Whispering Pines 10 is a one-act opera by artist Shana Moulton in collaboration with composer Nick Hallett, and featuring vocalist Daisy Press. It features a live performance by Moulton as her alter ego Cynthia, a hypochondriac agoraphobe prone to colorful hallucinations and absurd fantasies. While Cynthia seeks health and total happiness within her virtual environment—an interactive video set that utilizes real-time multimedia techniques its creators call “live animation”—she usually settles for fad cures and new-age kitsch, creating situations in turn comic, contemplative, and surreal. This new production of the opera is directed by Elyse Singer.
Whispering Pines is the celebrated video serial created by Moulton in 2002 that has previously spawned nine episodes, along with related performances, videos, and gallery installations. Whispering Pines 10—the latest installment—is an innovative performance hybrid that incorporates elements of traditional opera into contemporary video and performance art. Its premise—a woman alone in her private environment, aided by technology—enables a flexible sensibility wherein popular and experimental forms can mingle. The original music and libretto composed by Hallett takes advantage of the narrative’s dream logic to weave what is essentially a pop music vocabulary into an experimental idiom, enabling a virtuosic exploration of the human voice. As the protagonist does not effectively speak, the sounds of her inner psychology are sung—glossolalia and the songs in her memory, ostensibly derived from tacky pulp culture, but somehow heightened. The work is a conversation-generating update of the monodrama or “mad scene,” realized within a mediated, medicated, feminized, and quintessentially American vernacular.