Text adapted by Jeremy Gill from the play of the same name by Don Nigro. Used with permission of the author.
There are four characters in Letters from Quebec to Providence in the Rain whose relationships are revealed as the opera unfolds. Three of the characters—Petrus, Jonathan, and Marianne—are introduced via musical ideas that follow them throughout the opera. Petrus is associated with a simple melody that he sings at the beginning of the opera (“I’ve found some letters in this old book”). The deranged Jonathan’s “mad” music is full of strident leaps and is strongly spiced with sevenths and seconds. Marianne enters the drama not by singing but by humming to herself; the majority of her music is light and happy, colored with thirds and sixths.
Vanessa (a young writer who awakens one morning in Quebec to find her companion, Petrus, musing over some letters he’s found in an old book) doesn’t have any characteristic motif or intervals. Rather, she borrows from each of the other characters, and often inverts their ideas. Thus, she echoes Petrus’s simple tune by inverting it (“You’ve found some letters in an old book”), and when remembering her time with Marianne in Providence, she harmonically inverts Marianne’s happy music. At another point, she takes over Jonathan’s mad music entirely. The entire opera is a journey of self-discovery for her, as she discovers and recalls her recent past by exploring the lives and memories of the people around her.
The opera is very brief (only 20 minutes long), but is quite dense: a whodunnit, love triangle, and tale of revenge all in one. The libretto is adapted from a short play by Don Nigro, a modern master of the American theater.