FULL DARK SISTERS (Nico Muhly) Winnipeg 2023 Christopher Dunn, Rebeca Oliviera, Mélanie Dupuis, Sonia Campbell
Information on the Performance
- Work Title: Dark Sisters
- Composer: Muhly Nico
- Libretto: Stephen Karam    Libretto Text, Libretto Index
- Venue & Opera Company: Vocal Arts Room, Tache Arts Complex, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, The Desautels Chamber Opera Group
- Recorded: November 9, 2023
- Type: Staged Opera Live
- Singers: Christopher Dunn, Rebeca Oliviera, Mélanie Dupuis, Sonia Campbell, Amanda Smith, Chloé Thiessen, Felicia Wilson, Lukas Sawatsky
- Conductor: Mel Braun
- Stage Director: Katherine Twaddle
- Costume Designer:
Information about the Recording
- Published by: Desautels Faculty of Music
- Date Published: 2023
- Format: Streaming
- Quality Video: 4 Audio:4
- Subtitles: yessubs, ensubs, gensubs
- Video Recording from: YouTube     FULL VIDEO
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON THIS PERFORMANCE
Dark Sisters by Nico Muhly is the story of a Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints community, focusing on their Prophet and his six wives.
Act 1: The home of the Prophet in an FLDS community.
The wives of the Prophet are devastated by the removal of their children. All children in the community have been removed during a raid by state officials, in response to accusations of abuse and forced underage marriage.
The Prophet reassures the community that “God is greater than the United States”, then tells his wives to “Keep sweet” while he goes into the desert to pray and wait for guidance. Eliza challenges him and asks why God and his angels only speak to him. She is rebuked by the Prophet and told she must be willing to give up her own will and obey the priesthood.
Eliza remembers her daughter as a little girl. She then reflects on the day she reluctantly married the Prophet at the age of sixteen. She starts to doubt both her religion and her marriage.
Eliza visits Almera in her room. As Eliza wonders what life would be like away from the ranch, Almera holds fast to the teachings of their religion. But she also longs to be reunited with her late mother and grandmother. Ruth is agitated and restless, while Zina and Presendia pass the evening sewing, painting, competing and arguing to mask the pain and worry about their children.
Eliza doesn’t understand why Ruth has been talking about “her children” when she doesn’t have any. Presendia tells her that she had two, but is told off by Zina as the Prophet doesn’t want this discussed. Ruth matter-of-factly explains what happened to her two sons, but then mysteriously tells Eliza “This is no home for your child”. Again, Eliza thinks back to Lucinda’s younger days. We then see the present-day Lucinda thinking about her mother.
Zina announces that the Prophet will be returning that evening and the wives begin to prepare for his arrival. Ruth passes a letter to Eliza that she found on the Prophet’s desk. It is from Lucinda and in it she questions the Prophet’s arrangement for her to marry a man who is nearly 60. Eliza is shocked and furious by this news and realizes that she needs to take action in order to save her daughter. She entices the Prophet to sleep with her that night so that she can gain his trust.
Act 2: Scene 1: A television news studio
The Prophet has made arrangements for his wives to appear on national television in order to gain the sympathies of the viewers and put pressure on the authorities to return their children. The women have been carefully coached, on what to say and how to say it. Ruth suddenly gets up and wanders off. As the interview draws to a close Eliza prays for courage, then stands up and speaks out about her own arranged marriage at the age of 16 to an older man. The other wives deny what she is saying, but she carries on, speaking directly to the camera. She tells her daughter to have courage, and her sister-wives to trust in the outside world, rather than men who “encourage silent suffering.”
Once they have left, the studio goes dark and Ruth returns and revels in the quietness. She thinks about the children and predicts that they will be returned, but that “not all will stay.”
Scene 2: As Act 1
Ruth’s prediction comes true and the newscaster announces that a judge has ruled that the children be returned to their community. But Ruth never returned after the television interview and a funeral is arranged to help the community move on. Eliza, who left the community shortly after the interview, returns for the funeral. She uses this as an opportunity to persuade Lucinda to come away with her. The other wives turn their backs on Eliza as Lucinda rejects her mother for leaving their community. Eliza turns towards the future with curiosity and courage.