Opera Librettist

The White Rooster

Opera in One Act. Music by Sheila Silver.

A Tale of Compassion for Women’s Vocal Quartet, 6 Tibetan singing bowls, and frame drums. Commissioned by the Smithsonian Institution for the singing ensemble Tapestry Boston. World Premiere at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. July, 2010. Publisher: Argenta Music.

The White Rooster is a postmodern musical interpretation of a mythic Tibetan folk story placed within a contemporary setting in the tradition of a “play within a play.” The score incorporates ancestral Tibetan melodies along with chant, ensemble singing, recitative, aria, and spoken dialogue. The work’s sole instrumentation is provided by six Tibetan singing bowls intended to be performed by the singers while various ethnic hand drums are played by a percussionist who emerges as a character at the end of the opera. It has been written to be performed in any found space including theaters, outdoors and the concert setting.

The narrative follows five Tibetan Buddhist nuns who are fleeing to India. When one of them is shot by a Chinese soldier they are forced to take refuge in an abandoned hut. While nursing their wounded sister, they enact a Tibetan tale about suppression, liberation and forgiveness. In the end, help comes from a most unexpected source. Emanating a spirit of reconciliation and healing, the piece celebrates the power of individual acts of compassion.

The work was commissioned by the Smithsonian’s Freer Sackler Gallery for their 2010 exhibit, In the Realm of the Buddha, which included works by the 17th century Tibetan monk, patron, and painter, Situ Panchen, as well as The Tibetan Shrine from the Alice S. Kandell Collection. It premiered in July 2010 and toured internationally.

Past Productions

  • Freer & Sackler Art Gallery of the Smithsonian, Washington, D.C. (World Premiere)
  • St. Cloud Chamber Music Series, St. Cloud MN
  • Cornell College, Mt. Vernon, IA
  • Memphis Chamber Music Series, Memphis, TN
  • Eugene Early Music Series, Eugene, OR
  • Los Angeles Chamber Music Series, Los Angeles, CA
  • Sacred Music Festival Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo, MI
  • Rocky River Chamber Music Series, Cleveland, OH
  • The Dorsky Museum at SUNY New Paltz, New Paltz, NY
  • Helsinki Club, Hudson, NY
  • Staller Performing Arts Center, Stony Brook, NY
  • Bogota, Medellin & Tunja, Colombia – Sponsored by Banco Republico Ottawa Chamber Music Festival, Ottawa, Canada