SARAH KIRKLAND SNIDER
HILDEGARDE VON BINGEN
SARAH KIRKLAND SNIDER
12th-century polymath St. Hildegard von Bingen is best known today for her music, but it was her visions of God that brought her authority and fame, leading her to become one of the most influential figures of her time. The opera explores seven seminal and difficult years in Hildegard’s life – from 1141, when she first received the call from God to write down her visions, subsequently enduring interrogation, ridicule, and silencing, to 1148, when she became the first woman of the Catholic Church to receive Papal approval to write in the name of God. To gird herself against the attacks of her detractors, she drew strength from virtues of the feminine divine, cultivating a theology of the feminine that was quietly radical for its time. In a time and place where women didn’t have a voice, Hildegard von Bingen, in her journey to speak authoritatively as the voice of God, also learned to use her own – and encouraged the same of her sisters.
Visual artist Deborah Johnson will translate Hildegard’s visionary theology into the animated realm with projected tableaus, creating entirely new visual interpretations based on Hildegard’s writings and drawings.
The composer writes: “I chose to write the libretto myself, based on Hildegard’s writings, so that I can evolve the music and text simultaneously while telling precisely the story I imagine. I’ve researched Hildegard’s life and works extensively for the past five years, traveling to her Abbeys and the town where she was born, and developing a relationship with Hildegard scholar Barbara Newman, who is generously donating her time as a research consultant. Opera has not traditionally been an art form that tells stories of strong, accomplished women. I believe the art form will be deeper, richer, and more relevant if it does precisely this. Hildegard’s story shines a light on the past while illuminating our own time. Using Hildegard’s words and music as seeds of inspiration for my own, I hope to tell a psychologically probing story of a fascinating woman that is musically affecting, visually engaging, and narratively riveting.”
Commissioned in part by the OPERA America Opera: Grants for Female Composers award funded by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.
The production of A NEW OPERA BY SARAH KIRKLAND SNIDER received funding from OPERA America’s Opera Fund.
“…one of the decade’s more gifted, up-and-coming modern classical composers.”
“Snider clearly has a lot to say that’s worth listening to…”
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