Silent Light” is a proposed opera adapted from the film by Mexican filmmaker Carlos Reygadas, composed by Paola Prestini to a libretto by Royce Vavrek, directed by Thaddeus Strassberger. For vocal octet, children’s chorus, and eight celli.
Royce and I decided on “Silent Light” because of the vast emotional canvas the films characters offer. There is no score, location sounds seem hard-edged, and when a hymn is sung, it is not a tune but a dirge. It was the perfect skeleton for an opera.Set among the 100,000 or so Mennonites living in Mexico, the vocal octet, who double as leads, embodies them- people who deeply hold their values and try to act upon them, and yet who do not seem to be zealots.”Silent Light” has a beauty based on nature and the rhythms of the land. It opens with a sunrise and closes with a sunset, and is a solemn and profound film about a man transfixed by love, which causes him to betray his good and faithful wife. How he fell into this love, we do not know. Certainly, Johan isn’t the kind of man to go straying. Nor is Marianne, the woman he loves, a husband stealer. That they are both good to the core is the source of their pain. Yes, Johan and Marianne have sex, but it is the strength of the film that not for a second do we believe they are motivated by sex — only by love. Esther, Johan’s wife and the mother of their six children, knows Marianne and knows about the affair. Johan has told her. He is a religious man and has also confessed to his father and his best friend. There is the sense that he will never leave Esther and never stop loving Marianne. He and Esther say they love each other, and they mean it. You see how love brings its punishment.At the end, Marianne tenderly kisses Esther and seemingly resurrects her. Ritual, every day life and finally, a moment of the surreal, tie the story together. This is a story of people trying to do their bestMy attraction to this subject has to do with the vast emotional canvas the films characters offer. Ritual, every day life and finally, a moment of the surreal, tie the story together. This is a story of people trying to do their best.
I fell in love with the subject because I am fascinated by rite and ritual, and ordinary and magical lives, and this piece has these qualities-it forces one to look at every day decisions and the consequences in a deeply human way. I am also eager to dive into the examination of “otherness” that this work explores. We live in a culture where “otherness” is shunned, and I am eager to give a glimpse into secluded lives and cultures as breaking down myths only helps for a more inclusive time.