On September 15, 1945, in the U.S.-occupied town of Mittersill, Austria, an American soldier named Raymond Norwood Bell shot and killed the preeminent Austrian composer Anton Webern. In the court martial that followed, Bell was acquitted; however, he died a decade later (12 days shy of the 10th anniversary of Webern’s death), the victim of depression and heavy alcohol consumption fuelled by his overwhelming feelings of guilt over the event.
I am collaborating with composer Kieren MacMillan to bring this story to life. Our “opera without singing” in|variance is an evening-length stage work of speculative semi-fiction. Incorporating movement, text, projections, and music played live by a string quartet, in|variance examines the death of Anton Webern and the cascade of actions, emotions, decisions and missed opportunities that led to Bell’s own death a decade later. We are pulling from contemporary sources (court martial records and Webern’s journals), extensive research on Anton Webern’s life and works, current neuroscientific research on trauma, as well as interviewing Raymond Bell’s family, who live serendipitously close to my mother in North Carolina. Running parallel to the historical sequence of events however, is an alternate version of Bell, who is able to find ways to process, integrate and heal the trauma of his wartime experience, giving him access to his Higher Self.
in|variance explores themes of addiction and mental health, what healthy masculinity could look like, and human resilience: how we continue on in the face of life-shattering events.
Over the next 12-24 months, we will be creating the remainder of the work, and flesh out the content into a treatment/script (unsung libretto?).
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