OPERA IN 3 ACTS (2017 - 2020 revision)
Libretto by Cerise Jacobs
Premiered by White Snake Projects, conducted by Daniela Candillari
1(pic).2(bcl,alto sax).0.0 - 18.104.22.168 - timp+1perc - hrp – pno - str
Lauded as an “an endlessly unfolding chain of highly controlled polystylism” (Boston Musical Intelligencer), Julian Wachner’s REV. 23 is an exploration of an “unpublished” new chapter of the Book of Revelation. With an audacious libretto by Cerise Lim Jacobs, taking us on a fantastical journey through the myths of our collective unconscious.
Produced by Trinity Church Wall Street
Commissioned by White Snake Projects
Lucifer – Baritone
Hades – Tenor
Persephone – Soprano
Furies – Soprano, Soprano, Alto
Archangel – High Countertenor or Mezzo
Adam – Tenor
Eve – Soprano with belting/pop abilities
Sun-Tse – Bass with upper extension
"On a larger scale — by far the largest of this festival — “Rev. 23” was a madcap explosion of lovable ludicrousness for a large orchestra and a substantial cast. Performed at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, it was a sustained exercise in a comic energy unusual for, and therefore welcome from, Prototype…The daffy libretto, however, inspired Julian Wachner, best known as the director of music and the arts at Trinity Wall Street, to create an explosively, virtuosically eclectic score, with the pummeling perpetual motion of John Adams, the burbling angularity and dark comedy of Stephen Sondheim, the arpeggios of Philip Glass, and the coloratura of Handel — all thrown into a blender with some amphetamines. There were self-contained arias here, including one that ended neatly enough to garner applause — a rarity in Prototype-style contemporary opera — as well as moments of disarming pastoral prettiness. Mr. Wachner handled this 50-car pileup of styles with confidence and apparently inexhaustible verve; the singers and the orchestra, NOVUS NY, conducted by Daniela Candilari, shared both those qualities. However mystifying it all was, I enjoyed it. "
The New York Times
"Rev. 23: A Farcical, Hellish Opera is a compendium of arts references bursting with innuendo and cheeky wit…Magnificent beast of a score!" –
New England Theatre Geek
"...highlighted by Wachner’s inventive score...Wachner’s endlessly creative score moved with integrity and versatility among styles, not only rock, jazz, and bluesy settings, but affecting chamber music....The opera played as one continuous act, almost two hours long." - Classical Voice
“Wachner’s REV. 23 sounds as broad, interesting, and brightly colored as the characters and plot of Jacobs’ libretto. Wachner is able to maintain cohesion with this rhythmic discipline, while sampling and playing with all manner of color and genre. To be sure, much of the opera’s affable 12-tone language is also informed by the expectations and conventions of musical theater. Wachner’s excursions to different genres keep REV. 23 exciting and fun: an early-Romantic ballet accompanies the dancers that appear in the second act; a Handelian movement accompanies the Archangel Michael’s first appearance on stage. Scattered among musical numbers that could have been lifted straight out of Sweeney Todd or Rent are arias and ensemble pieces that Alban Berg or Benjamin Britten would have been proud to have written. Amidst this entertaining gallimaufry, Wachner often reveals deep emotional intelligence: Persephone’s mournful second-act aria was a highlight of the evening; Eve’s “I don’t know what’s beyond Paradise” in the final act provided a sobering conclusion to the breathless absurdity that is REV. 23."
The Boston Musical Intelligencer
"Sunday's audience rose to its feet...Wachner’s protean score deftly employs a grab-bag of 20th-century operatic and musical-theater styles to hold a mirror to the libretto."
The Boston Globe
“Wachner focused on writing music that held together via a tactus, otherwise known more colloquially as an internal pulse, letting the style vary from there. What happens as a result is that serial pointillism gets juxtaposed against musical theater in the vein of Leonard Bernstein or Stephen Sondheim, bel canto arias get juxtaposed against swing, and the style varies wildly. Due to using the inner pulse, though, Wachner ensured that all of the material does not feel disconnected from what comes before it and after it, creating an endlessly unfolding chain of highly controlled polystylism. Sometimes, styles nested within one another: an aggressive but static accompaniment reminiscent of John Adams and Nixon in China smashed in a pointillistic tone row above it, an actual moment from the beginning of the first act (I inadvertently got a work-in-progress copy of the REV. 23 score from the Beth Morrison Projects workshop at New England Conservatory, verified by Wachner, so that statement came from theoretical analysis). Having an extensive knowledge in the comic opera literature himself, Wachner also used Falstaff, Gianni Schicchi, Albert Herring, and Christopher Sly as models for writing comic operas, and this research shows in how the music can be bipolar in character to highlight the needed emotion. The music at times became referential too, heightening the polystylism and taking direct references from Wagner (the Tristan chord) and Handel (the Baroque-sounding consort under the introduction of Archangel Michael), among a multitude of others. Hearing such references is fairly novel and entertaining, showing the production is very aware of its lineage.”
