Opera Philadelphia

The Creative Minds behind Sky on Swings

By Opera Philadelphia

In the Festival O18 program book, Composer Lembit Beecher and Director Joanna Settle reflect on the creation of Sky on Swings. Below are quotes from each of their program notes about the process, their discoveries, and what makes Sky on Swings so important.


"One of the unexpected joys of writing Sky on Swings was the realization that I had the opportunity to write music that could not be sung by younger singers. The wide range of sounds and subtleties of expression that Marietta and Flicka are able to create provided a wonderful sense of freedom for me as a composer as I searched for moments of both strength and vulnerability, and moments that could suggest in an expressive way the deterioration Alzheimer’s causes. This is particularly true of the Martha character, who is in a more progressed stage of the disease, and who vocalizes in a way that some Alzheimer’s patients do as they are losing the ability to speak. In the music of the orchestra and the four Elders, I wanted to create an unstable sonic world that is moving and shifting, as if one were aboard a large creaking ship, slowly rolling in the waves. Sometimes the music gets stuck on repeat, but mostly it keeps slipping through one's fingers, with recognizable phrases, gestures, and almost-remembered quotations appearing briefly before evaporating."

"More than five million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, and a new person is diagnosed with the disease every 66 seconds. More than 15 million Americans are unpaid caregivers of someone with Alzheimer’s. This opera wonders, aside from the tragedy of the disease for caregivers, what discovery might step into the space left by the degeneration of consciousness in the diagnosed.

If your attachments faded away, what might you find? If the things you hold certain, the rules of societal engagement, were lifted? What if you didn’t keep all your memories, but you did keep one. A single memory. The memory choosing you, reality begins to build around this randomly selected perception. From this seed, you build a new reality. What would it be?"


Read more from Lembit Beecher and Joanna Settle in the Festival O18 Program Book.

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