Songs from the Phone Booth of the Wind

a chamber opera for tenor, soprano, small chorus, mixed sextet, and percussionist

In Japan, there is a phone booth, connected to nothing.  It sits in a garden in Itaru Sasaki's back yard, overlooking the sea.  After the devastating 2011 tsunami and earthquake, many loved ones of those lost would make a sort of pilgrimage to this booth.  There, for a moment, they might "speak" to the dead.

 

In this chamber opera, a father and a mother have lost their daughter.  Separately, they step into the booth to speak to her, thereby revealing the nuances of their grief.  The father has become almost toxic, fixating on the day of the disaster, while the mother is looking forward to summer and a chance to get away.  It is with these sentiments that she leaves behind the child's favorite teddybear, to keep her company.  When the father finds the bear, he is shaken, realizing that the experience of this profound loss is not only his.  The piece ends with him repeating a phrase, almost as a mantra -- "This place is empty."

The third "character" is the whisper chorus, a sort of extra-human, perhaps supernatural body of individuals.  The chorus provides some exposition, and chants the poetry of Whitman and Basho in two interludes.  They exist to capture the "magical" element of the booth, blurring the divide between life and death, human and spirit. 

Premiere performance at Shenandoah Conservatory:
Studio recording by Josh Frey: