July 7, 2023

Sci-Fi and Science: What stories are attracting grant funding?

"Astronaut Jessica Meir, who participated in the first all-female spacewalk in 2019, is one of the only people on or off the planet to have played her high school piccolo on the International Space Station. Her melody of choice? The theme from Star Wars, of course. Back on Earth, composer Jennifer Jolley, who heard that performance, is turning Meir’s famous walk into an opera in seven vignettes, one for each hour of the NASA broadcast that accompanied the walk.

Space exploration has been top of mind in Amer­ican culture lately, with the recent explosive launch of the SpaceX rocket in April, talk of Mars expeditions, and wealthy business owners fly­ing to the stars. Perhaps it’s no coincidence, then, that several of the collaborative teams that earned Discovery Grants from OPERA Amer­ica are developing operas set among the stars or writing librettos exploring science fiction concepts of the future.

Jolley and librettist Hai-Ting Chinn are in the early stages of develop­ing Spacewalk, but she says the flute will feature prom­inently in the orchestration as a nod to Meir. “The opera is about celebrat­ing this historic moment and how much expertise these women demonstrated,” Jol­ley says. “I’m just in awe of that.”"

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