An opera in development for six voices and orchestra

Faustine is an opera in development with playwright Lucy Thurber after the novella by Emma Tennant, with support from New York City Opera VOX, ROH2 at Royal Opera House Covent Garden, and Aldeburgh Young Artist Residencies. It is the story of an older woman, Muriel, who sells her soul to the devil for eternal youth because she is in love with her daughter's lover. The project has received support from Center for Contemporary Opera, NY City Opera VOX, New Music USA CAP Performance program, ROH2 at Royal Opera House Covent Garden, and Aldeburgh Young Artist Residencies.

Click here to download the first page of the score

Listen to excerpts from Faustine:

Introduction and Scene 1: Muriel and Her Devil

The scene opens with Muriel, alone, gazing at herself in a mirror late at night. Muriel looks around the apartment she shares with her daughter, Anna and her granddaughter, Ella. She is lonely and unsatisfied. The Devil enters and watches Muriel as she thinks about all her unfulfilled desire. The Devil feeds Muriel’s longing and loneliness.

Scene 3: Family Morning

The next morning, Muriel and Anna get Ella ready for school. Muriel and Anna fight over how a young lady should present herself to the world. Muriel believes it’s more important to be pretty and dress well so Ella can get herself a “good man.” Anna wants her daughter to develop her mind and her belief system. The Devil enters and adds his voice to Muriel’s supporting the idea that image is more important than substance.

Review of the New York City Opera VOX showcase performance

...Artistic Director George Steel was on hand to assure us that, while the works of some Vox participants (John Zorn and Stephen Schwartz among them), have indeed been produced by the company, VOX is no mere scouting endeavor.

Still, if one were to handicap what Steel might next select for a full production from these readings, a good bet would be “Faustine,” a retelling of the Faust story with a female protagonist by Arlene Sierra. Paired with librettist Lucy Thurber -- a recent opera convert but already a sure hand at crafting memorable and singable lines – it was the most musically adventurous, tightly constructed and dramatically sound of the works-in-progress on offer.

Sierra’s musical language encompasses both acerbic dissonance where the plot requires it and, elsewhere, supple melodies of considerable sweep. Particularly riveting were her duets for the devil -- here unctuously played and vividly sung by countertenor Jason Abrams -- and the leading role, sung with earthy resonance by mezzo-soprano Jennifer Roderer. ...the Vox reading suggested that Thurber and Sierra are well on the way toward crafting a memorable new opera.

Musical America

WQXR’s Jeff Spurgeon interviews Arlene Sierra and Lucy Thurber, photos from the VOX performance, and an interview from New York City Opera

New York City Opera Orchestra, Conductor: Ryan McAdams, Musical Preparation: Lynn Baker Devil: Jason Abrams, Muriel: Jennifer Roderer, Ella: Deanna Breiwick, Anna: Amanda Pabyan, Harry: Ian Greenlaw

Photography © Liz Thornton