SATAN'S BRIDE: Maren of Vardø (2013)
Sung in English
Music by Jeff Myers; Libretto by Royce Vavrek
A CCOT Creative Development Project learn more
(Workshop: Monday, November 12, 2012)
Maren, a twelve-year-old Norwegian girl, is being interrogated by the town Priest after being accused of witch craft. She begins to tell a fanciful tale about her journey to hell and we enter her fantasy world… She walks into the crevice of a tree. She descends into the depths of the earth to find a giant ocean of fire. Satan reveals himself, walking down the rocky steps, to sooth his feet in the burning sea. Maren is drawn to him. Maren feels a kinship with Satan. He is similar to her beloved childhood pony Ole, who was put down due to disease. After getting to know each other, Maren sleeps the night in Satan’s embrace.
The next day, Maren and Satan travel to be with the girls for their celebration. It is during this time, filled with music and dancing, that one of the girls, 13 year-old Bodil, kisses Satan, an action that sends Maren into a jealous rage. The girls are suddenly seized by a group of clergy who restrain them for committing acts of witchcraft. We return from the fantasy…
Act 2The girls are held in the “witch’s hole”, while Maren is being interrogated. A priest, who is testing the girls through various ordeals, lacks the evidence to convict Maron. Sure that the mark of Cain appears somewhere on her body, he begins to shear the head of her curls. When no mark results, he hits her with the back of his hand and exits the room in haste. Back in the witch’s hole, the, the girls sing, scared in their metal prison. Meanwhile, Maren sits and tells her of her mother’s final hours and pretends to speak to God about her situation. All the while he heats a large branding device. As the priest readies to brand a mark on the back of Maren’s head she confesses to visiting hell, but charges Bodil and the other girls with being intoxicated by him. The three other girls are burned at the stake.
Act 3Maren imagines her future after committing her friends to death. She works s in a labor camp. Now a frail sixty year old woman, she is still forced to do menial woodworking. One day she cries out Satan’s name, and a stairway in the floor opens up, which she explores with a candle. She crawls down the steps that are carved into stone, and soon she is in a familiar place: the hell of her girlhood. When there, she is greeted by the girls she betrayed: they exit from the ocean of fire wearing white bridal gown with the same likeness of their young selves. Bodil hugs Maren and says that she forgives her. Satan enters, the hair on his withers grown long. Maren exclaims that she’s waited her entire life to return. She too wants to commit herself to the ocean of fire. Satan doesn’t recognize her, even as she attempts to jog his memory. He expels her from hell, forcing her back to her life in Vardo. When she is almost gone, he cannot control his sadness and calls back to her, telling Maren that she will be the eternal martyr. She will suffer forever knowing that her act of betrayal as led to Satan choosing her persecuted friends as the loves of his life. He questions whether she is doomed to an eternity in limbo, or maybe worse: heaven.
About the Creators
Jeff Myers (Composer)
The music of Jeff Myers has been called “Striking…and harmonically rich” by the New York Times and “…brilliant and powerful…” by The Classical Voice of New England. Myers’ work has been performed by such prestigious ensembles as the New York City Opera, L’Orchestre National de Lorraine, American Composers Orchestra, Jack Quartet at Darmstadt, The Library of Congress and Merkin Hall as well as by PRISM Saxophone Quartet, as well as The New York Youth Symphony, and the American Lyric Theater and more. Myers’ music draws on preexisting musical works, styles and genres, as well as visual art and natural phenomena. Filipino kulintang music, works by M.C. Escher, overtone music, folk music and geographical narratives have been a source for inspiration.
His operatic collaboration with writer and filmmaker Royce Vavrek yielded the one-act opera The Hunger Art, based on Kafka’s "The Hunger Artist" and the Adam and Eve story. He is currently working on a new opera with Mr. Vavrek based on Norwegian witch trials (Maren of Vardø) which has been presented in part by New York City Opera and in workshop format with the Yale Institute for Music Theater. His second opera Buried Alive (libretto by Quincy Long) was commissioned by American Lyric Theater and will be workshopped with orchestra this November in New York. In addition to the operas, Myers also has two chamber works coming up: Timetable Percussion will premiere his trio Binalig in New York this October, and Hutchins Consort East will perform a new string ensemble work early next year.
Myers has received awards, commissions and grants from The American Academy of Arts and Letters, BMI, as well as fellowships from the Aspen Festival, Tanglewood, Festival Acanthes, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, and from institutions and private funds such as the Jerome Foundation, American Music Center, Puffin Foundation, the Yvar Mikhashoff Trust, the Anna Sosenko Trust, and The Fromm Foundation. His music has been heard at Carnegie Hall, Library of Congress, Kimmel Center, Darmstadt, Gaudeamus, Symphony Space, Arsenal, Le Poisson Rouge, and the Tenri Cultural Institute to name but a few.
For more information check out Jeff Myers' website.
Royce Vavrek (Librettist)
Royce Vavrekis a multi-disciplinary narrative artist from Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada, whose work has been hailed as “wildly dramatic and… exhilarating” by The New York Times and “smart, crisp, [and] witty” by See Magazine. Vavrek has collaborated with diverse artists on a wide variety of opera and musical theater libretti including Dog Days (New York City Opera VOX; Zankel Hall/Carnegie Hall) and Vinkensport, or The Finch Opera (Bard Conservatory; New York City Opera VOX) both with composer David T. Little;The Hunger Art (American Lyric Theater, Center City Opera Theater, Burning Bayreuth) and Maren of Vardø (Center City Opera Theater’s Creative Development Projects; New York City Opera VOX) with Jeff Myers; Unsaid in a Field of Wildflowers with Kristin Hevner (Remarkable Theater Brigade/Carnegie Hall); and Nora at the Altar-Rail with Jay Anthony Gach (American Lyric Theater, Boston Metro Opera). Upcoming projects include Song from the Uproar with Missy Mazzoli (Beth Morrison Productions at The Kitchen), Yoaniwith Paola Prestini (21c Liederabend), The Bear Dance with Nick Martin (Alberta Foundation for the Arts Grant), 1882 with Mark Baechle (Swiss Society of New York), I [Verbed] with Matt Marks (21c Liederabend), The Beach with Andrew Gerle (New York City Opera VOX), Angel’s Bone with Du Yun (Carnegie Hall/Zankel Hall), Last Nightfall with David T. Little (21c Liederabend) and The Wild Beast of the Bungalow with Rachel Peters. Artistic Director of opera-theater company The Coterie, founded with soprano Lauren Worsham. B.F.A: Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema, Concordia University, Montreal; M.F.A: Graduate Musical Theater Writing Program, NYU. A Resident Artist in American Lyric Theater's Composer Librettist Development Program, Royce was commissioned by ALT to write …of the Flesh with Jay Anthony Gach as part of The Poe Project by ALT in 2010.
Satan - Paul CorujoThe Priest - Patrick McNally
Bodil - Karina Sweeney