Vocalists and instrumentalists from Kaufman Music Center’s Special Music School High School give an exclusive work-in-progress performance of Centuries in the Hours: From Home, an opera by composer and 2020-21 KMC Artist-in-Residence Lisa Bielawa. The opera illuminates the lives of American women by setting to music selections from 72 women’s diaries spanning three centuries, discovered during extensive research by Bielawa as a William Randolph Hearst Visiting Artist Fellow at the American Antiquarian Society in 2018. The diarists include a freed slave who became a missionary in Hawaii (1823), an isolated teen poetic genius in Butte, Montana (1901), a 13-year-old Filipina immigrant going to school for the first time (1921), a New England abolitionist (1860s) and many more.
Might the lens of women’s diaries provide a “shelter-in-place” viewpoint of our shared history?
Through the opera and its libretto by Claire Solomon, dozens of manuscripts rejoin the flow of public discourse. Centuries in the Hours asks: What if these women could be lifted out of their historical contexts and respective life circumstances to encounter one another? What can we learn from these women’s view of American history, seen largely from within the domestic sphere? In fact, women have always worked within cramped quarters and with insufficient resources. The women in Centuries all wrote from home, at times of great constraint. Paper was scarce, as was ink, time, peace, quiet and light.
The development of Centuries in the Hours received funding from OPERA America's Opera Grants for Female Composers program, supported by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation.
Performances will be recorded and filmed by participants in their own homes.
Lisa Bielawa's Artist Residency is generously underwritten by Cathy White O'Rourke.