The Boston Musical Intelligencer, second review
REV. 23 is the final chapter of the Book of Revelation as dictated by St. John the Divine and transcribed by Cerise Jacobs. At the end of Chapter 22, the forces of God, commanded by the Archangel Michael, have defeated Lucifer and consigned him to the deepest pit of Hell. The Kingdom of God has come upon the Earth, the last trumpet has sounded and the dead have arisen and been judged. The Earth is now part of Paradise; milk and honey flows through the rivers and manna rains from above. There is no darkness, want, or strife. It is a utopia of endless summer.
The action takes place UP THERE, which is Paradise-on-Earth and DOWN HERE which is the deepest pit of Hell.
The devil of old, now a guerilla fighter. Lucifer plots his return to earth with his fellow guerilla fighter, Hades, Lord of Hell. Lucifer wants to destroy the utopia on Earth and restore the balance of good and evil to the world. He believes that human beings cannot be truly human without the presence of evil. Of course, there’s more than a little self-interest involved here.
Lord of Hell in Greco-Roman mythology and Lucifer’s co-conspirator. Hades has a different motive for wanting to restore the balance of good and evil to Earth. He is desperately in love with Persephone whom he kidnapped to be his Queen of the Underworld. Persephone’s mother, Demeter, won her freedom, but before Persephone could ascend from Hell, Hades tricked her into eating 6 pomegranate seeds. This doomed her to spend six months a year in Hell which causes Winter on Earth. When Persephone returns to Earth after her six months of exile, she brings Spring with her. Now that the Earth has endless summer, Persephone no longer has to serve six month in Hell. Bringing winter back to Earth would force Persephone back to Hell.
The love of Hades’ life. After eons living in Paradise-on-Earth, Persephone is feeling a little useless. As goddess of Spring, she no longer has any relevance as Springtime only comes at the end of winter. In utopia, there is no winter, only endless summer and so no need for Persephone.
THE THREE FURIES (soprano, soprano, alto)
These iconic women are of the ilk of the three weird sisters in Macbeth, the three Nones, the three sirens etc. In this opera, they are the servants of Hades and represent Chaos and irrationality.
SUN TZE (bass with upper extension)
The author of the infamous Art of War, the ancient textbook on how to make war. Sun Tze is one of the permanent inhabitants of Hell as punishment for his sin of teaching humans how to make war.
The first man, now resurrected.
EVE (soprano with belting/pop abilities)
The first woman, now resurrected.
ARCHANGEL MICHAEL (high countertenor or mezzo)
The commander of God’s heavenly forces. Michael was always second fiddle to Lucifer in God’s eyes. He became God’s mighty right hand when Lucifer fell from grace and defeated Lucifer twice in the battle between good and evil
Prelude: Up There
Lucifer and Hades have found a hole in the fiery fence enclosing the bottomless pit of Hell. They try to take out the power plant that powers Endless Summer on Earth. We see them as two shadowy figures creeping along in a brilliantly lit environment. They drop a package into a vent. There is an explosion and the lights go out briefly. The two figures make their escape in the confusion as the lights come back up.
Act 1: Down Here
In a dark cavern in Hell, Lucifer and Hades, postmortem their failed attempt at destroying the power plant above. They’re worried that they’ve blown their last chance to bring darkness back to the world of endless summer and restore the balance of good and evil. To their great surprise, Persephone appears. Her sentence to spend six months in Hell during Fall and Winter was “commuted” when Paradise came to Earth, bringing with it endless summer. Yet, she is drawn back to Hell by the one moment of darkness caused by the explosion. She remembers what the world used to be when the seasons changed and the barrenness of winter was followed by the joy of spring that she brought back to the world.
