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Work: Carmilla (adapted for the stage)

Identifier: WORK.1970.0007
Creation Date: 1970
Description: True to Le Fanu's story, the piece gives us an angelic, fair-haired young girl named Laura who comes face to face with a mysterious, raven-haired girl named Carmilla when the latter arrives at her door, injured from a carriage accident. Both women are 18, but recognize each other from a sensuous, vampiresque dream Laura had at age six. Projected titles introduce the audience to incidents from Laura's life. Wilford Leach's libretto, written in a prosy, conversational tone, inches the girls through shadowy realms of terror and infatuation. A stationary setting with background projections lends an eerie aesthetic. It is bathed in Jack Coddington's beautiful film - a slow suffusion of desperate, dreadful, sometimes libidinous images - which serves as a window into their minds. During one of Carmilla's many tours, the L.A. Times (Dan Sullivan) called the work "an exquisite study of love as defined by the spider".
The work was written, rehearsed, orchestrated, and premiered during a six-week period in the fall of 1970. The composer, Ben Johnston, was in Urbana, IL, at the time, so music and new script installments were exchanged by airmail every three days. "Carmilla" was written to be part of a La MaMa tour to Europe that was to start at the Theatre Vueux-Colombie in Paris. Originally, a different piece had been planned, but Nancy Heikin, who was trained as a dancer, had to have a knee operation. It then became necessary to create a piece in which at least one of the leading characters could remain seated throughout. Composer Ben Johnston, now revered as a major American classical composer, was already well-known when he was commissioned to write the score for the ETC Company.
Related Entities
Wilford Leach (adapter)
The ETC Company of La MaMa (related to)
Jack Coddington (contributor)
Ben Johnston (music)
Related Work
Related Collection