VAGABOND is an opera based on the life and writings of Isabelle Eberhart, a turn of the 20th century writer and traveler, and currently in development with the Duffy Institute for New Opera and the Virginia Arts Festival. Written for 5 singers and a 21-piece chamber orchestra, including oud and north african percussion, the libretto is by Jan Dalley.
This is a project very close to my heart. I have been obsessed with Isabelle since I first read her diaries in the mid ’80s – I never got over the fact that this young woman, born and raised in Geneva of Russian parents, completely re-invented herself in order to live the life she chose, spending 7 years in the North African desert traveling with the Bedouin, disguised as a young male Arab scholar, writing constantly, and ultimately drowning in the desert at the age of 27 – a founding member of the club that includes Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin – so many creative spirits who burned so bright, but never made it to 28… I made various drafts of ideas, wrote and recorded various short pieces, I asked various writers along the way if they’d be interested in doing something with me, but it wasn’t until much later that I found my librettist (one of my oldest friends, as it turns out) and we began work in 2011. It was a self-motivated project, and therefore on the back burner for quite a while, until in late 2016 the Duffy Institute somehow found out about it and did a reading of excerpts from it in March 2017. On the basis on that reading, they commissioned us to finish it, and they will do a 3-day workshop and reading of the whole piece in March 2018. How rare a thing, for someone to seek you out and offer you financial support for your creative endeavor… Whatever happens, I will be forever grateful for their support.