Co-commissioned by the Walker Art Center and The Soap Factory exhibition space, the immersive opera exhibition WISE BLOOD, based on the southern gothic novel by Flannery O'Connor, tells the story of a troubled war veteran who returns home and finds it's gone. This fierce tragic comedy, with surreal and morbid plot lines, presents dislocated characters in crises, each searching for a sense of place in the world. Ultimately concerning the themes of love and loss, O’Connor’s characters are rendered in comic and grotesque situations, colliding with their pain, violence, and often ludicrous behavior. The opera features five voices and narrator, brass band, chamber musicians, and sound design. The libretto text comes entirely from the Flannery O’Connor novel. It also serves as a score for the simultaneous media elements. WISE BLOOD is performed as a kind of New Orleans-style second-line opera. The singers move, accompanied by brass and other musicians, through sets and film projections. The main character, Hazel Motes, arrives on a train, drives a car and preaches on its hood. Each character is accompanied by an ensemble, sometimes merging when the characters interact. The audience will be free to move around in the exhibition space, or have the characters and music pass by them, just as with second-line brass band parades. WISE BLOOD may also be adapted and presented in a proscenium theater.
The shell-shocked Hazel Motes, descendant of a family of firebrand preachers, returns from a faraway war to his birthplace. He discovered his childhood home and family are gone. Haunted by a “ragged figure who moved from tree to tree in the back of his mind,” he tries to find his bearings in the nearby city Taulkinham. There he’s antagonized by an encounter with a lying minstrel preacher, and he ends up preaching against preaching, standing on the hood of his car. Someone attempts to monetize his improvised theology of The Church Without Christ, and that leads to mayhem and murder. After his car is destroyed he recognizes his attachment to false idols and blinds himself, then dies. Finally he is taken into the arms of someone who cares for him.