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Digital Shorts: The West is a Land of Infinite Beginnings

Posted on: January 12, 2021

A haunting pursuit, a horrifying specter, and ghostly visions-- and it's only our second Digital Short.

Composer Missy Mazzoli and director James Darrah's exquisitely beautiful (yet deeply unsettling) piece, The West is a Land of Infinite Beginnings, is available to watch right here.

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A Note from Composer Missy Mazzoli and Story Background
My 2018 opera Proving Up, created in collaboration with librettist Royce Vavrek and based on a short story by Karen Russell, is a surreal meditation on the origins and dark realities of the American Dream, as told through the fictional story of a struggling family of homesteaders.

 

The work dwells more in questions than answers: In a country where we imagine all success to be earned, is failure also earned? What happens when conditions become so extreme that the only way to achieve the American Dream is to resort to cruelty, thievery and manipulation? No character illustrates this darkness more viscerally than the Sodbuster, a gaunt and ghostly villain, a walking symbol of fate, death and pure rotten luck who cheerfully sings “the west is a land of infinite beginnings” as he wreaks havoc. The Sodbuster comes in many forms and with many faces, but rest assured, in the end, he comes for us all.

Story Background
American homesteaders had to "prove up" the land they settled in order to obtain the deed. They had to fulfill the daunting requirements of the Homestead Act, which included five years of harvest, building a dwelling, and perhaps the most elusive element of all: obtaining a glass window for their home. One family, with possession of a glass window, sends their son on a mission to share their precious commodity with distant neighbors who are expecting a visit from a government inspector. He comes face to face with a strange figure who knows all too well the cost of the American Dream.

READ THE LYRICS TO SODBUSTER'S ARIA

 

READ THE LYRICS TO SODBUSTER'S ARIA

The West is a Land of Infinite Beginnings
(The Sodbuster's Aria)
Text by Royce Vavrek

Suns, moons, droughts, famines!
No sense to go counting tragedies...
The west is a land of infinite beginnings.
Don't you agree? Miles Zegner?
A family, I may have, I did have.
Parents, buried back east.
A wife, but she wasn't worth much...
So impatient! She lost faith.
Lost her will to prosper.
Had to make a break, make a fresh start.
Drove her off and plowed her under!
Kids... Had them. Sicklings. Weak ones.
Sons, daughters...
None lasted. They couldn't take it.
Wasted away. They were weak. Weak!

The West is a land of infinite beginnings.
Isn't that right? Miles Zegner?
Pick up, start again.
File a pre-empt. Stake a new claim.
I've made a stake to my claim.
Fulfilled each of the Act's stipulations.
Each one, Miles Zegner.
Each one but glass.
I'm in real need, Miles.
I've got all other proof, all but the final stipulation.
Glass.

Watch TV strip

If you prefer to watch this digital short on your Smart TV just follow these suggestions:

  • Connect your device to your TV with an HDMI cable
  • Watch from your Smart TV web browser: just enter LAOpera.org/Watch
  • On Roku and AppleTV download the Youtube app and search for “LA Opera The West is”
  • Mirror your smart device's screen to your TV by following these instructions: Apple or Android

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