Seven Sisters

Composer:
Justine F. Chen

Librettist:
Stephanie Fleischmann

Composer website:
https://www.justinefchen.com/selected-works

Composer contact:
justinefchen@gmail.com

Performance forces:
5 soprano, 2 mezzo-soprano — 3 vln, 3 vla, 3 vc, db, perc

Length:
1:30

Languages:

Notes:
Framed by the ritual of a Taiwanese funeral, and threaded through with the myth of the Pleiades reimagined, this boldly theatrical new opera is inspired by composer Justine F. Chen’s powerful, complicated grandmother, matriarch of seven daughters. An exploration of the discordant legacy of bitterness and resilience A-Ma can’t help but pass down to subsequent generations, Seven Sisters veers from the sublime awkwardness of caustic satire to wildly lyrical moments of emotional expansion via sounds ranging from the glamour of old Hollywood and 1950s Chinese cinema to Taiwanese folk music, Peking Opera and kinetic, pulsating rhythms. As the funeral unfolds, the sisters wrangle over largesse, power dynamics, awkward expressions of love, and their fragmented memories of the moment A-Ma gave Sister #3 away as a baby—a haunting of sorts. In the presence of these rites, Mina, a second-generation Taiwanese American, grapples with her disconnection from her forbears, her feeling of otherness, and her own complex relationship with her mother, Sister #1. Epic, stylized and hyper-real, deeply moving and unflinchingly funny, Seven Sisters looks at the hard truths of a culture that demeans and disempowers women and asks: How does the next generation move beyond this inheritance, bridging a cultural chasm that privileges silence? An unflinching, epic, funny exploration of the dysfunctions of family and the fallout of growing up Taiwanese-American. Juxtaposing the intensely personal with the sweeping presence of the universal, this boldly theatrical new chamber opera veers from the sublime awkwardness of caustic satire to wildly lyrical moments of emotional expansion, weaving together sounds ranging from the glamour of old Hollywood to Taiwanese folk music; Peking Opera; kinetic, pulse-racing rhythms; and a haunting emotional resonance rooted in the timeless struggle for agency and voice. Framed by the ritual of a Taiwanese funeral, and threaded through with the myth of the Pleiades reimagined, Seven Sisters looks at the hard truths of a culture that demeans and disempowers women and asks: How does the next generation move beyond this legacy, bridging a cultural chasm that privileges silence?