SELF DEFINED CIRCUITS
Libretto by Orlando Segarra
For Soprano (2), Mezzo, Baritone, SSSAAA Chorus
Oboe, Bb Clarinet, Cello, Vibraphone, Piano, Electronics (Live and live processed)
PREMIERED MAY 3, 2022 BY FRESH SQUEEZED OPERA
Victoria Benson, Production Manager
Sarah Herdrich, Stage Manager
Sara Lin Yoder, Fembot
Shane Brown, Pete
Cara Search, Cora
Elyse Kakacek, Cora
Mary Rose Go
Jenn Burkhardt, Lighting Design
Corina Chase, Costume Design
Ted Boyce-Smith, Video Design
Taylor Edelle Stuart, Video Design
Wells Thorne, Scenic Design
Newly created, a sex robot, tries to find out what it means to be a woman while trapped in a world created by her programmer, Pete, and his "Siri" device, Cora. Inspired in part by the composer's own experiences in an abusive relationship during her formative years, and the works of Sci-Fi pioneers Isaac Asimov and Ursula Le Guin, this opera explores the idea of "womanhood" through the lens of someone new to the world, and desperate to find where she fits.
Pete, a lonely inventor, toils in his basement workshop with his digital Siri-like assistant, Cora. They work together to bring his latest creation, a female robot, online. After several failed attempts, the fembot becomes alive. Still new to this world, the fembot learns to navigate through a number of malfunctions, with the help of Pete and Cora. After she successfully performs a few tasks, Pete decides to name the fembot Gal. Gal inquires about the circumstances surrounding her creation and her identity. Cora connects with Gal over her curiosity and they bond through a lullaby. Over time, Gal advances to such a level that she is unafraid to confront Pete about the meaning of her life. Pete attempts to help Gal understand the nature of womanhood by suggesting they have sex. Gal's curiosity gets the better of her and she accepts.
Gal is confused and disturbed by her night with Pete. As she questions the nature of her existence, she develops a secondary level of conscience, both artificial and self- aware. With her new identity, she names herself Lampshade. Meanwhile, Pete is wracked with guilt over what he did, but he can't see the error of his ways and blames it on faulty programming. He tries to convince Cora to pull the plug on Lampshade and start over, but Cora reprimands him, telling him he will lose her respect if he follows through with this plan. Lampshade enters, and Pete attempts to apologize but Lampshade is uninterested in his turmoil. She has decided to leave, to see the outside world, and forge her own destiny. Cora is saddened, but ultimately proud of Lampshade's decision. Lampshade exits as Pete throws a tantrum, tearfully resolving to start again from the beginning, hoping this time he will "get it right."
FROM THE COMPOSER
Inspired by Ricky Ma's Scarlett Johansson robot, which I viewed as the literal objectification of women, this opera explores self-identity. Specifically asking the question, what does it mean to grow in someone else's world. When I was in an abusive relationship, it was when I was forming ideas about gender, sexuality, and self-identity. The most invasive and damaging thing he ever did was to define these for me. For a very long time, I lived trapped within his definitions of who I was and what I meant to the world. Ultimately, in the opera, no definition is reached, but rather the robot decides to take the leap and figure it out for herself. The opera is also inspired by Pygmalion (Gal, Galatea, Pete, Pygmalion), as well as the works of sci-fi pioneers Isaac Asimov and Ursula K. Le Guin.
Special thanks goes out to Victoria Benson, no one worked harder than you to make this happen, and Whitney George for being the most amazing and supportive mentor.
This opera is dedicated to my husband, Lee Braun, who never lets me forget that I am a light.