A new opera exploring ideas of science, spirituality, the nature of consciousness and our search for meaning

About The Theory of Everything

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Encompass New Opera Theatre commissioned and developed The Theory of Everything, a new full-length opera exploring science, spirituality and indigenous cosmology. The opera traces the journey of a Brazilian quantum physicist who is studying fundamental connections between science and the ancient wisdom of the Q'ero Tribe in Peru. Alternating between North and South America, scenes take place inside a planetarium and at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, where Tomás Cabral teaches physics. Raised in the Amazon, his innovative approach prepares his students to be scientists for change. His wife, Rachel, a documentary filmmaker, is exploring near-death experiences, and their daughter Cassy is a precocious ten-year-old student of astronomy. Dramatic events involving the family catapult a metaphysical and scientific search into other dimensions and alternative universes. The final scene takes place in the village of the Q'ero Elders, 19,000 feet high in the Andes Mountains in Peru.

ACT I
Scene 1 - New York City, the Planetarium, the present
Scene 2 - University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, a classroom
Scene 3 - New Jersey Shore, Bertie's Souvenir Shop
Scene 4 - Sao Paulo, a nightclub
Scene 5 - New Jersey Shore, a souvenir shop
Scene 6 - Sao Paulo, Bruno's office
Scene 6a - New York City, Rachel's Studio//Sao Paulo, Tomás' Laboratory

ACT II
Scene 1 - New York City, the Planetarium
Scene 2 - Sao Paulo, Tomás' Laboratory
Scene 3 - New York City, Rachel's Studio
Scene 4 - Andes Mountains, a Q'ero Village

CAST:
Rachel, a documentary filmmaker (soprano)
Cassy, Rachel's 10-year-old daughter (treble or soprano)
Tomás, a theoretical physicist, Rachel's husband, Cassy's father (baritone)
Professor Bruno, Tomás' superior at the University of Sao Paulo (bass/baritone)
Carla, a graduate student, Tomás' assistant (soprano)
Bertie, Rachel's best friend, owner of a souvenir shop (mezzo-soprano)
Anton, Bertie's 13-year old assistant in the shop (tenor)
Nightclub singer/Shaman (mezzo-soprano)
Ensemble: SATB - 8 singers
Four Dancers

ORCHESTRA: 21 MUSICIANS
1 Flute
1 Oboe
1 Clarinet
1 Bassoon
2 Horns
1 Trumpet
1 Percussion
Keyboard (Piano, synthesizer, celesta)
Harp
Strings (min. 3-3-2-2-1)

JOHN DAVID EARNEST (composer) has written extensively for orchestras, chamber ensembles, chorus, solo voice and opera. He writes, "In my conversations with Nancy, I was immediately drawn to her concept of exploring the connection between spirituality and the physical world. In order to find a musical voice for these themes and Nancy's libretto, I have chosen several eclectic sources ranging from tonally based melodic ideas to non-traditional musical structure and vocabulary." 

 

NANCY RHODES (librettist-director) is the artistic director of Encompass New Opera Theatre. She writes, "In 1987, I read an article in The New York Times about an astounding new physics theory postulating the simultaneous existence of at least ten dimensions, known as superstring theory. Pushing the envelope of the mind to embrace multiple dimensions, sister universes, and the possibility that everything from our bodies to the farthest star, is made up of vibrating strings, fascinated me... I read metaphysical literature, Eastern philosophy, science, and poetry... Further research led me to the writings of physicist David Bohm and his ideas of a holographic universe, to Native American spiritual conferences, healing seminars, and the laboratories of physicists at Columbia, CUNY, and Princeton."
 

Development of The Theory of Everything was made possible with public funds from The National Endowment for the Arts, Access to Artistic Excellence in 2006 and 2009, and New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. The Theory of Everything received commissioning support from OPERA America's Opera Fund, launched by the NEA (funded by the Helen F. Whitaker Fund, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Canada Council for the Arts, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The James S. and John L. Knight Foundation, and The George Cedric Metcalf Charitable Foundation). Encompass is grateful for commissioning funds from the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust's Program for Contemporary Music Projects.

Concert readings of The Theory of Everything were sponsored by the Science & Art Series, CUNY. Encompass performed scenes from The Theory of Everything at Symphony Space, New York City Opera's VOX: On the Edge program, New American Opera Previews: From Page to Stage, and Opera America's New Composers Forum.

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Performances and Concert Readings

                                   February 5, 2012
Sunday, 4:00pm
Music for the Soul and Mind: Encompass Concert for the New Year
Gramercy Park North
New York, NY
Scenes from The Theory of Everything featured in Encompass' concert for the new year

                                   November 11, 2011 
Friday, 3:30pm
New Composers Forum 
Lang Recital Hall, Hunter College
New York, NY
Scenes from The Theory of Everything

COMPANY
for November 11, 2011 performance

Mara Waldman
Music Director

John David Earnest
Composer

Tony Bellomy
Pianist

Nancy Rhodes
Librettist-Director

                                       June 26, 2010
Concert Reading
at The Theosophical Society
Wheaton, Illinois

                                  March 14, 2010
New American Opera Previews: From Page to Stage
Manhattan School of Music, Greenfield Hall
New York, NY

