Instrumentation: Soprano (voice), Baritone (voice), Flute, Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn, Piano, Percussion, Violin, Viola, Cello, Double Bass
Duration: 35:00
Performers: Stacie Dunlop - soprano, Alex Dobson - baritone, Ensemble Paramirabo
Commissioned by Stacie Dunlop and the Aradia Ensemble with the support of Roger D. Moore, the Michael and Sonya Koerner Foundation, Blake Goldring, Edward Epstein, Daniel Cooper, and Linda and Michael Hutcheon
Premiered at Gallery 345 in Toronto on January 14, 2017.
Recordings and video available upon request

Program Notes

An opera in one act, The Havester is based on a play by the same name by Paul Van Dyck. The story is set in a dystopian future where people have developed a technology that allows them to live forever but that requires tremendous resources to operate. A Man lives alone, surrounded by desert and the machines that he operates to produce the substance that keeps him alive and youthful. He is not aware of whether or not other people have survived.

The opera opens with the Man in his compound, speaking to his computer (played by the soprano, offstage, voice digitally processed). His machines have been tampered with, possibly by animals, and are producing a deadly substance. But the tampering doesn’t resemble the usual damage produced by animals. Sabotage by other people seems more likely, yet he has not seen anyone for centuries.

The computer, however, confirms that a person is approaching, and he wonders if it could be his long-lost wife. He begins to reminisce about his wife—and then about his daughter, who was killed by animals. He looks to his daughter’s severed hand, suspended in a preserving liquid all these years in the hope that he might someday bring her to life again when the technology is available.

All this time, the stranger approaches and the computer issues ongoing warnings. The Man tells the computer to go silent and let the Woman in. She enters in a protective suit. Removing her mask, the Woman reveals herself and appears to be his wife. The Man is overjoyed; he can’t believe that she has survived. They hurriedly make love and then begin talking about what has happened to them over the past centuries. He wants to know how she has survived all this time.

She says that she found a small group of others, but that they do not use the technological sustenance that keeps him alive. He argues with her, as this must be impossible; there is no other way to survive anymore. She argues back, that it is actually because of the machines that the world has become desolate. She tampered with one of his machines to show him how life would grow back if he went back to a more natural form of living, giving up immortality.

The two argue and the Woman states that she must leave. The Man is upset, and he pulls at her arm. In the process her hand comes off, revealing that it is artificial. He begins to doubt that the Woman is in fact his wife—he does not even believe she is human, as all the people in the world have died, to his knowledge. Through a heated dialogue the Woman eventually reveals that no, she is not his wife—but rather his daughter. She hopes to continue the human race through a child born of their lovemaking. The Man is devastated. The Woman leaves to destroy the remaining machines, and the Man is left alone, alive but with no reason to live. He injects himself with the deadly substance from the tampered machine and slowly fades away, with the computer calling to him worriedly.