Stranger from paradise
STRANGER FROM PARADISE follows the visions and memories that arise in William Blake as he is dying. The scenes move between key moments from William’s life, primarily with his wife Catherine, and the life of major characters in the poems and visual art created by the Blake.
Songs of Innocence
Male Ensemble sings from the INTRODUCTION to the SONGS OF INNOCENCE
Old William Blake is in bed dying. His wife Catherine is by his side.
The Nurse’s Song
From the SONGS OF INNOCENCE. The Nurse and Children sing and play on the green as the sun begins to set.
Enitharimon is a demigoddess in Blake’s cosmology whose characteristics were inspired by William’s wife Catherine. In this scene she beckons all of the lost and tormented spectres that are stuck in a hellish limbo to come to her loom where she is weaving them the bodies of infants so that they may born, pass into our world and eventually die and be released to paradise. It is a reflection for the birth from William as a young boy to the birth of William the young man, artist and prophet.
Young Catherine has a shocking vision along the River Thames and realizes that she has a purpose here in the world even though she does not yet know what that is.
Young William and Young Robert
William’s frail and dearly loved brother Robert asks William if he might join him in his great artistic work as several visions of their childhood arise in their memory.
Young Catherine struggles with not being able to read, write or to share her passions and visions with anyone.
Young William and Young Catherine share their dreams and commit their hearts to each other.
The Chimney Sweeper
We hear from actual legislation regarding child chimney sweepers in 1788 in London, then a verse from the SONGS OF EXPERIENCE version of THE CHIMNEY SWEEPER and finally from Blake himself.
William and Catherine are sunbathing in the privacy of their walled-in garden when they share an unspoken sorrow with each other. The scene ends with a surprise visit from Robert which catches everyone off guard, and after some roughhousing between the two brothers, Robert collapses in his brother’s arms.
Urizen, another demigod in Blake’s cosmology, is the god of reason who seeks to divide and order existence into what is measurable. He is the cause of much of the great pain and suffering of humanity. The text he sings is from Blake’s prophecies with pieces of text from several more recent brokers of power mixed in.
Robert & Albion Death Scene
While Robert dies in William’s arms we see a scene that Blake wrote of Albion dying (from eternity/paradise to this fallen/temporal world) in the Divine Council’s (Jesus’) arms.
William, suffering with the loss of his brother and the strains of an almost complete rejection of all of his work by the social and cultural world of London, lashes out at Catherine.
Considered one of the greatest poems ever written. The poet looks at all of the pain and suffering in the world and wonders, without judgement, what immortal hand could have created this.
The Fallen World
Four outside perspectives of Blake and his work taken from actual texts written about him during his lifetime.
The Bard’s Song
Old William sings of his life’s work from the purview of old age.
The Laughing Song
Old William sees, once more, the deep vitality that he and Catherine had when they were young and just beginning their lives and work together. The lyrics are taken directly from the poem titled THE LAUGHING SONG in the SONGS OF INNOCENCE.
In a stark shift, we see Old William and Old Catherine packing to move to a smaller living quarters because they are nearly penniless.
The Song of Los
Los, another demigod in Blake’s cosmology, is thought to be Blake’s incarnation of himself within his prophetic world. Here, Los is trying to help us see the true nature of our lives here on earth.
Old Catherine’s Aria
Old Catherine is returning to William’s death bed after being sent out by him to spend their last money on pencils so that he can keep working. She stops for a moment to rest.
In this culmination of the vision, passion and energy of Blake’s work, the chorus (Albion - all humanity) sing of resonant moments in life as Young William discovers the archetypal words to convey the mission of his life’s work.
We return to the moment of the death scene that we left at the beginning of the opera and move through the end of William’s death.