THE TEMPTATION OF PERSEPHONE
Realizing that Persephone is a natural spy for them, (she’s the only being that can pass freely between Hell and the world above, having done so mythologically most of her life), Lucifer recruits her to their cause by playing on her feelings of uselessness. He tempts her with the return of her godhood and the accolades that would follow. For what use is Persephone now, the harbinger of spring, in a world of endless summer?
Hades realizes that Sun Tze, one of the denizens of Hell and the author of the Art of War, could be useful as a war consultant. He summons Sun Tze who counsels that the only way to win the war against the rulers of Paradise-on-Earth is to infect the minds of the citizenry with subversive materials like philosophy, art, literature, music and opera, the BAD. The corrupted citizens will then vote for darkness, winter and want.
Armed with books, iPads, TVs and iPhones, vehicles for knowledge (the BAD), Hades and Lucifer follow Persephone to the world above.
Interlude: Travelling from Down Here to Up There
Persephone, Lucifer, Hades and the Furies journey from the deepest pit of Hell to Paradise-on-Earth. As they proceed upwards, we see the silhouettes of men and women feasting, listening to music, reading books. A few men and women suddenly stop what they’re doing when they realize they’re naked (a result of eating the fruit of knowledge.) More men and women follow suit until only one couple is left. This couple touch themselves in wonder as they discover themselves and their bodies for the first time. They touch each other with reverence and cover each other tenderly with makeshift clothing.
Act 2: Back Up There
SCENE 1: THE TEMPTATION OF ADAM AND EVE
Persephone sings her aria “Blood Rubies” which explores the change in her feelings towards Hades as she plants pomegranate seeds. Adam and Eve Lucifer and his merry band arrive with more “STUFF” like iPads, books, CDs etc to further infect the citizens of Paradise-on-Earth. When Adam and Eve appear, they excitedly discuss the phenomenon called “darkness,” something they’ve never experienced before in their world of endless summer. They express wonder at the books and movies they’ve just read, the new emotions these evoke. Hades and Lucifer recruit them with promises of more exciting experiences. Seduced by the idea of acquiring more knowledge, they go with Persephone to take out the power plant to bring back “darkness” to rouse up the citizens of Paradise-on-Earth.
Archangel Michael appears. Lucifer and his minions hold him off to allow Persephone and Adam and Eve to escape. In the ensuing chaos, the Archangel disappears.
SCENE 2: AT THE POWER PLANT
Archangel Michael arrives just as Persephone blows open the door to the power plant. The Archangel kidnaps Adam and Eve.
SCENE 1: AT THE PARADISE REEDUCATION CAMP
Archangel Michael rounds up the corrupted citizens of Paradise-on-Earth and lectures them on the evils of knowledge. He reminds them that they are in Paradise only because their names are in the Book of Life. He threatens to erase their names from the Book if they are recalcitrant which would mean their expulsion from Paradise. He sends the students out to collect the TRASH that now litters the streets of Paradise-on-Earth.
SCENE 2: BACK DOWN HERE
Lucifer, Hades and Persephone strategize on how to break Adam and Eve out of the Paradise ReEducation Camp. To everyone’s dismay, Hades summons, Sun Tze, the master strategist, again. Sun Tze counsels that they should infiltrate the Camp disguised as corrupted citizens.
SCENE 3: BACK AT THE PARADISE REEDUCATION CAMP
Lucifer and his band don their disguises and return to UP THERE. They meet up with the students who have returned from collecting the TRASH. Everyone lines up in front of the power plant that powers endless summer. The Archangel announces that the assembled throng has to be purified by a ritualistic book burning. The power plant’s door is opened to reveal a mighty fire. The Archangel orders the students to throw the books, CDs, etc into the fire. Eve asks him if she could keep her favorite book, Romeo and Juliet. The Archangel roars “NO.” He orders her to burn the book, or he will erase her name from the Book of Life. Eve hesitates; she rushes to the Book of Life and drags it to the fire. Lucifer and his band attack the Archangel and his forces. In the confusion, Adam and Eve manage to throw the Book of Life into the fire.
A deathly silence consumes the group when the enormity of this act dawns on them.
The sun begins to set for the very first time in eons.
The group turns and leaves Paradise-on-Earth.
Darkness fall upon the Earth.