THE FACE was composed by Donald Crockett (Chair of Composition, USC) in 2008 while on a Guggenheim Fellowship and completed in 2010. The libretto is based on “The Face” a novella in verse written by David St. John (Professor of English, USC) and published by Harper-Collins.
Set in Venice Beach, THE FACE is a deeply compelling story about the price of fame, desire and creativity. The central character, a once famous poet named Raphael, struggles with the recent loss of his lover/muse, while juggling the demands of a movie being made about his life and his increasing notoriety. The narrative is both passionate and raw in its candor, offering an insightful view of the human condition as experienced by an artist/poet.
THE FACE is a multidisciplinary chamber opera (featuring music, film and choreography), which was conceived of and created by USC composer - Donald Crockett and USC poet David St. John. The artistic team for the production includes the innovative Parisian stage director/film maker, Paul Desveaux and renowned European choreographer, Yano Iatrides.
THE FACE features an exceptional international cast including acclaimed British tenor, Daniel Norman as Raphael, American lyric baritone, Thomas Meglioranza as the movie producer Memphis, mezzo soprano Janna Baty as the director, Infanta and the talented young Australian soprano Jane Sheldon as the actress Cybele.
The opera is set in Venice, CA in present day and is centered on the making of a film about a poet’s life and work. Many of the scenes take place either on a studio set where the film is being shot or in the Venice Beach area. The central character, RAPHAEL (a once famous poet and writer), has suffered a series of personal crises in his life including the loss of his soul mate and muse, MARINA, several years earlier. INFANTA is a talented director/filmmaker who has convinced Raphael to participate in the making of a movie about his life. Infanta is collaborating on the project with her mentor, the well-known producer MEMPHIS. A young and ambitious actress, CYBELE, is cast by Infanta in the role of Marina for the movie. (While Marina is a central figure in the dramatic context of the work, she appears to the audience solely on film, which is rear projected from the stage during the opera).
In the process of making the movie, Raphael becomes increasingly unbalanced as he relives the traumatic loss of Marina. Simultaneously he is both enticed and un-nerved by his developing relationship with the young actress Cybele who plays Marina so convincingly in the movie. Tensions also arise between Infanta and Cybele as a web of intertwining personal relationships evolves between the characters. Always observing and often engineering these complex interactions is the producer - Memphis (a Mephistopheles-like character) who plays a critical role in Raphael’s demise. The highly successful release of the film coincides with Raphael's emotional and physical collapse as the grueling process finally takes its toll on him. In the closing scene of the opera Raphael in an ambiguous state of being, euphorically reconnects with his touchstone Marina.