with Experiments in Opera, a new shadow puppet opera from co-founder Matthew Welch with libretto by Daniel Neer.
This opera about a singer’s existential perseverance during his internment in the Philippines during WWII. Fusing Indonesian inspired shadow puppetry with contemporary techniques like animation and video projection, this piece creates a surreal landscape that dives into the narrative of the survivor’s experience. The protagonist in this story is Edgar Kneedler, the great uncle of the project’s composer Matthew Welch. Upon surviving the internment, Edgar went on to premiere as an opera singer at the San Francisco Opera and later also became a psychiatrist. The title of this project is a line from a Matthew Arnold poem called “Dover Beach,” and is a reference to the memoir written by Edgar, who wrote of his time learning to become a musician and an opera singer in the Bay Area, and also his time split between there and the Philippines where he was interned. The libretto draws on Edgar’s memoir with various creative licenses by Daniel Neer to consolidate these stories, as well as those of other internees, into one quasi-fictive voice. The dramatic result is a single narrative reflecting the accounts of many detainees with Edgar’s psychological evolution at the center.