Writers, Opera, and Chitra Divakaruni’s River of Light

March 21, 2014, by

RIVER-art-newWhen we think of writers and the different mediums through which they share stories, we think of novels, memoirs, poems, perhaps even oral traditions. But do you ever think of opera?

Houston has a thriving literary community and one of the many ways writers are enhancing the cultural life of this city is through serving as librettists for the Houston Grand Opera.

The comingling of writers with the Opera has been going on for several years and Inprint is proud to be a part of it. In 2006, the Houston Grand Opera approached Inprint to identify a Houston writer who could develop and write a unique libretto for a main stage piece celebrating Houston’s diversity. The overall project was called “Song of Houston,” and the piece—for soloists, chorus, and orchestra—was called The Refuge. The writer was to spend months interviewing dozens of people in six different Houston immigrant communities, and then distill these stories into a libretto portraying the struggles to get to this country and adjust to life here in the United States. Inprint recommended Leah Lax, a UH Creative Writing Program (UH CWP) alumna, on the basis of her work teaching senior citizens for Inprint, and the piece was a great success, resulting in a major write-up in The New York Times.

Since then, Inprint has connected HGO with several Houston writers who have written libretti for original works commissioned by HGO, including Farnoosh Moshiri (The Bricklayer), Irene Keliher (A Way Home, a bilingual opera), Janine Joseph (From my Mother’s Mother), and Bao Long Chu (Bound)—all UH CWP alumni. Inprint also worked with the HGO staff to select Houston writers to teach writing workshops to senior citizens in the Third and Fifth Wards, which resulted in poems set to music by composers at UH and Rice—these teachers were also UH CWP graduate students. As a result of this partnership, Inprint Executive Director Rich Levy now serves on the HGO Community Outreach (HGOco) Committee, where he is helping the HGO staff to envision future collaborations with Houston area writers.

Now HGO is building on its success and continues to work with the city’s top writers.

As part of its Song of Houston: East + West series, HGOco is presenting River of Light with the libretto written by Houston writer Chitra Divakaruni. Amongst the literary community here, Chitra is a household name. Chitra, an American Book Award winner and faculty member at the UH Creative Writing Program, is the author of novels, short stories, and poems, including her latest novel Oleander Girl. Continue reading

Susan Cooper and the Battle between the Light and the Dark

March 13, 2014, by

RM2_4251Reading The Dark is Rising changed me. I was eleven years old, and I lived in Amarillo, a town known more for its empty vistas, feedyards, and tourist trap steakhouses than for its depth and mystery. In Amarillo—Houstonians, hold onto your seats, please—in Amarillo, it snows. Blizzards, even, slam down from the Rockies and beat the whitening world with a fury that seems like it will never cease. But, no highways shut down, no schools close. Amarilloans go about their merry way, as if they were Minnesotans.

So, being from Amarillo, snow was just snow until I read Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising. Afterward, snow was different, and so was everything else. Now, when I looked out at a white world, I sensed intense magic. And, when a frayed net of blackbirds dropped down into an elm, I glimpsed Will Stanton’s rooks, and I remembered, as in The Dark is Rising, that in every moment we are capable of great good and great evil. I remembered that there is a battle going on, and our actions matter.

And, so, it was with a flushed and reckless joy that I awaited the day that Susan Cooper was going to tell us about her new book Ghost Hawk at Inprint’s Cool Brains! reading. The weather that Sunday was gray and ominous, as is the weather in Susan Cooper’s books. As we waited for her to come to the podium, our anticipation of a cold front magnified the anticipation in the auditorium. Continue reading