Peabody Chamber Opera presents

With Blood, With Ink

Opera in One Act by Daniel Crozier and Peter M. Krask

World Premiere Production

Miriam A. Friedberg Concert Hall
Peabody Conservatory of Music
Sunday, March 7, 1993

Gene Young, conductor
Roger Brunyate, director and set designer
John Lehmeyer, costume designer
Douglas Nelson, lighting designer

First Baltimore Revival

Theatre Project, Baltimore
Friday–Sunday, April 14–16, 2000

Laurence Devlin, conductor
Roger Brunyate, director and set designer
John Lehmeyer, costume designer
Craig A. Young, lighting designer

Synopsis of the Opera
Essay by Peter M. Krask
Opera at Peabody home


With Blood, With Ink dramatizes the visionary and tragic life of the 17th century Mexican nun and poet, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1648–95). One of six bastard children, Juana Inés made her way to the glittering Viceregal palace in Mexico City, where the self-taught prodigy dazzled the court with her beauty, brilliance, and intellectual virtuosity. Without a place in the confines of colonial society and unwilling to marry (or become a courtesan), Juana Inés joined a convent in an effort to maintain her career as a writer and intellectual. Over the next twenty years, Sor Juana cultivated a literary salon, served as a court advisor, published two volumes of secular poetry to international acclaim, argued for the education of women, and collected the largest library in the Americas—all from behind the cloister walls.

Hers was an extraordinary life; one bound to create enemies and foster bitterness. In 1693, it came to a stop. Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, the “Tenth Muse” and “Phoenix of America,” was forced by the Inquisition to sign an oath in blood renouncing her life’s work. Within two years—two years of silence— she was dead.

With Blood, With Ink explores this fascinating and heartbreaking life in nine continuous scenes, each of which is framed by textural and musical fragments of the Requiem mass. The novelty of the opera is the device of having two singers play Sor Juana simultaneously—one as the Dying Juana watching her life as if in a dream, and the other as Young Juana living that life. Throughout the opera, Dying Juana watches her younger self, through all of the years her memory can embrace, and attempts to warn and comfort this elusive shadow who cannot be physically reached until the opera’s climactic moment. Then, arms outstretched through the haze of years and memories, Dying Juana embraces her younger self with the words, “Enough of suffering, my love. Enough.” Reconciled to herself, at last, she dies.

No opera—especially an opera in one act—can do full justice to such a rich and disturbing story, or to such complex, inspiring, and even confounding woman. Many liberties have been taken: historical figures have been combined into composite characters, chronologies have been compressed and altered, and theological and political arguments have been simplified, all in the interest of dramatic clarity. But, wherever possible, whether in fragments or borrowed imagery, Sor Juana’s poetry has been incorporated into the text. And like Sor Juana, who believed that poetry could reveal truths that could in no other way be expressed, the creators of With Blood, With Ink hope to explore and honor this amazing story in the spirit and service of larger truths.   PETER M. KRASK.

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CASTS

Character Name  Premiere, 1993  Revival, 2000
Dying Juana Monica Reinagel  Catherine Mieun Choi
Young Juana Elizabeth Knauer  Erika Juengst
Joanne Robinson
Padre Antonio Kenneth Shelley  J Austin Bitner
Steven A. Hensley
Countess of Paredes Kathleen Stapleton  Toni Amanda Stefano
Jessica Tanenhaus
Prioress Kristi Cook  Mona Potter
Sor Isabel Jennifer Davison  Mary Grace Kidwell
Kathryn Tremper
Sor Rosa Nicolee Wilkin  Adrienne Foutz
Patricia Portillo
Archibishop Seijas Steven Rainbolt  Brendan Cooke
James Rogers