Date of this Version
Helen is a one-act opera that tells the story of a woman whose husband would later betray her trust and love. It begins with her debut as an eligible young woman and ends with the husband’s demise. Through the course of the story it becomes apparent that her husband is both verbally and physically abusive as well as unfaithful to her. In the end her situation is redeemed through his death because his bacchanalian behavior resulted in his fatal sickness.
The opera is a retelling of a portion of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë, which was adapted as a libretto by Steven Soebbing. Originally published in 1848, Brontë’s story challenged traditional gender roles, the rights and power of the church to dictate behavior, the legal status of women and their property, and it highlighted the evils of domestic abuse and alcoholism. The novel is told in three parts framed as a first person narrative by the male protagonist. The libretto for this opera uses most of the events of the second part, a reading of Helen’s diary, and some key moments from the third. Librettist Steven Soebbing incorporated published poems of Anne Brontë and her sisters as content for the arias.
This opera is designed to be performed with a small cast of two females and two males. The woman playing the antagonist, Annabella, will be double-cast as Helen’s aunt. The music is written for a small chamber ensemble of twelve players including winds, strings, piano, and percussion.
Adviser: Eric J. Richards