“Death with Interruptions”
a one-act opera
Recital Hall, Ann E. Pitzer Center
Based on José Saramago’s Novel Death with Interruptions,
translated by Margaret Jull Costa
Nikki Einfeld, soprano
Daniel Cilli, baritone
Joe Dan Harper, tenor
Leighton Fong, cello
Left Coast Chamber Ensemble
Anna Presler, Artistic Director
Bob Geary, Artistic Director
The translator Margaret Jull Costa writes—
José Saramago’s (1922–2010) later novels take a scathingly critical look at modern-day society and often ask the question ‘What would happen if…?
In Death with Interruptions (published in 2005), Saramago asks—in a society obsessed with eternal youth and terrified of death—what if death (who is lower-case and a “she”) were to decide that no one should die? When this, inevitably, has dire consequences for society, death decides to reinstate death.
Instead, death chooses to give people warning of their imminent demise by sending them a little purple note. However, when one of death’s purple notes is sent to a humble cellist, mysteriously, he never receives it and so doesn’t die. Rather puzzled, death (invisible) goes to visit the cellist in the apartment he shares with his dog. She sits on the sofa watching the cellist sleeping, observes him when he wakes up to get a drink of water, to let the dog out for a pee, and to go back to bed. Later, the dog leaves his master’s bed and curls up on death’s lap.
Intrigued, death disguises herself as a beautiful young woman, flirts with the cellist and, to her own astonishment, falls in love and, one night, goes to bed with him (he, of course, has no inkling of her true identity). However, the novel ends on an ambiguous note: “the following day, no one died.”
As composer Kurt Rohde writes, “What does this tell us? I believe it shows us that death is destined to forever occupy that moment just before reaching the ideal of what humans think they want most: to live and love forever.”
Costume Design by Jennifer Gonsalves
$10 Students and Children, $20 Adults (Open Seating)