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REV. 23, from Composer Julian Wachner and Librettist Cerise Jacobs, Premieres at Boston’s John Hancock Theater September 29

Creator and librettist Cerise Jacobs – whose Ouroboros Trilogy, produced last September, was “the most ambitious opera undertaking Boston has ever seen” (Berkshire Fine Arts) – premieres her new opera REV. 23, composed by Julian Wachner, on September 29 at Boston’s John Hancock Theater, as the centerpiece and opening show of the first Boston New Music Festival, hosted by Juventas New Music. REV. 23 is Wachner’s second full-length opera; the first, the “colorful and assured” (Boston Globe) Evangeline Revisited, was showcased at New York City Opera’s VOX Festival in 2010. Directed by West Edge Opera General Director Mark Streshinsky and conducted by Lidiya Yankovskaya, recently named as the new Music Director of Chicago Opera Theater, REV. 23 marks a first outing for the newly reconfigured production company White Snake Projects, headed by Boston producer Georgia Lyman with Jacobs as Executive Producer.

Like all Jacobs’s projects, the original libretto for REV. 23 is not based on a previously existing source, but in this case it is related to one: she has conceived the opera as a comic addition to the Book of Revelation. Jacobs styles herself the “transcriber” of this addendum, acting as an amanuensis for St. John the Divine, the putative author of the first 22 chapters. REV. 23 poses the question of whether, in the paradise-on-earth promised at the end of history, human beings could ever be truly happy or even truly human. Wachner – who is Director of Music at Manhattan’s Trinity Church Wall Street, where he oversees the program the New Yorker hails as “a mini Lincoln Center for classical music downtown” – calls Jacobs’s subject matter “an über-myth that is articulated in many different faith traditions.” This allows her eclectically to borrow characters from various places, not only the Book of Revelation itself, but also mythology and Chinese history. Thus, the banished angel Lucifer joins with Hades, ruler of the underworld, and his girlfriend, Persephone, harbinger of the seasons, to lament the endless paradisiacal summer that has rendered each of their jobs obsolete. The biblical Archangel Michael serves as an antagonist; Sun Tze, the author of The Art of War and a permanent resident of Hades’s realm, offers strategic advice in exchange for the temporary remediation of one or two everlasting torments and a cup of tea; and three Furies supply choral backup.

The stellar cast assembled for REV. 23 includes Michael Mayes as Lucifer, fresh from his recent debut with Washington National Opera, where he gave “an intense, tortured and laudably dramatic performance” (Washington Post) in the company’s revival of Dead Man Walking. Vale Rideout lends his “bright, clear tenor” (Opera News) to the character of Hades, and his significant other is portrayed by Colleen Daly, who proved a “confident, dramatic Persephone” (Washington Post) when she sang the REV. 23 aria “Blood Rubies” with Wachner and the Washington Chorus earlier this year. Michael Maniaci, who created the role of Xiao Qing in the Ouroboros Trilogy’s Madame White Snake, sings the countertenor role of the Archangel Michael, while “remarkable young American tenor” (New York Observer) Jonathan Blalock and “never less than intensely present” (Parterre Box) mezzo-soprano Annie Rosen portray the new Adam and Eve. Bass Matt Anchel’s “strong, crisp and dulcet” voice (Opera News) gives life to the co-conspirator, Sun Tze.

Tickets for REV. 23 are available here, and a behind-the-scenes video with commentary by members of the cast and crew is available here.

Julian Wachner & Cerise Jacobs: REV. 23 world premiere

Sep 29-Oct 1

Boston, MA

Boston New Music Festival

John Hancock Theater

180 Berkeley Street

Boston, MA


Lucifer: Michael Mayes

Hades: Vale Rideout

Persephone: Colleen Daly

Adam: Jonathan Blalock

Eve: Annie Rosen

Sun Tze: Matt Anchel

Archangel Michael: Michael Maniaci

Fury 1: Jamie-Rose Guarrine

Fury 2: Melanie Long

Fury 3: Norah Graham Smith

Creative team:

Composer: Julian Wachner

Creator and librettist: Cerise Lim Jacobs

Director: Mark Streshinsky

Conductor: Lidiya Yankovskaya

Dramaturg: Cori Ellison

Lighting Designer: Lucas Krech

Projection Designer: Jeremy Knight

Costume and Set Designer: Zane Pihlstrom

Executive Producer: White Snake Projects

Producer: Georgia Lyman

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© 21C Media Group, September 2017

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