Eugene resident and budding composer Ashley Hastings will present his second chamber opera, The Dream, on July 24, in a workshop production at Emmaus Lutheran Church. Hastings, creator of the music, the story and the libretto, is one of the founders of Cabaletta Productions, a local company established in 2021 that’s focused on creating new musical works and circulating recent ones.
The workshop production will feature artists singing to piano accompaniment, but will not use costumes and scenery like a full opera production.
The one-act opera’s story is set in the studio apartment of Penny Pensive, a fiction author experiencing writer’s block. By crossing the lines between reality and dreams, the plot centers on Pensive’s ambiguous encounter with her book’s main character, Verity Semper.
The cast includes soprano/mezzo-soprano Emily Pulley, starring as Pensive; soprano Jocelyn Claire Thomas as Semper; and pianist Nathalie Fortin. Pulley, a nationally and internationally recognized artist, is joined by Claire Thomas, a talented musician and performer on the West Coast. Fortin is a Eugene pianist who has participated in festivals and competitions inside and outside the U.S.
Hastings, a 79-year-old retired linguistics professor and previous volunteer and board member at Eugene Opera, reached out to the artists. He knew them; he had met them during his years at the opera.
The Dream is not Hastings’s first opera production. Last March he and the company workshopped his Free Men to a sold-out house.
“Everybody was kind enough to accept my offer, my request, so that’s how the team came together,” Hastings says. The dream team, as he calls it, became a materialized dream. Pulley has participated in new performances throughout her career and enjoys being part of the creative process. In Fortin’s case, she always had a keen interest in new music and working with living composers.
When a composer and performers work together, Fortin says, “it makes the whole piece come so much more alive. I love helping creators to bring more interesting repertoire to the world.”
The Dream promises to instill mysteries and create doubts with its story, all to the rhythm of harmonious notes and the masterful voices of established artists in the music industry.
“I think it is absolutely full of existentialist questions,” Pulley says.
Due to the small number of scenographic resources required for the performance, the team agrees that The Dream is transportable and would be perfect to show in informal settings such as vineyards. “This would be a good way to introduce opera to people that don’t get a chance to go to opera,” Fortin says.
There is work, planning and purposes in this project. Why is it being presented independently and not at Eugene Opera? The established company has, after all, put on chamber operas.
“This is not the kind of show that Eugene Opera would normally undertake as part of the season,” Hastings says. “It is much smaller. I don’t think Eugene Opera tends to do works by unknown composers.”
Ticket revenue will not cover all the workshop expenditures, including the rates paid to the artists and other workers. Cabaletta Productions, founded by the composer and his wife, will cover the remaining costs.
Cabaletta Productions’ The Dream is 4 pm Sunday, July 24, at Emmaus Lutheran Church, 1250 W. 18th Avenue. Tickets are $12 at CabalettaProductions.com.