A mini-opera by Matti Kovler, from the point of view of St. Catherine of Siena, exploring her graphic vision of her own posthumous decapitation in her own words.
Jordan Hall performance (_best audio quality)
Ariadne Greif, soprano
Tomas Cruz, countertenor
Denexxel Domingo, clarinet
Yoni Draiblate, cello
Michael Roberts, vibraphone
Sarah Fylak, electronics
Growing up in Moscow, one of the most memorable (and terrifying) experiences of my childhood was the annual trip to the Mausoleum -- a black tomb not unlike the tombs of the Egyptian Pharaohs, in which the Soviet communists preserved the body of Vladimir Lenin. The image of the mummified Lenin bathed in a yellowish glow, surrounded by plastic flowers, remains ingrained in my memory.
I had a similarly chilling, yet somehow thrilling experience this past summer when I encountered the mummified head of St. Catherine in the Basilica San Domenico in Siena. Even though it dates from 1383, with the right angle and a trick of light we imagine the beautiful woman Catherine once was. St. Catherine, who believed herself to be the bride of Jesus, died of starvation at the age of thirty-three and was buried in Rome. Her head was cut off, stolen from its Roman grave by her fellow Sienese, who wished to bury St. Catherine in her native city.
The text for this work is based on St. Catherine’s last letter, written in 1377. Catherine, who at this point had nearly starved herself to death, describes an hallucination – likely a clinical death experience. Despite the subject matter, the text of this letter conveys something rather naive, even joyful, in the voice of a young girl, who is ready to except death playfully. As if predicting the future, Caterina (voiced by Ariadne Greif) talks about her own head, separated from her body.