Episode 6: Boarding School | KCET
Episode 6: Boarding School
Pernette is on trial due to Vireo’s accusation of witchcraft, but Vireo has trouble testifying. Suddenly a new friend, Caroline, appears and pushes her to action. Vireo testifies, and Pernette is hanged.
Alarm Will Sound; Trinity Youth Chorus; PARTCH; PRISM Quartet
(Pernette’s inner journey: the walk up the scaffold; Vireo follows her, and the School Girls follow Vireo. Pernette in contemporary fact: In the courtroom on the witness stand. Raphael observes Vireo.)
You are under oath.
BOARDING SCHOOL GIRLS
What did you see you hear you say –
Saw me, yes
I would save you in the waiting
On the other side of sound
In the courtroom she was already walking waiting –
BOARDING SCHOOL GIRLS
Walking, waiting, walk, wait, what
What did she – ?
BOARDING SCHOOL GIRLS
Whirr, whirr, whirr, whirr...
She said as she said, as you say: When I stopped
(Vireo and the Girls spin.)
BOARDING SCHOOL GIRLS, VIREO
Whirr, whirr, whirr, whirr...
When I set my labor down
Space for your enjambment
The law: climbing rhyme
PERNETTE + VIREO
A very great height
(Vireo faints. The Girls faint.)
Don’t you faint Constrain or page apart Heart be strict
About what you hear
(Waking; to Pernette.)
That’s a lot of fainting.
Get her back to her bed
In the boarding school,
Quiet as a fable read
She is always skipping ahead
Disguised as chapter
Keep her separate from the others
(A page apart)
(Raphael crosses with Vireo; Vireo and the girls exit. Raphael stares up at a yellow window, across which Vireo’s shadow passes.)
(Singing to herself.)
(Raphael thinks, decides, and hurries to a payphone. The sounds of coins dropping, and of touch-tone dialing. He has never used this machine. He shouts into the empty air, with his fists at his side.)
Hello, is Vireo there? I, uh, she knows me.
(The ghostly simulacrum of the dead accursed Cow enters and answers. A fist holding a phone comes through its mouth.)
She is starving to death
The teeth that haven’t fallen out
She breaks out
She wears false teeth
And she is not receiving
How can you be answering the phone if you’re a cow?
I am singing
Cow, dead cow
My milk is time telephone, telephone
My milk is time telephone
(The Cow dances off. Pernette is back in the witness stand, but distracted. There is now an audience of Vireo’s peers from school. Pernette is looking up at the window.)
(Raphael sings up to Vireo.)
Wishing won’t charm
The bird from the clock
But it’s been the hour of one
Now it’s a minute to two
One to two of us
I won’t ask where one
Bird, do you love me?
Only time will tell
Don’t ring the hour, I’ll hear no gong or chime
Sing our love from your bower, it’s time, it’s time
Again one is ringing
Two begins with your singing
Girl, lend your song to my hurt.
Alight – exhausted
Human throat bare
All open rictus
All open rictus
(He calls the press.)
Thesis thesis application whereof thereby
Nolo nolo nolo laudanum
And I want all the world to know my love thereby
(The stage clears. A rope drops and Vireo climbs it.)
Climbing the ladder of her hair.
(Vireo drops into her bed. A girl appears beside her. The girl resembles Vireo – a weaker twin.)
Ah! Ah! Where did you come from?
Where did I come from?
Are you from the school? Why haven’t I seen you before?
(The next two lines simultaneous.)
What’s your name?
What’s my name?
Can I call you Caroline?
My name is Caroline.
(They shake hands.)
I hear voices.
I do too. The other girls - they don’t know. I’m taken to a room, and a crowd looks at me. The girls are kept the next room over.
(Raphael enters and puts his eye to the keyhole.)
Do they touch you, when they examine you?
When they touch me the hearing stops.
Raphael is listening at the door. He talks about us.
To the press. He writes for newspapers. To help with tuition. He loves us. You testify tomorrow? In front of the secret court?
Give him something. Name a witch.
I said her name.
More. More. Say she is a which.
She doesn’t have any money.
I don’t want to tell you anymore, but I want you to understand this -
I saw you. Climbing. Her hair. What did you hear? Are you a witch?
(A bell rings.)
Then say it. Jump.
(Pernette appears at a height, hanged. Her long hair hangs down to the bed; Caroline jumps and hangs from it, swinging in time with the bells.)
Pernette is a witch! Pernette is a witch!
(Vireo jumps and joins her.)
My conspirator. My resistor. My sister.
(Raphael stands up from the keyhole.)
As I saw it, they were kissing.
(Pernette’s eyes close and her head falls to one side. The Cow enters and sings with her.)
Hung from a very great height
I was in the world and of the world
I never said to hate it
(Flashes from gunpowder cameras.)
Look, look, look
The eye is drawn as to a fallen dollar
It is right I am rich
There is no accidental money
Look we found a witch
(Then Vireo and Caroline drop. Pernette’s eyes open; she addresses Vireo, Caroline and the Crowd.)
Why have you done this to me? What, I wonder, I truly wonder, are you doing? So woefully, so diligently together?
What do you do?
You play, all the way through
You play the gesture all the way through
Vireo begins this episode in a 16th-century courtroom where she has been called to testify against Pernette as a witch. Time is starting to blur in her mind. Perhaps the trial is real, or perhaps the Doctor is simply attempting another means of investigation into her visions and hysteria. As the tension mounts, Vireo breaks down and the Doctor sends her back to boarding school with instructions to get some rest before returning to finish her testimony.
Unbeknownst to the Doctor, his assistant, Raphael, has developed a crush on Vireo. He follows her back to school and begins spying on Vireo and her friends. Calling from a payphone outside, Raphael calls Vireo to a window and finally reveals the full depth of his infatuation. He stands below the window singing of his undying love. Vireo ignores him and goes inside to lie down.
Suddenly, falling into Vireo’s bed from out of the sky, a dark-haired girl bounces off the mattress and into Vireo’s life. This is Caroline. She hears voices, she’s getting examined too, she knows all about Vireo, she likes to cause pain, and she wants to find and burn more witches. They immediately bond, and Caroline counsels Vireo to testify against Pernette.
After listening to Caroline, Vireo returns to the trial and condemns Pernette before returning to school.
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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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The Vireo Guide
"Vireo" takes place in multiple time periods and locations. Here's a rundown of each episode.
Initially inspired by composer Lisa Bielawa's senior essay on the same subject, "Vireo" explores the history of the treatment of young women through song and symbols. Take a look at seven symbols inside "Vireo."
Composer Lisa Bielawa said that the locations did at times influence her writing of "Vireo". Here are seven of the unusual locations used in "Vireo" and how they helped this opera take shape.
This opera's time-hopping storyline and double-duty characters may leave some viewers wondering what's happening, so we laid out the major characters that shape "Vireo."
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