About the opera

Conceived in 2015, Inheritance is a chamber opera that revolves around Sarah Winchester, the eccentric widow and heiress to the Winchester rifle fortune.  According to popular belief, she imprisoned herself in her labyrinth-like home to seek refuge from the spirits of those killed by the same weapons whose manufacture and sale gave her a life of indescribable wealth.  With music by composer Lei Liang and libretto by poet Matt Donovan, Inheritance juxtaposes elements of Winchester’s biography with contemporary events in a work that explores America’s deeply complex relationship with guns

Music director Steven Schick and stage director/dramaturg Acushla Bastible will lead the world premiere performances in a production that features multimedia design by artist Ligia Bouton.   The seventy-five minute work has a cast of four and is scored for chamber ensemble of virtuoso musicians. Inheritance will be premiered in October, 2018 at the Experimental Theater of the Conrad Prebys Music Center at the UC San Diego with soprano/producer Susan Narucki in the role of Sarah Winchester.   

Inheritance is supported by the Creative Capital Foundation, the Academic Senate of the UC San Diego, the UC San Diego Department of Music and the National Endowment for the Arts. 

About the team

Inheritance brings together award-winning creative and performing artists in a unique artist-led collaborative model.  The team seeks to create a contemporary chamber opera of high artistic value that will speak an an issue of critical importance in contemporary American society. 

How did the Inheritance opera project come about?  Composer Lei Liang, librettist Matt Donovan and artist Ligia Bouton met in Italy, while Lei and Matt they were both recipients of the 2011 Rome Prize, in Composition and Literature, respectively.  Soprano/producer Susan Narucki, conductor Steven Schick and director Acushla Bastible are also part of a series of intersecting circles of collaboration.  Learn more about our process and follow our project, beginning with a video conversation with librettist Matt Donovan.

More about the Inheritance residency at the Leighton Artists Colony

July 10, 2017

A Conversation with Matt Donovan

Librettist and Rome Prize winning poet Matt Donovan shares his thoughts on writing for the stage, capturing the essence of Sarah Winchester, and what Inheritance could do to start a new wave of conversation about guns in American society. 




July 1, 2017

"Inheritance" in residence at Banff Center for the arts

Banff, Canada

Banff, Canada

The creative team of Inheritance enjoyed a week long residency at the Leighton Artists Colony at the Banff Center for the Arts during late June, 2017.   Composer Lei Liang, artist Ligia Bouton, librettist Matt Donovan, stage director Acushla Bastible and soprano/producer Susan Narucki spent a week in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, meeting daily in order to discuss aspects of the composition, production and libretto at a crucial stage of development.

Team members also met with music director Steven Schick, who currently serves as co-director of the Summer Music Program at Banff- a happy confluence of events.  "Our project grew by leaps and bounds during this week, "said Narucki.  "There is no substitute for spending time together and so many remarkable ideas emerged from our discussions."  Read more about the week in project NEWS  and follow the Inheritance blog for an in-depth look at the process.