“It is the fatal power of the imagination working through unmitigated terror.” – Walter Cannon
A work for double chorus for the Young People’s Chorus of NYC and Yale International Choral Festival at New Haven’s International Festival of Arts & Ideas June 2018. Commissioned by YPC and Yale School of Music.
Composed by Paola Prestini, Libretto by Royce Vavrek
“The Glass Box” is a concert work that follows the illness of young refugees in Sweden who fall into a coma-like sleep when their families are slated for deportation, a syndrome known as uppgivenhetssyndrom, or “resignation syndrome.” Known only to occur in Sweden, the victims, called “de apatiska” (the apathetic) withdraw from the world, their minds and bodies giving up on life. The only cure is the reversal of the government’s immigration decision.
The experience is viewed from the perspective of both children and parents whose request for asylum is twice denied. The children’s identity is entrenched in Swedish culture and thus they stop speaking, eating, moving, and finally they rest in bed like invalids, their bodies unresponsive to any external stimuli.
Throughout the work, the sensory experience of the sleeping children is explored. A wall of children in their beds in a deep sleep paint an almost hallucinogenic portrait of the illness’s haunting effects.
In the culmination of the work, the children slowly come out of their comas when news that the family has been granted permanent residence.