A Little Girl Dreams of Taking the Veil
A chamber opera by Erling Wold based on the Max Ernst collage
Reve dune Petit Fille Qui Voulut Entrer Au Carmel as translated into English by his wife Dorothea Tanning
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A Little Girl Dreams of Taking the Veil was first published in Paris in 1930, and has been adapted by Wold and poet Carla Harryman. The novel uses Victorian penny novel visual motifs and captions as the basis for its construction, and explores the non-rational but very real world of religious ecstasy and erotic desire.
Through the contrived dream of a little girl, the opera investigates a number of issues including feminism and the patriarchal dominance of the Church; erotic fantasy and the dream body; and questions of gender, social revolution, and the constantly changing inner dynamics of the psyche. The cast portray a myriad of characters within the dream-world of the little girl, Spontanette, exposing a shadow land of post-Edwardian repression and desire.
The opera interweaves the events of the little girls dream with a surrealist narrative about the circumstances surrounding the dream, including an allusion to rape, which the fanciful child transforms into a fantastic prize: the opportunity for her first communion:
". . . at
age seven and through the savagery of an ignoble individual
she lost her virginity. It happened on the very day that
first communion was refused her: she was too young, as
her milk teeth proved. The individual, not content with
having forced her, broke all her teeth with an incredible
ferocity and by means of a large stone. Then she came
back and said to the Reverend Father Denis Dulac Dessalé
while showing him her bloody mouth: "now I can take communion,
I have no more milk teeth".
The dream itself has four stages or acts, indicated by the novels chapter headings: "The Tenebreuse", "The Hair", "The Knife" and "The Celestial Bridegroom".
Cast: 2 sopranos,
1 tenor, 1 male actor, 1 female actor
7 piece ensemble: flute, clarinet, horn, percussion, piano, viola and cello.
Running time: one act,
approx. 61 min.
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