed me a pile of scores that I might find interesting to produce at Marble City Opera, and among the manuscripts was the beginning of Amelia Lost. Also, among the scores was Talk to Me Like the Rain which we produced on a double bill with Amelia Lost. I always knew Talk to Me Like the Rain would be a success, but I had no idea what was in store for Amelia.
I wrote to Larry and asked if we could also produce Amelia Lost and while he was very busy finishing Medea and the orchestration for Talk to Me, he said we could with piano only. As we got closer and closer to the production, I asked if he would be able to orchestrate the opera, even with just a few instruments. So while he was in Knoxville, attending rehearsals for three operas and his other chamber music, he hand wrote parts for flute, clarinet, and bassoon that we added to the texture of the score. After hearing it, he decided that's what the orchestration wants to be!
The opera text was put together by Brad Carroll, who researched Amelia Earhart and took words she spoke and strung them together. Larry was inspired by a homeless woman near where he lived who had a shopping cart and suitcases that she was sometimes sleeping on top of, or reading next to. One day she was walking in circles with her arms spread out as if she was flying, and he thought, "That's Amelia." The opera is about a homeless woman who thinks she is Amelia Earhart and through Earhart's words experiences her final flight.
Circling, Circling, Circling, these words repeat in an ominous way. Immense sky, clouds, ocean, water, and stars all play an enormous part to this characters journey. She goes between seeing what's outside of her, to being trapped from the thoughts in her head. She experiences loneliness, depression, confusion, and loss. Working with James Marvel on this production was a literal leap of faith. His inventive and physical staging combined with the never ending vocal line demands stamina both physically and emotionally. We had no idea what the success of this opera would be or the impact it would have on an audience, but we jumped in with all of our artistic beings into creating this unique and haunting opera.
I have been fortunate enough to perform this opera in Knoxville, New York, Cleveland, and London, and am always looking for an opportunity to perform it again. One of my favorite moments working on the premiere is that on the night of our final dress rehearsal in Knoxville an article came out that they had found part of Amelia Earhart's plane. The same day we opened articles about Amelia Earhart began flooding my inbox and social media pages. It was as if she was crying out, "I'm not lost! I've been found!"
We hope you'll join us this Friday, September 25th at 7:30pm EST to watch the World Premiere performance which Arts Knoxville generously gave the title Most Memorable Opera Performance of 2014. I am grateful to all who worked on this opera. To Larry for creating it, for James whose creativity is like none other, and the musicians who have played and conducted the score all over the world. I'm looking forward to experiencing the journey again soon.
Watch the Performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPB2erBTQFk