Composer and librettist Matthew Aucoin shares his thoughts on Second Nature, the new children's opera coming in 2015 from Lyric Unlimited.

One of Lyric Unlimited's anticipated upcoming projects Second Nature, a new children's opera that will be performed at the Lincoln Park Zoo on August 19 and 20, 2015. Matthew Aucoin is acting as composer and librettist for this commission. The young American composer is also a noted conductor, pianist, and poet. Here are his musings on this work-in-progress: 

On Second Nature

An opera for kids! But is there such a thing as an opera "for adults"? If there is, I don't want to hear it. Opera, by nature, exists in a mythical space—it lives high above and far beneath adult reality. It's sublime and subliminal, it's sacred and obscene, it gives voice and form to the unspeakable and the repressed.

Here's a litmus test for any opera: does it manage to shut down all our rational adult defense mechanisms, so that we innocently submit ourselves to total sensory experience? Are questions of "believability" made irrelevant? Does it speak to us with a voice that cannot possibly be real, yet somehow is?

Opera addresses an ancient innocence in us, and it demands a childlike openness. So to write an opera with kids in mind is just to extend what opera always does. Just like the world of fairy tales, opera is peopled by archetypes-made-flesh, by walking manifestations of our deepest fears and desires. The Queen of the Night. The Grand Inquisitor. The Animal Tamer. The Vixen. Bluebeard and his wives. The androgynous pageboy. The lover in disguise.

One old nightmare of ours seems to be coming true at the moment: Mother Nature is turning on us. Mythology is colliding with reality; it's like all the ancient gods are taking revenge on the human race. Nature, which has always been "the unchangeable," is undergoing a terrible change—at our hands.

Second Nature  is set after the fall of nature. Humankind has found itself in a negative Eden: this time, we're stuck in a virtual "garden" of our own creation. We don't want to deal with big bad Nature anymore. It'll take a couple of kids—born in this bland synthetic world—who have the right blend of innocence, openness and daring to bite the fruit and explore a new world. Actually, those are just the qualities you need to listen to opera...

Photo credit:
  • Matthew Aucoin (credit Social Palates)