                                  December 9, 2009
Concert Reading
Leonard Nimoy Thalia Theatre
New York, NY

                                 November 14, 2009
Concert Reading
Elebash Recital Hall, Graduate Center
City University of New York
New York, NY

                                  November 12, 2009
Concert Reading 
South Oxford Space/ArtNY
Brooklyn, NY

COMPANY
for the 2009 performances

Stage Director: Nancy Rhodes         Music Director/Conductor: Mara Waldman


Pianists:  Tony Bellomy, Catherine Miller
Costume Consultant:  Marianne Powell-Parker
Stage Manager:  Cassandra Powell

Joel O. Cardona, Cory Clines, Thomas Dolan, David Salsbery Fry, Samantha Grenell-Zaidman, 
Heather Michele Meyer, Brittany Palmer, Gloria Park, Lacretta Ross, Hannah Fuerst, 
Christopher Preston Thompson, Jorell Williams

                                May 12, 2007
Workshop Performance

New York City Opera's VOX: On the Edge
part of the VOX 2007: Showcasing American Composers series
Skirball Center for the Performing Arts
New York University
New York, NY

May 6, 2006
Workshop Performance
New York City Opera's VOX: On the Edge
part of the VOX 2007: Showcasing American Composers series
Skirball Center for the Performing Arts
New York University
New York, NY

About the Composer, John David Earnest

The Theory of Everything’s composer John David Earnest has written extensively for orchestra, chamber ensembles, chorus, solo voice and opera. He writes, “in my conversations with Nancy over the past 2 years, I was immediately drawn to her concept of exploring the connection between spirituality and the physical world. In order to find a musical voice for these themes and Nancy’s libretto, I have chosen several eclectic sources ranging from tonally based melodic ideas to non-traditional musical structure and vocabulary.”

John David Earnest has composed extensively for orchestra, chamber ensembles, chorus, solo voice and opera. His major orchestral works include Second Symphony-The Hastening Light; Southern Exposure; Chasing the Sun (recorded by the Warsaw National Philharmonic); Bountiful Voyager; Sun Songs and Nocturnes (commissioned for Chanticleer and the New Jersey Symphony, Hugh Wolff, conductor); Concerto No.1 for Piano & Orchestra; and Concerto No. 2 for Piano & Strings (premiered in 2004 by the Sinfonia Bucharest, Robert Bode, conductor; Lee D. Thompson, piano; in Bucharest, Romania).

Mr. Earnest's major choral works are A Van Doren Triptych; Only in the Dream; Variations on Three American Folksongs; and In After Time (recently performed by the Riverside Choral Society at Merkin Concert Hall, New York City). His stage works include the popular The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (written with librettist Mervyn Goldstein and premiered by the Virginia Opera in 1997); Howard (finalist in the New York City Opera American Opera Competition); and A Desperate Waltz (commissioned and premiered by Golden Fleece Composers Chamber Theater in New York City). His chamber music includes the Sonata for Piano (premiered by Lee D. Thompson); The Blue Estuaries (for soprano and seven instruments, recorded by Judith Kellock and Ensemble X on Koch International Classics); and Aria and Chorale (for violin and piano; premiered in 2004 by Dona Lee Croft at St. Martin's in the Fields, London).

In addition to his several song cycles and individual songs, Mr. Earnest recently completed a thirty-minute dramatic cycle, Songs of Hadrian (for tenor and piano, on texts by Arch Brown, for premiere in 2006). He is currently working on two new choral commissions (for Whitman College and for the Santa Fe Desert Chorale). Mr. Earnest teaches composition privately in New York City. He is also composer-in-residence and visiting professor at Whitman College, Walla Walla, Washington. He has taught at Lehman College, City University of New York; and Rutgers University in New Jersey. His music is published by E.C.Schirmer Music Publishing, Boston.

www.johndavidearnest.com

Notes from The Theory of Everything
by Librettist Nancy Rhodes

Physics and science have been interests of mine since childhood, inspired by long walks through nature with my grandfather, a physics teacher. He taught me how to observe and analyze, to appreciate the invisible forces, and unleashed in me an insatiable curiosity to explore the grand design of our universe.

In 1987, I read an article in The New York Times about an astounding new physics theory postulating the simultaneous existence of at least ten dimensions, known as superstring theory. Pushing the envelope of the mind to embrace multiple dimensions, sister universes, and the possibility that everything from our bodies to the farthest star, is made up of vibrating strings, fascinated me.

During this time I was working in different countries; while riding on trains, I read metaphysical literature, Eastern philosophy, science, and poetry. Turkey was one of the places that resonated deeply within me, the ancient city of Ankara with its Hittite Museum, and Istanbul, the crossroads of Europe and Asia. I found layers of history everywhere, sensed ancient voices, as I walked through the ruins of Ephesus.

Upon returning home, it came to me in the middle of the night: Act I, Scene 1, a Planetarium. Thus began The Theory of Everything. The story revolves around the lives of 8-year-old Cassy, her mother Rachel, a documentary filmmaker, and her father Tomás, a quantum physicist from Brazil. A series of dramatic events catapault a scientific and metaphysical search into other dimensions and alternate universes.

Further research led me to the writings of physicist David Bohm and his ideas of a holographic universe, to Native American spiritual conferences, healing seminars, and the laboratories of physicists at Columbia, CUNY, and Princeton.