Works

Second Nature

2015 / An opera in one act

Synopsis

It’s a hundred years from now. The human race has paid a steep price for our wanton destruction of the environment: climate change has wreaked havoc worldwide, causing the oceans to flood and temperatures to rise to unbearable levels. Most of our species has been wiped out, but a small group of survivors took shelter in what was once a zoo: they’ve made this former zoo into an airtight “habitat,” which has become a sealed-off, authoritarian society.

Elder Constance, the society’s leader, informs her advisors, Elizabeth and David, that the law which forbids any inhabitant to leave the Habitat has become permanent. They had hoped to be able to go outside again, she says, but it’s just not worth the danger of dealing with Nature again.

Two kids, Lydia and Jake, overhear this pronouncement, and react with anger and frustration. (Lydia is David’s daughter, and Jake is Elizabeth’s son.) They’ve been waiting their whole lives to go outside, and now it looks like they’ll never get the chance.

The Bonobo, a giant ape who lives in the exhibit next door, suddenly addresses them. Lydia and Jake are shocked that the Bonobo can speak; the Bonobo says wearily that he’s “learned your language through overexposure.” The Bonobo hints that he has secrets to tell the kids…

…but the Elder bursts back in and furiously reprimands the kids for talking to the Bonobo. She summons their parents, whom she humiliates. When Elder Constance leaves, Lydia and Jake ask their parents what she’s so worried about.

Elizabeth and David tell their children, finally, the true story of how they ended up in the Habitat. They’d always told their kids that human beings wanted to seal themselves off from Nature, but now they guiltily admit that they had to flee to save their lives.

When their parents leave, Lydia and Jake argue about whether it’s worth running away to try to see what Nature’s like (Lydia votes yes, but the idea freaks Jake out). The Bonobo interrupts them, and offers them something he’s been illegally growing in his exhibit: real fruit, which is totally unlike the synthetic food the kids have grown up on.

Lydia tastes the fruit first, then offers it to Jake. They are overwhelmed by its freshness, its richness, its reality.

They hatch a plan to escape the Habitat: the adults dispose of the society’s trash by tossing it down a garbage chute, so the kids will jump down the chute. Lydia realizes it’s trash day, and the kids prepare to make their escape.

Elder Constance bursts back in. She’s livid when she sees the kids plotting with the Bonobo, but even more so when she sees that they’ve eaten real fruit. She seems almost devastated, in fact. She summons Elizabeth and David and tells them that their children must be banished.

Lydia and Jake say that was exactly what they were hoping for: they want to see what’s worth saving out in the real world. Elder Constance tries to change her tune and force them to stay – but Elizabeth and David stand up for their kids’ newfound bravery and curiosity. Bitterly, grudgingly, Elder Constance agrees to let the kids free.

For the first time in their lives, Lydia and Jake witness the main door of the Habitat being opened. Slowly but surely, they make their way out into the world.

 

Read the review at the Chicago Tribune 

Read Matthew Aucoin’s Chicago Tribune profile

Music Academy of the West – Second Nature

WFMT – Aucoin on Second Nature


Details

An opera in one act
Category:Chamber Opera
Year Composed:2015
Duration:1 Hour
Language: English
Soloist:3Mz, T, B-bar
Orchestration:vn/cl/pf
Publisher:Associated Music Publishers Inc
Text Writer: the composer
Past Performances

19 AUG 2015
Second Nature – World Premiere
Lincoln Park Zoo
Chicago, IL
Lyric Opera of Chicago
Matthew Aucoin, conductor
20 AUG 2015
Second Nature
Lincoln Park Zoo
Chicago, IL
Lyric Opera of Chicago
Matthew Aucoin, conductor
16 & 17 OCT 2015
Second Nature
Francis W. Parker School
Chicago, IL
Lyric Opera of Chicago
Robert McConnell, conductor
19 OCT 2015
Second Nature
Senn High School
Chicago, IL
Lyric Opera of Chicago
Robert McConnell, conductor
20 OCT 2015
Second Nature
Governors State University
University Park, IL
Lyric Opera of Chicago
Robert McConnell, conductor
22 OCT 2015
Second Nature
Multicultural Academy of Scholarship High School
Chicago, IL
Lyric Opera of Chicago
Robert McConnell, conductor
26 OCT 2015
Second Nature
Curie Metro High School
Chicago, IL
Lyric Opera of Chicago
Robert McConnell, conductor
27 OCT 2015
Second Nature
Lake View High School
Chicago, IL
Lyric Opera of Chicago
Robert McConnell, conductor
28 OCT 2015
Second Nature
Waukegan High School
Waukegan, IL
Lyric Opera of Chicago
Robert McConnell, conductor
2 NOV 2015
Second Nature
Barrington High School
Barrington, IL
Lyric Opera of Chicago
Robert McConnell, conductor
3 NOV 2015
Second Nature
Addison Trail High School
Addison, IL
Lyric Opera of Chicago
Robert McConnell, conductor
5 NOV 2015
Second Nature
Evanston Township High School
Evanston, IL
Lyric Opera of Chicago
Robert McConnell, conductor
9 NOV 2015
Second Nature
Misericordia Home
Chicago, IL
Lyric Opera of Chicago
Robert McConnell, conductor
10 NOV 2015
Second Nature
North Central College
Naperville, IL
Lyric Opera of Chicago
Robert McConnell, conductor
12 NOV 2015
Second Nature
Lindblom Math & Science Academy
Chicago, IL
Lyric Opera of Chicago
Robert McConnell, conductor
13 NOV 2015
Second Nature
Lake Park High School
Roselle, IL
Lyric Opera of Chicago
Robert McConnell, conductor
17 NOV 2015
Second Nature
Jones College Prep High School
Chicago, IL
Lyric Opera of Chicago
Robert McConnell, conductor
19 NOV 2015
Second Nature
Chicago High School for the Arts
Chicago, IL
Lyric Opera of Chicago
Robert McConnell, conductor
20 NOV 2015
Second Nature
Andrew High School
Tinley Park, IL
Lyric Opera of Chicago
Robert McConnell, conductor
27 JUL 2016
Second Nature
Hahn Hall
Santa Barbara, CA
Vocal and instrumental fellows of the Music Academy of the West
Matthew Aucoin, conductor
Victoria Crutchfield, director
28 JUL 2016
Second Nature
Music Academy of the West
Santa Barbara, CA
Matthew Aucoin, conductor
NOV - DEC 2016
Second Nature
Schools and theaters in the Toronto area
Members of the Canadian Opera Company ensemble
Ashlie Corcoran, director
10 NOV 2016
Second Nature – Canada Premiere
Toronto, ON
Canadian Opera Company
18 NOV 2016
Second Nature
(Excerpt only: finale) The Colburn School
Los Angeles, CA
Young Artists from Los Angeles Opera
Musicians from The Colburn School
Reviewable Score