Premiere: October 10, 2021, Triptyque — Mécénat Musica Prix 3 Femmes, Montréal (Québec)

Synopsis

A proud, recently retired woman and her adult daughter square-off in a grand but faded Montréal apartment. It’s a familiar and tiresome routine for the two of them, but today their complex give-and-take will open a door to an entirely unexpected, terrifying, and potentially wondrous future neither are fully ready to enter. Vanishing Point is a 30-minute opera for soprano and mezzo-soprano that I created in collaboration with composer Parisa Sabet. We have taken elements from our shared history as Iranian immigrants to craft a challenging piece of complex and nuanced emotional shifts, a whiplash of tenderness and bitterness, and a sober question of whether we can reframe a crisis into an opportunity to show up fully present for someone we love even as we watch them slip away. Densely crafted around themes of loss, migration, and unresolved trauma, it asks audiences to bring their attention, patience, and empathy to an emotional canvas that is perhaps uncommon in traditional opera.

We have designed this piece as a vehicle exclusively for BIPOC performers. Tonight, Dr. J. Marchand Knight and Fredericka Petit-Homme will embody two women who, like many Iranian immigrants to North America, resist aligning themselves with any simple and reductive category—especially when facing the universal challenges and heartbreak of the loss of identity through dementia.

— Nika Khanjani

Programme note

Nika Khanjani (the librettist) and I were both raised in an Iranian family; one in the United states and the other in Iran. While one feels more American, the other feels more Iranian. However throughout the creation process, we realized that we have a lot in common in our upbringing. These shared experiences were pivotal in developing both the storyline and designing a musical language of our first opera, Vanishing Point.

A shared experience that found its way in our opera was one’s internal emotions versus what is expressed (which might be familiar to some in the audience). For each emotion, I composed a distinct musical theme that appears in various forms and shapes throughout the opera. However, the challenge was to find out how effectively these musical themes (emotions) can co-exist, transform, and respond to each other in order to musically translate layers of emotions that the two characters are experiencing at each given time and communicate them with the audience.

Weaved into the piece are elements of Iranian traditional music including an original lullaby, sung by Sara and Aida at the end of the opera.

— Parisa Sabet

Nika Khanjani, Parisa Sabet [x-21]

Performance