Episode 8: Girl in the Well | KCET
Episode 8: Girl in the Well
At a haunted well, Vireo hears the Voice emanating from the figure of a drowned girl. A crowd appears, and Vireo lashes out at them, accusing them all of witchcraft. She is arrested.
Alarm Will Sound; Trinity Youth Chorus
(Caroline leads Vireo and Raphael on a journey through a dark forest. Caroline drags Vireo.)
(Whispering to Caroline.)
Where are you taking us?
The old farm house.
(They stand at an abandoned well, mesmerized.)
Three children drowned in the well. The witch did this.
(Whispering to Vireo.)
I look right at dead things for you. On our behalf.
Three faces look down and three look up. Two girls and a boy. Two girls and a boy. They were our age when they died.
Pernette is dead and still the mischief has a shape.
I am very glad you believe in Pernette and the witches. We will have to be examined again.
Let’s find the Farmer. He’ll bring a team to get the bodies out.
(The three start to leave, Vireo shepherding. A girl’s voice calls from down the well, and only Vireo hears.)
My name is Vireo.
Vireo, we have to show the people –
I’ll stay and show the Farmer the way.
(Caroline shrugs. To Raphael.)
(Caroline and Raphael exit. A dead girl climbs out of the well.)
Who did you say you were?
I saw the witch.
Who are you?
I named the witch.
Who are you?
I killed a witch.
I killed a witch. Who are you?
Who are you?
I am a girl swearing death’s round oath
You are in the roundness –
You hear me
(Raphael records notes.)
The case has evolved to the point where Vireo is imagining herself a twentieth century girl living in the traditions of a 16th century girl from Loire, and all the while she is a 19th century schoolgirl in an asylum in Reims! To the laboratory!
(Back at the well.)
What sort of voice are you? Have I heard you before?
Don’t you recognize me?
(She falls out of sight. A block and tackle drops down the well, and the girl is hauled up, very literally dead and dripping. No mask. A Farmer holds the rope.)
She can’t hear you.
(The girl starts to swing back and forth. A bell.)
Quit haunting me.
Quit haunting me.
(Vireo runs off. Meanwhile, back at the lab, Raphael examines Caroline, who is trying to remember the fit-dance.)
(To “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring:”)
Prodrome lactose hands-apumping
Union teapot vibraphone
(Vireo enters, dripping and pale. The drowned girl stands behind her, invisible. Vireo is transmogrified; she’s gene-spliced with a celestial being. She imitates Caroline’s dance, but does it better. Caroline stops dancing and Vireo sings.)
There is an other side
They make me look
How could you treat us
So much is broken there
They say you pay
(Turning away and biting her knuckle.)
(Caroline faints. Raphael tends to Caroline.)
And Caroline - I prefer you too!
(Vireo glows to special brightness.)
I heard names from the three drowned children.
I heard names.
Witches poured and stamped to
Tokens of certainty
Driven down a belt by
Your engine’s chuff
They sing, they sing: “Your machine eats itself And is pounded by a Higher harder arm. That’s enough now. That’s enough.” Enough, enough...
Saying there are other witches left...
From the farmer to the mayor.
People who look exactly like you.
The voice is in our ground and in our water.
(The Crowd is at first uncomfortable, then they assume – she is talking about all those other people who are guilty...)
Welcome, welcome, welcome
Daily, daily, daily, daily
Over, over, over, over
Write it so we know which way is down
That other farmer, that other mayor
Water is Down
Well is writing down
Well is writing down
Down is where the dead are daily
Daily water dark
Is dark to live by daily
Is the debris
We need a Ruth to gather husks
Dawns from dusks
Dark soon enough and then always
I work days
Daily, daily, daily over dead
If by accident I live (I live lightly, live for daylight)
Then by policy let’s dig deeply (every well an inkwell:
Famous accuser, down you go, digging wells, writing down, down
And yes, I can see
Else is damned
And meanwhile I am back at work
Thank you for your time
Leaving school in search of witchcraft, Caroline leads Vireo and Raphael to an abandoned well where she promises to show them evidence of wrongdoing. Three children have been drowned and their souls linger in the depths of the water. Looking down the well, they see three faces staring back, and the startled youths pull away.
However, before they’ve gone three steps, Vireo hears the Voice calling to her. It’s the same 16th-century Voice from the woods, calling to her from inside the well where the ghost of a young girl, dripping wet, has pulled herself up from inside. Vireo confesses to the figure that she is guilty of killing a witch and her guilt is weighing her down. Raphael watches the exchange with the ghost (invisible to him), and writes of Vireo’s psychosis that, “She imagines herself a 20th-century girl living in 16th-century France, when in reality she’s a 19th-century girl in an asylum in Reims!”
After the conversation with the ghost, Vireo becomes increasingly agitated and angry. She turns to the crowd that has gathered and begins to accuse them all of witchcraft. Vireo threatens to accuse them in the court and lead them to ruin. A Farmer from the village leads a response of self-righteous indignation, pushing communal guilt onto others. The scene ends with Vireo’s arrest for disturbing the peace and accusing innocent people of witchcraft.
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A young girl appears onstage as if shoved into existence. As she wanders, the world shifts around her, catapulting her through time and space to 19th-century Vienna, 20th-century Germany and 21st-century America. She collapses, hearing voices and visions.
A waking Vireo mistakes the doctor for a priest, and she is sent to a quiet room to recover. While there, she hears the Voice again, embodied in the figure of a witch about to be burned at the stake.
Vireo escapes from her room, but is caught by her mother, the doctor, and his assistant Raphael.
The doctor examines Vireo and makes her the subject for his study of female “hysteria.” He presses her for answers, in the form of the name of a witch. Vireo has a vision and names Pernette.
Although the local witch has been killed, farm animals are still dying, and at Vireo’s home, a cow steps forward to give its perspective on the situation.
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Clips & Segments
The eponymous heroine Vireo, played by soprano Rowen Sabala, is a fourteen-year-old girl genius entangled in the historic obsession with female visionaries, as witch-hunters, early psychiatrists, and modern artists have defined them.
"Vireo," a made-for-broadcast opera, will have its worldwide series debut on KCET in spring of 2017, with all 12 episodes released at once.
Composer Lisa Bielawa discusses the inspiration behind Vireo and the historical context behind the episodic opera.
Director Charlie Otte discusses the intricacies of producing "Vireo," an opera for the screen.
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Libretto: Vireo finds herself fluid in time, from Medieval to mid-20th Century, after hearing a mysterious Voice in the woods, and she falls into a “fit.” Her worried mother takes her to a doctor, but the answers are complex.
Watch episode one of Vireo, "The Blow," and read the libretto.
Libretto: A waking Vireo mistakes the doctor for a priest, and she is sent to a quiet room to recover. While there, she hears the Voice again, embodied in the figure of a witch about to be burned at the stake.
Watch episode two of Vireo, "Mercury," and read the libretto.
Libretto: Vireo escapes from her room, but is caught by her mother, the doctor, and his assistant Raphael.
Watch episode three of Vireo, "Needle," and read the libretto.
Libretto: Although the local witch has been killed, farm animals are still dying, and at Vireo’s home, a cow steps forward to give its perspective on the situation.
Watch episode four of Vireo, "Beginner" and read the libretto.
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"Vireo" takes place in multiple time periods and locations. Here's a rundown of each episode.
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