clips of the workshop presentation: www.famoustheopera.com
Sunday, November 11th, 2007
Osher Salon, San Francisco Conservatory of Music
Music by David Conte
Libretto by John Stirling Walker
based on the book "Famous for Fifteen Minutes: My Years with Andy Warhol" by Ultra Violet
Famous presents a series of impressions from the life of Isabelle Dufresne ("UltraViolet" in Andy Warhol's Factory), in eight scenes that are intended to convey something of the spirit of her development from her childhood in France through her encounters with Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol, and Edie Sedgwick in America, to her return to her family, where she has a transformative encounter with her own past and with the Old Testament prophet Isaiah.
For more information, see Ultra Violet's website.
Famous is in two short acts of four scenes each, the first act preceded by a prologue. In the prologue we see Isabelle alone at her desk, beginning to tell her story. In the first scene, we see Isabelle and Andy on the night of the Moon landing in 1969. Andy withdraws from the public event, referring to his fear of being in public after having been shot. A liaison between Isabelle and a Rock Star coincides with the excitement of the crowd in Central Park at man's first stepon the Moon.
In the second scene, a "flashback", we meet Edie Sedgwick, the vulnerable young beauty who moves Isabelle with her life story and asks about her encounter with Dali. This scene segues into scene three, a further "flashback" to Dali's and Isabelle's first meeting, where they paint together a model, Dali rendering her as a Madonna, Isabelle as a nun in the throes of sexual passion; the scene concludes with her introduction by Dali to Warhol, and with another segue, to a surrealistic first act finale with Warhol and his entourage in the Factory.
The second act's first scene is a ballet depicting Isabelle's youth in a convent, where she witnesses a sexual encounter between the Mother Superior and a priest disguised as a nun, and then suffers an exorcism, with her parents standing by. Its second scene has Isabelle, after the Warhol years, at home trying to reconcile with her mother, who is distant and conservative. In the third scene of the second act, Isabelle confronts the way in which her acts of adultery have harmed the wives of her sexual partners. In the final scene, then, she experiences redemption in an encounter with Isaiah and with the spirit of Edie Sedgwick, the former singing of "sins as red as scarlet being made as white as snow", the latter of the history of the exploitation of youth. The opera ends in a touching scene of reconciliation, at last, between mother and daughter in the spirit of their homeland.