Future Perfect - a modern tale of transcendence inspired by 1,300 Chicago youth is a new opera of The Transcendence Triptych developed by Bellissima Opera & Working in Concert. The librettist is Christine Steyer and the composer is David Shenton. The full 90-minute opera, Future Perfect, will premiere in June 2020.
About Future Perfect - The Inspiration.
The opera Future Perfect is drawn from five years of workshops with Chicago youth in seven schools. With the help of professional musicians, poets, and artists, 1300 students participated in writing and drawing workshops exploring the concepts of separateness, interconnectedness and transcendence through a variety of lenses. The substantial body of work resulting from these workshops has inspired Future Perfect - a modern tale of transcendence.
Future Perfect - Synopsis © 2020 Christine Steyer
ACT 1, Morning in a small unspecified City, near future
A Child starts a machine that makes a marching sound. A Crowd of all ages enters in a rigid formation as they offer generic pleasantries “Good Morning” to one another. Miranette, a silent young girl runs off and Paloma, a teenager, follows her. Twelve Adults from the crowd tell of four strange occurrences that happened in recent days. The Crowd listens. Everyone agrees that three of the occurrences should be reported at once, but that the fourth one should not, as it was void of specific facts.
Six Youth who have broken free from the crowd meet in a cave. From their conversation we learn that by venturing beyond the fence, a forbidden zone, the Youth were inadvertently responsible for the three occurrences. Paloma enters looking for Miranette. They hear the Crowd shouting Miranette’s name and run out to see the fuss. The Crowd scolds “Miranette” for her shortcomings and for removing insignia labels pinned to her sash—an item all youth are required to wear. Paloma tries to intervene, but the Crowdthreatens to send Miranette away if she misbehaves again.
The Crowd exits and Miranette gives Paloma her journal to help explain her actions “Don’t Label Me”. Miranette then shows Paloma a string of crystals she found. She tries to attach the crystals to her sash but Paloma scolds her. Miranette indicates she is ready to run away. Paloma gets called into the house and Miranette goes alone. Miranette is met by the Youth who, having suspected her intention, give her a jar of caterpillars, a monkey named Jingle (a marionette), seeds and a conch shell. Miranette thanks them and leaves. Paloma shows up right after and runs off to join her.
ACT 2, Outside the City, shortly after
Miranette and Jingle come across Asintmah and Oxóssi instructing their children, Anahita and Tāne, on the power of imagination “In a World Without Limits”. They, joined by Paloma, sit in on the lesson. The Children are then told to take Miranette, Paloma and Jingle to meet Rosetta who might know more about the crystals.
Rosetta, a woman with extraordinary hearing tells them about the remarkable sounds she hears from the universe but how she regrets few people take the time to listen “The Universe Sings”. Miranette plays her conch. Rosetta becomes fascinated with it and trades it with Miranette for an instrument that makes bird-like sounds. Rosetta says she knows where Miranette, Paloma and Jingle can find a group of artists who make things like the crystals they have. She warns, since it is far, they will need transportation.
Rosetta introduces Kai, Edeyrn and Iscovan who run an antique shop. The Men confess that though they greatly admire the chivalrous age of knights, they also find that acknowledging one’s vulnerable side can also be a great source of strength “If You Take the Time to Know Me”. Jingle climbs up a tree and shakes some fruit to the ground. He sees another monkey and stays.
Kai, Edeyrn and Iscovan give Miranette a bicycle and Paloma a scooter. Rosetta warns them not to get lost or separated. Miranette says goodbye to Anahita and Tāne.
Miranette rides but gets separated from Paloma and then lost. She blows her bird-whistle for help. The sky gets dark and it begins to rains. Miranette unpacks fabric to make a lean-to against the tree, sets out the jar with the chrysalis and turns on its light. She eventually falls asleep.
It is morning and Two Butterflies (dancers) unfold and dry their wings in the morning sun. They fly over to Miranette and wake her. Miranette blows her bird-whistle again for Paloma but instead wakes up a woman named Baubo, who was sleeping behind a tree.
Baubo tells Miranette and the Butterflies how much she loves to laugh “LMBO!”. Miranette gives her fruit but beyond that Baubo can’t understand anything Miranette is trying to communicate. The Butterflies fly off. Four Youth enter costumed as a Dragon. Baubo and Miranette are enlisted to become its head and tail. They all enter a parade about to get under way as the Dragon.
After the parade they arrive at Baubo’s friend Leggo’s and his dog Chumpy’s (a marionette) library and laboratory. Leggo tells them of a book he discovered containing 624 writings on all sorts of odd scraps of paper. He shares his favorite “The Seraph”. Miranette gives Leggo her “Daydreaming Journal” to add to his collection. Miranette notices that the old chart on the back of the story corresponds to the tag on her crystals.
Leggo is just about to tell everyone the meaning of the chart, when Chumpy hears arguing in the distance and runs off. Miranette bicycles after her. Chumpy and Miranette come across Juniper, Verbena and Ember arguing about what color to paint the new bridge for the solstice. Another woman, Flanna, is hammering the bridge. Juniper, Verbena and Ember each try to convince Miranette that their color is the best “Blue, Purple & Yellow”. Miranette approaches Flanna to resolve the quarrel. Instead Flanna, joined by a Dancer, tells them of her experience with another color “Red is a Trick”. Chumpy indicates the soil is good for planting and Miranette plants the seeds she received from her friends.
Miranette sees her reflection in the pond. The Women let her select whatever she likes from a trunk. Miranette goes behind a screen to change. Paloma arrives relieved to find Miranette’s bicycle. The Womentell Paloma that Miranette is safe.
Miranette emerges in clothes of various styles. Suddenly the light of the solstice shines on her crystal headdress creating a kaleidoscope of color. Miranette, Paloma, the Women and some Birds swirl around in the wash of color.
Miranette falls into a deep sleep. In her dream, the Plant comes to life and the City Folks appear and dance rigidly. The Twelve Characters from her journey join in and the dance starts to loosen. The Birdslead Anahita, Tāne, Jingle and Chumpy on a floating island as the Dragon trails behind. The City Folksform a flower mandala from their umbrellas and then a strong wind, brought about by Two Butterfliesflapping their wings, disperses it. Miranette emerges center and inspires the Youth and Paloma to join her in aspiring for a better world “Transcendence”. Everyone joins in.
Miranette awakens from her dream. She is surrounded by Paloma, the Women, the Animals. The eight other Characters she met on her travels arrive having been drawn to the brilliant light. Miranettefinds her voice and together Everyone feels that whenever humans, like particles, interact with one another, they can never be independent from each other; and it is that sensitivity that can manifest change “200 Million Cells”.
EPILOGUE, a generation later
Two groups of Youth walk through the forest. They discuss how they heard from their grandmother, Paloma, the story about Miranette’s courageous journey, and about the wisdom she gained.
The Youth believe they see Miranette and run into the audience to meet her. A Woman from the audience comes up on stage and invites the curious to come up.
Curtain. The End.
Costume designs for Future Perfect
from workshops with
6th & 8th graders at Kinzie Elementary.