She Lost Her Voice That's How We Knew
chamber opera in multiple voices for solo performer

Composed by Frances White for the voice of Kristin Norderval with libretto and direction by Valeria Vasilevski.
Costume design by Zuzka

excerpt (3.3MG)
complete (100.8MG)

Technical Requirements


Music Theater | Home

chamber opera in multiple voices for solo performer

Composed by Frances White
Written and Directed by Valeria Vasilevski
Performed by Kristin Norderval
Costume design by Zuzka

Commissioned by Pen and Bush with funds provided by the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, and additional funds from The Guggenheim Foundation for Frances White and Norsk kulturråd (Statens kunstnerstipend) for Kristin Norderval.

She Lost Her Voice That's How We Knew is a Reduta Deux production.

44' duration
solo voice and electronic sound
electronic score and vocal line inspired by traditional Shakuhachi songs of mourning
staging based on mudras (hand positions) found in Japanese Buddhist statues
costume reflects Asian influence, iconography of Christian saints, play of light

Program Note
She Lost Her Voice That's How We Knew is a true collaboration. Personal conversations between Kristin Norderval (the performer), Valeria Vasilevski (the librettist), and myself (Frances White, the composer) created the basis for the libretto, the sonic landscape, and the staging. The main issue addressed in these conversations was the loss of one's voice. Small fragments from many different stories made their way into the libretto, and though the details were different, they all followed a similar trajectory of silencing - each new voice though telling a new story was also telling the same story, each one taking up where the last left off. The result is a work that is very personal, but, we hope, also open to the larger and more universal issues that are implied by the idea of this loss. While there is no explicit, linear narrative, the piece does form an interior drama, from which a definite persona emerges. This persona has multiple voices: an inner voice, and the voice of memory; the public voice vs. private voice; a spoken voice, a singing voice, and a silenced voice, among others. There is also the sense of multiple listeners, hearing these various voices. The music is composed very specifically for Kristin. Much of the electronic material is derived from recordings of her singing and speaking, and I used various computer tools to analyze her voice so that the vocal writing follows her sonic "fingerprint". The music takes a very direct emotional approach to the text. In music, words, and movement, we strive to make a piece that is passionately, deeply personal, but still leaves room for the audience to find their own meanings within it.

Frances White



photo photo photo photo

The costume for She Lost Her Voice That's How We Knew is designed by the Czech designer Zuzka in three layers, with the middle layer woven from Luminex fiber optic material. In full light the Luminex fabric does not appear to be lit, but when worn in darkness the performer disappears into the light of the costume.



Frances White composes instrumental and electronic music. She studied composition at the University of Maryland, Brooklyn College, and Princeton University. She has received awards, honors, grants, and commissions from organizations such as Prix Ars Electronica (Linz, Austria), the Institut International de Musique Electroacoustique de Bourges (France), the International Computer Music Association, Hungarian Radio, ASCAP, the Bang On A Can Festival, the Other Minds Festival, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, the Dale Warland Singers, the American Music Center, and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. She has received resident artist fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and the Djerassi Resident Artists Program. Ms. White's music can be heard on CD on the Wergo, Centaur, Nonsequitur, and Harmonia Mundi labels. Recently, Ms. White's music was featured as part of the soundtrack of Gus Van Sant's award-winning film Elephant. Ms. White studies the shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute), and finds that the traditional music of this instrument informs and influences her work as a composer. Much of Ms. White's music is inspired by her love of nature, and her electronic works frequently include natural sound recorded near her home in central New Jersey.

Kristin Norderval is a singer, improviser and composer. Profiled by The New York Times in "Downtown Divas Expand their Horizons", and hailed as one of "new music's best" by the Village Voice, she has premiered and developed numerous new works for the stage, performing them at festivals and venues throughout the world from New York's Lincoln Center to Havanna, Cuba, to the Norwegian Arctic. Her collaborations have included work with choreographers, sculptors, filmmakers and installation artists and her credits include performances with the Netherlands Dance Theater, the San Francisco Symphony and the Philip Glass Ensemble. She was honored with a Norwegian artist's stipend for 2004 and 2005 to develop new work that stands in the intersection between opera, performance and theater. She Lost Her Voice That's How We Knew is one of those works.

Writer/Director Valeria Vasilevski has her roots deep in the theater, extending back to original work with Polish director, Jerzy Grotowski and evolving through Performance Art, Dance Theater, Music Theater and, at present, Concert Theater. Her article on Concert Theater, "Pioneering a New Form or Putting a Dress on a Tree?" appears in the Yale Theater Review. Support for her work has come from the NEA, NYSCA, MOCA, The Ford, Greenwall and Rockefeller Foundations, Asian Cultural Council, AfroPop, Fulbright, IREX, Cary Trust, ASCAP and The American Society of Arts and Letters. Her next collaboration is a music/theater exploration of the Japanese Diamond/Womb Mandala with composer Neil Rolnick, and a dance theater premiere with Larry Goldhuber, a former member of the Bill T. Jones company.

Zuzka enjoys a well respected profile in the international couture & home furnishings design community. Her wildly imaginative combinations of color, texture and artful design have captivated a loyal following in the world's finest stores from Milan to New York. It is only logical, that she would partner with the innovative Luminex@Italy team to develop and distribute the next, literally electric expression of color and light.



April 28, 2006, Muziekgebouw, Amsterdam, Holland
February 7, 2006, Aktionsradius Augarten, Vienna, Austria
July 7, 2005, Rubin Museum of Art, New York, NY
June 23, 2005, Feminist Theory & Music 8, New York, NY
December 1, 2004, Akademi for Scenekunst, Fredrikstad, Norway
November 20, 2004, Festival d'Òpera de Butxaca I Noves Creacions/NewOp 2004, Barcelona, Spain
October 29 & 31, 2004, Pen & Brush, New York, NY


Technical Requirements
We use specially designed and custom built hemispherical speakers for playback of the electronic score for She Lost Her Voice That's How We Knew. These speakers allow for a natural acoustic mix of the electronic sounds with the un-amplified live voice of the performer.

The costume for She Lost Her Voice That's How We Knew is designed by the Czech designer Zuzka and is woven with Luminex fiber optic material. When this costume is worn in full light the fabric does not appear to be lit, but when worn in darkness the performer disappears into the light of the costume.

The ideal performance space for She Lost Her Voice That's How We Knew is an intimate space with good concert acoustics for unamplified voice and the possibility for both full spot-lighting and a total blackout.

Equipment needs: CD playback, amplifier, speaker cables, basic lighting system

The hemispherical speakers have 1/4" female connectors, can handle 4 - 8 ohm and are unpowered.