I created the concept and the libretto for Sycorax — an opera with music composed by Georg Friedrich Haas. This new opera had its world premiere in 2022 at Buehnen Bern theater, Switzerland. Mollena Williams played the title role of Sycorax. Directed by Giulia Giammona and designed by Anna Schottl and Axel Aust.
Review in OPERA Magazine, by Rose Dodd, November 2022: “Shakespeare’s The Tempest is deftly traced in Harriet Scott Chessman’s libretto, the purity in textual nuance underpinning a magical, post-colonial envisioning of this well-known story. Placed in a dystopian, mystical island setting, Chessman’s spare use of language is potent when paired with Haas’s magisterial blocks of texture and colour.”
OTHER RECENT INTERVIEWS and REVIEWS:
“Jonathan Berger’s My Lai – A Miniature Masterpiece,” review by Ralph P. Locke in Opera Album, May 24, 2023. Locke describes this opera as a “concise and highly imaginative work . . . deeply layered and devastating . . . an immersive, impressive operatic experience . . . Librettist Chessman, best known as a novelist (The Beauty of Ordinary Things, 2013, one of whose main characters is a Vietnam veteran), has crafted a tight, resonant tale based on the experience of Hugh Thompson, an army reconnaissance pilot who, with his two crewmen, attempted to stop the massacre . . . “
“It’s always heartening to encounter a new opera that, like Jeanine Tesori’s Blue, Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones, or Kevin Puts’s The Hours, feels like a keeper. Or, perhaps one would do better to compare Berger’s Mỹ Lai to ‘chamber-sized’ works from the distant or recent past, such as Monteverdi’s Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda, Schoenberg’s Pierrot lunaire, Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du soldat, Britten’s several chamber operas and parables, or the recently recorded A Picnic Cantata by Paul Bowles.”
Atelier Visit: Writer Harriet Scott Chessman (podcast, created by Mark Cunningham, Atelier26 press), February 13, 2023
“How A Former Academic Reinvented Herself as a Novelist,” by Rachel Toor (Chronicle of Higher Education, April 26, 2022)
MY LAI (libretto)
Smithsonian Folkways released the recording of My Lai on May 20, 2022. It is now available digitally, on a CD set (including the libretto and other material), and as a vinyl album. Commissioned by Kronos Performing Arts Association, with music composed by Jonathan Berger, My Lai is performed in this recording by Kronos Quartet, Vân-Ánh Vanessa Võ, and Rinde Eckert.
A concert version of My Lai was performed at Carnegie Hall on April 23, 2022.
Film: THE WHISTLEBLOWER OF MY LAI:
Directed and produced by Connie Field; produced and edited by Gregory Scharpen.
You can watch this film here. Clarity Films, 2019. “The film follows the Kronos Quartet’s production of Jonathan Berger and Harriet Chessman’s opera My Lai, which takes at its heart the actions and life of the whistleblower who revealed the 1968 massacre by U.S. troops in Vietnam.”