Kept: A Ghost Story

New opera premieres at the Virginia Arts Festival in Norfolk.

Ill-fated lovers, dark secrets and a Gothic 19th century backdrop are de rigueur for many a blockbuster or streaming smash hit—and the formula, it seems for a successful opera. Composer-librettist team Kristin Kuster and Megan Levad combine music and an eerie setting with their new opera, Kept: A Ghost Story, and the result is thrilling.

The opera was developed with the John Duffy Institute for New Opera, a Virginia Arts Festival program that provides new composer-librettist teams with professional mentorship and producing partners to bring their projects to full production. Kept began with an idea Kuster had after visiting the Old Presque Isle Lighthouse in Michigan and heard, among the many ghost stories of the lighthouse, a story about the keeper who according to legends and rumor had locked his wife in the cellar for reasons unknown. Kuster and Levad both found the story intriguing—“it was haunting,” Kuster says with a laugh.

“I’m a believer in writing from questions,” says Levad. “And for me the question was, how does this happen?”

In an attempt to answer this question, Levad’s libretto centers around a willful and passionate young woman who marries a lighthouse keeper. Over the course of the opera [do we know the running time?], the two characters are entangled by shame and mutual distrust, culminating in a dramatic crescendo that tears them apart. The opera, which is the fourth collaboration between Kuster and Lovad, premieres at the Virginia Arts Festival May 25 and May 28, at Attucks Theatre in Norfolk.


For the Virginia Arts Festival schedule of events and performances, go to VaFest.org

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