“Psyche: A Modern Rock Opera” is a sung-through work that exists in the intersections of fine art, performance art and commercial theater. It presents a hybrid of musical idioms, from neo-classical to rock to minimalism and R&B. The staging for the premier production included aerial work, complex choreography, puppetry, and elaborate sets – an ambitious approach for an opening in a small 98-seat Los Angeles theater.
It examines the late Greek myth of Psyche and Eros, the foundation myth for all of the princess fairytales to be spun in the millennia to come, and so familiar to modern audiences through sources such as Grimm’s Fairytales and Walt Disney’s films. In ancient Greece the word “psyche” meant both soul and butterfly. The butterfly, the eternal symbol of the soul, the being that is born from the chrysalis, is frequently used in artworks fluttering out of the mouths of the dead, representing departure, freedom and rebirth.
The composer approached the work from a decidedly Jungian perspective, utilizing Erich Neumann’s deep analysis of the myth as source material. The opera was incubated during an artist-in-residency at Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris. The composer took advantage of the many opportunities in Paris to gaze at, and meditate on, great artworks about Psyche and her story.
The opera is bounded by the statement: “Dreams are private myths. Myths are public dreams.” This quote is the first text that the audience sees displayed on the supertitle as they enter the theater. This experience, therefore, will be a fantastical public dreamscape.
The Psyche story follows the classic hero’s rubric, with one major difference: the hero is a female.
Psyche’s boon to the world is her child, a child god with it’s own cults and rituals. Psyche, the personification of the Soul, and Eros, the personification of Love, fuse to create a new god, a new representation for mankind to ponder: the notion of bliss. One’s bliss is the inner truth of the soul.
Psyche is a universal and relatable tale, touching on archetypal subject matter so deep, and so fundamentally human, that the story is continually revisited in culture after culture, and iteration after iteration, with humanity eternally thirsty for its embedded restorative messages. The composer is interested in these root human existential experiences, the fever dreams of the eternal collective unconscious, and is interested in drawing them forward for audiences in new, refreshing ways.