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Synopses Double Bill USC Opera 2024

La Passion de Simone


In Oxford, England in 1943, Simone Weil, French philosopher and mystic has died due to a combination of tuberculosis and a hunger strike on behalf of the children of France who do not have enough milk to drink. Her few mourners, who include her older brother, André, have gathered to try to justify her life and early death at the age of 34. Through a process of frustration, anger, love, and acceptance, they become more enlightened to Simone’s philosophy of self-sacrifice to the ultimate degree for the good of humanity. 


The Juniper Tree 


In war-torn England, an affluent land owner marries his love. They celebrate by planting a juniper tree, a symbol of their everlasting love. After failing to have children, the wife finally becomes pregnant but dies in childbirth. The Mother is buried beneath the evergreen juniper tree, per her request. The Son grows up under the aegis of a Stepmother who is, at first, very loving. The Father and Stepmother have a Daughter. One day, approximately twelve years later, something becomes dislodged within the Stepmother and she imagines that the Son must look a lot like her husband’s first wife and becomes irrationally jealous of the Son. This jealousy festers until one day, the Stepmother succeeds in killing the Son, ultimately convincing her Daughter that the Daughter is responsible for the Son’s death. To get rid of the evidence, the Stepmother chops the son into bite-sized pieces and puts his remains into a stew which she feeds to the Father. The Daughter bundles her brother’s bones and buries them beneath the juniper tree, next to his mother. 


The Son is reborn in the juniper tree as a beautiful bird that possesses an irresistible song. The townspeople and other birds gather round him and give him precious gifts. One of the gifts, however, is a millstone. The Son/bird gives his precious gifts to the Father and Daughter and drops the millstone on the Stepmother’s head, killing her. The Son emerges from the tree, reborn yet again as his original, human self. He is reunited with his Father and sister. The spirit of the Mother emerges from the tree and helps to guide the troubled Stepmother onto her next level of existence.

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