What started as a project back in 2007 is now continuing on as a new one-act opera that I’m writing for Rhymes With Opera; Nets of Wonder (working title) is a chamber opera inspired by Tai Uhlmann’s 2006 documentary For The Love Of Dolly. John Clum pens the libretto for this opera.

Our story follows two pairs of avid Dolly Parton fans: two men and two sisters, all waiting to meet their idol for the first time. The men came to Dolly to ask for her permission to make and sell “Dolly” dolls, and one of the sisters came to meet Dolly after winning an essay contest, just as their family is slowly falling apart. The opera opens in the waiting room where the four meet, and ends with an ensemble scene where the characters voice their internal struggles.

The opera is about fandom. But more importantly for me, it’s about trying to engage the art form in a different way, using a heavily recitative-oriented voice, with overlapping lines, and exploring how to move the plot of an opera ahead through a sustained ensemble.

Here is what the 2007 version of this project sounded like. This was a monologue for baritone, violin and viola called Heartbreak Express:

Image used under Creative Commons license. Source: Jay Phagan.