An experimental fusion of opera and visual arts, Jess explores the impact of stroke and disability and the restorative power of friendship and imagination. A collaboration between composer/singer Rebecca Gray and visual artist/writer Rachel Gray, Jess is an adaptation of a graphic novel written by Rachel Gray about her friend Jessie, and it blends stop-motion animation, drawings, and footage to convey the earth-shattering experiences of joy, grief, and loss of cognitive and physical function. It was developed as part of Pacific Opera Victoria’s Civic Engagement Program, which aims to support the careers of emerging singers who are engaged in civic practice and have a self-directed, multi-disciplinary vision for operatic storytelling.
ABOUT THE PRODUCERS
As sisters, Rachel and Rebecca have been combining their creativity for as long as they’ve been alive. Their first formal project together was Love, Dear Love, an interdisciplinary show they produced themselves involving singers, string quartet, large-scale drawings, and projection. The work was an imagined space in which the Shakespearean characters Cordelia, Emilia, and Desdemona came together to piece together the circumstances that led to their deaths. Rachel and Rebecca conceived the project together, and together assembled the text. Rebecca composed the score and sang the part of Cordelia and Emilia, while Rachel created large-scale drawings commenting on the characters’ emotional and mental collapses.
Their first opera was TODAY !!!, an absurdist puppet opera chronicling the mental decline of an upbeat morning newscaster who insists on broadcasting in the face of an apocalypse. Rebecca and Rachel researched morning news headlines and created a libretto that Rebecca set to music and performed with cello, piano, and two clarinets. Rachel created life-sized papier-mâché puppets, the ghosts of clickbait past, that torment the newscaster. Winners of the Mécénat Musica Prix 3 Femmes, they will develop Raccoon Opera — a fable of the housing crisis involving Toronto raccoons — which will be presented at Salle Bourgie in Montreal in May 2024.
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The Awards for Digital Excellence in Opera are supported by The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation.