Artemisia: an opera by Laura Schwendinger, libretto by Ginger Strand

One of the greatest Baroque painters, Artemisia Gentileschi built a stunning career at a time when women were property. Our opera is based on original documents. We have a trial transcript where Artemisia's father accuses an assistant, Agostino Tassi, of raping his daughter. (Artemisia upheld her story under torture; Tassi was convicted.) We have 13 letters Artemisia wrote late in life to a client, showing her as ambitious, charismatic, and bold. And we have her paintings, their dramatic staging and lighting used to convey psychological truth. By having figures emerge from the paintings and meld their stories with Artemisia's, we aimed to recreate the rich inner landscape of a brilliant artist. (Scroll down for links to complete performances.)

Artemisia lasts just 80 minutes, but fits in big themes set to music of quivering intensity. The story of the rape is there, blended with Gentileschi's unbearably compassionate painting of the biblical character Susanna, who was ogled and shamed in her bath. But larger questions of idea and form, image and projection, sight and gaze also find nuanced and intelligent treatment.”


Trinity NOVUS Time's Arrow Festival
Orchestral premiere
St. Paul's Chapel, New York City, March 2019
Stage director: Christopher Alden
Conductor: Lidiya Yankovskaya

Left Coast Chamber Ensemble
Chamber version premiere
Z Space, San Francisco, CA, May 2019
Stage director: Jenn BeVard
Conductor: Matilda Hofman

Cabaret of Shadows: an opera by Laura Schwendinger, libretto by Ginger Strand

Cabaret of Shadows is an immersive stage performance combining chamber music with elements of light, sound and shadow to reimagine the milieu of turn-of-the-century cabaret. Unlike so many evocations of places like Le Chat Noir, the Moulin Rouge, and the Folies Bergere, our short opera centers on women not as spectacle, but as artistic creators in this richly imaginative atmosphere.

Based on actual quotes from artists, composers, and writers of the time period, the piece brings the audience into an evening at the cabaret. Our host is Gab Sorere, a non-binary theatrical producer who here puts together her "dream Montmartre"--a cabaret of remarkable artists of the period who did not appear on stage together in reality. Haunting her imagined revue is the disembodied voice of one of these artists, Gab's deceased lover Loie Fuller. Dancer, lighting artist, and inventor, Fuller created an entirely new art form--one as ephemeral as it was innovative. As Gab guides us through her cabaret of memories, she attempts to evoke a vision of Loie: ultimately, that vision emerges for us through the space of the cabaret itself.

Watch the opera premiere in Houston in March, 2022, performed by Musiqa

© 2008 Ginger Strand. Website design by Caroline Caldwell Design