A Braided Light

Chamber Opera in One Act, 2022

Libretto by Wendy Steiner

Duration: 21 minutes

Program note

The scene has been repeated every Saturday at sunset since Leila”s children were tiny: the wine cup placed beside the filigreed spice box, a braided candle waiting to be lit, family members gathering to enact a ritual as familiar as breathing...until a few years ago. Then things changed, and Leila has been left to celebrate Havdalah on her own. But things have changed again. Yesterday the doctor said she had Alzheimer’s, and her children have rushed home to be with her for Havdalah. It is a fitting ceremony. Tonight, there are two Leila”s in the living room: her old self and a stranger she fears will overtake her. Havdalah, likewise, is a hinge across two incompatible realities: the rapture of the departing Sabbath and the mundane struggle of the workweek ahead. Havdalah’s rituals reconcile observants to the loss of holiness with the God-given pleasures of the senses, which infiltrate the everyday like the holy light of the braided candle reflected on their rough fingernails. Caught up in the beauty of this vision, Leila wants Havdalah to go on forever.

A Braided Light was commissioned by White Snake Projects and premiered in Boston, MA in December of 2022 as part of the Let's Celebrate program.   

Finalist in the 2023-4 National Opera Association’s Dominic Argento Chamber Opera Competition

Dramatic Personae:

Leila [mezzo-soprano], 65, diagnosed the day before with early-stage dementia.
Mira [soprano], Leila’s daughter, 33, a rising star in the State Department; she has not seen her mother or brother for a long time.
Nate [baritone], Leila’s son, 28, lives in the same city as Leila, but not with her.


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