One Art: an opera/cabaret
What do you do if you are a person who keeps losing things? Well, you could become very good at it, then write a poem so the rest of us can profit from your experiences…
By the age of 5, poet Elizabeth Bishop had lost her father, mother, and any sense of belonging. Over a lifetime of travel, adventure, writing, and…drinking, she managed to gain and lose lovers, houses, even entire continents. In the process she left us many poetic masterpieces, including her famous villanelle, One Art, an ode to the ‘art of losing.’
One Art takes the form of a one-woman narrative cabaret/opera, where we learn of Bishop’s struggles with alcohol, mental illness (both her own and that of two of her lovers, Lota de Macedo Soares and ‘Miss XY’) and the self doubt that plagued her entire career, even after being appointed Poet Laureate and winning a Pulitzer. Composer Paula M. Kimper set Bishop’s poetry into unaccompanied art songs, which soprano Laure Meloy and cabaret artist Brigitte Baden-Rennie framed with letters and other biographical detail to create a portrait of Bishop’s life that is in turns sad, funny, and a reminder to all of us that great art is often wrested from great heartbreak.