Reconciliation–an incredible story of restorative justice is a new short opera in a series called "Tales of Transcendence" being developed by Bellissima Opera & Working in Concert. The librettist is Christine Steyer and the composer is David Shenton.
The Reconciliation opera is set to premiere in subsequent years. We are also seeking partnership with an established opera company to further the development of Reconciliation.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was a court-like body assembled in South Africa after the end of Apartheid in 1996. Its purpose was to bear witness to, record and in some cases grant amnesty to the perpetrators of violent crimes that occurred during the years of Apartheid.
Anyone who felt that they had been victims of violence could come forward and be heard at the TRC. Perpetrators of violence could also give testimony and request amnesty. Often Bantu & Afrikaners fell into both categories.
It is important to note that The Truth and Reconciliation Commission intentionally differed from the Nuremburg Trials held by the Americans in Germany following WWII. The Nuremburg Trials were focused on punitive justice. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was focused on restorative justice and the belief that telling one’s story, whether victim or perpetrator, could function as a path to healing.
The Inspiration for the Opera:
Urban Legend or Universal Truth?
In 2006, librettist Christine Steyer became familiar with the "Truth & Reconciliation Story" from The Call to Kinship by Elaine Prevallet at a workshop given by activist and mystic Andrew Harvey.
The account basically describes a scene from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa in which an elderly Black woman faced several white police officers, one of whom had just confessed to the murders of both the woman's son and her husband years before. The Commission asked her how justice be given to this man. She responded that she wanted three things; firstly, to be shown the place where her family's bodies were burned so she could gather their remains for a decent burial; secondly, for the perpetrator to become like a son to her so that she could pour into him any love she still had remaining within her; and finally, to offer him forgiveness. Then she requested someone to help lead her across the courtroom to embrace the perpetrator. As she approached the man, being overwhelmed by what he had just heard, fainted as all the victims filling the courtroom having experienced decades of oppression and injustice began to sing Amazing Grace".
As the librettist was in preparation to make this account a 1-Act opera, research showed that this story appeared to be an urban legend; not factual at all as no documents could be located in support of it. However, at the same time this information came to light, friends of the librettist were sending her similar accounts of reconciliations between victims and perpetrators occurring in every corner of the world. It therefore could be said that although the above story may not be factually true, it is universally true.
For this reason, the opera Reconciliation will be set in an unspecified location and time. The opera will examine the concepts of Forgiveness and Restorative Justice in our world.
Photos from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearing in South Africa in the 1990's with Desmond Tutu.