Conceived in late 2015 as a collaboration between composer Lei Liang, librettist Matt Donovan, artist Ligia Bouton and soprano Susan Narucki, Inheritance is a chamber opera that revolves around Sarah Winchester, the eccentric widow and heiress to the Winchester rifle fortune. According to popular belief, Winchester 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. The legends surrounding her life are impossible to extract from her actual history; to the collaborative team, the contradictions speak to America's inability to separate fact and fiction in the contemporary debate about guns and gun violence.
Events in Winchester's life - whether the stuff of legend or plain-spoken truth - are one aspect of Inheritance. These episodes are juxtaposed with contemporary events, moments ripped from headlines that play out on grand platforms of news and social media, which seem to be interpreted differently in the eye of each beholder. In this way, Inheritance seeks to explore America’s violent legacy and deeply complex relationship with guns.
With music by composer Lei Liang and libretto by poet Matt Donovan, Inheritance is a seventy minute work in one act for four voices and chamber ensemble. In a production that features multimedia design by artist Ligia Bouton, Inheritance will be premiered in October, 2018 at the Experimental Theater of the Conrad Prebys Music Center at UC San Diego with soprano/producer Susan Narucki in the role of Sarah Winchester as well as a trio of critically acclaimed young singers: Mexican baritone Josué Cerón, and sopranos Hillary Jean Young and Kirsten Ashley Wiest.
Renowned conductor and percussionist Steven Schick will lead an ensemble of virtuoso musicians, including clarinetist Anthony Burr, bassist Mark Dresser, guitarist Pablo Gomez, harpsichordist Takae Onishi,and trumpeter Stephanie Richards.
Inheritance has earned major grants from the Creative Capital Foundation (2016) the Academic Senate of UC San Diego (2017), the UC San Diego Department of Music and the National Endowment for the Arts (2017). We invite you to join the conversation.