Show artwork for The First Bluebird in the Morning

The First Bluebird in the Morning The First Bluebird in the Morning

Composed by Carlos Simon, with libretto by Sandra Seaton

Now Streaming

A new Digital Short from composer Carlos Simon and poet Sandra Seaton

"This piece is a soliloquy of sorts from the perspective of an inmate experiencing life as a prisoner while finding hope and solace in the freedom of a bluebird. I’ve composed dark, brooding music to represent the mundane life of prison, which transforms later into a vibrant dance when the inmate gazes and admires the colorful bird.”

Composer Carlos Simon

The First Bluebird in the Morning is composer Carlos Simon's newly-commissioned setting of verses by Sandra Seatonsobering, heartfelt and moving. 

Shot in stunning black and white, the film is created by director and choreographer Jamar Roberts. In a breathtaking performance, solo dancer Lloyd Knight, a principal dancer for the Martha Graham Dance Company, brings life and movement to the piece in combination with the voice of tenor Joshua Blue (who will make his mainstage LA Opera debut later this season in St. Matthew Passion).

Artists

Composer
Carlos Simon
Librettist
Sandra Seaton
Director / Choreographer
Jamar Roberts
Dancer
Lloyd Knight
Tenor
Joshua Blue
Cello
Anja Wood
Piano
Howard Watkins

Carlos Simon: A Note

Artwork for {$.Title}

Carlos Simon: A Note

According to a recent study, African Americans are incarcerated in state prisons across the United States at more than five times the rate of whites. This piece is a soliloquy of sorts from the perspective of an inmate experiencing life as a prisoner, but yet finding hope and solace in the freedom of a bluebird.

I’ve composed dark, brooding music to represent the mundane life of prison, which transforms later into a vibrant dance when the inmate gazes at and admires the colorful bird. 

Libretto and Note by Sandra Seaton

Artwork for {$.Title}

Libretto and Note by Sandra Seaton

A Note from Librettist Sandra Seaton
When I began to write about a young man soon to leave prison for parole, I knew ahead of time that I was writing for Josh’s voice. I wanted to dress Joshua Blue’s voice, the voice of this young man (YM), in something new. To start, I talked with my sister Brenda about the prison world. She hadn’t been to prison herself, but she contacted a few friends who had been there. I was able to tap into their experience. Because it was 2021, I couldn’t help thinking about the isolation of the coronavirus. I imagined Josh being in a room by himself, limited by the restrictions of the virus. I looked up images of prison wires and found one called concertina, a musical reference and the wire that keeps YM imprisoned.

Much of what I learned and researched is not in the libretto. It forms the subtext, the powerful engine that lies beneath the words. The libretto is the tip of the iceberg.

YM’s simplicity, directness and efficiency mark a man who has to marshal his energy; big talk gets noticed in prison by guards or other prisoners and could be dangerous. As a result, YM doesn’t use a lot of words to express himself. I wanted to leave room for Carlos’s music.

Because the limitations of the space create tension, YM is in a constant battle to see if he can handle his small world.  Everything is controlled and repetitious, even the monotony of working in the kitchen and baking the bread, a daily job a part of him looks forward to. When YM is driven to repeat his routines, Jamar choreographs them all and Carlos is there to set them to music.

Note that YM doesn't say he doesn't belong there himself. Perhaps he feels he does now, but he won't tomorrow when he will have paid his debt. I wanted the listener to infer his good qualities through observation which in turn allows a listener to root for him and his release instead of resenting or doubting the presence of those qualities. But YM doesn't overdo it, never once talks about being virtuous. Even the things he dreams of doing are simple things (washing his own clothes, baking his own bread) that most in the developed world take for granted. YM is not only efficient and direct, but honest where honesty is hardest; that is, with himself. His humility, empathy, his honesty and discernment, his appreciation of nature, are good qualities—simple gifts. His alertness to the presence of the bluebird shows he isn't worn down or dead in his soul.

I was thrilled to see my words, Carlos’s music, Josh’s voice, Jamar’s choreography, Lloyd’s dance artistry, all come together.
—Sandra Seaton

 Libretto: The First Bluebird in the Morning
Peach Orchard Hill. I still dream about it. Nothing but death everywhere. In front of me, in back of me. Before we left that day, I looked down one more time. Saw things again, the way I hadn't seen them before. A patch of flowers, ol' teacup blue. I could see it, feel it. That little bit of life. 
The Will 

 

The first bluebird  
In the morning 
Flew over the barbed wire. 
Flew in then out 
Again and again 
Over the barbed wire. 
I see you, Blue Bird. 
I see you. 
Dressed for your flight 
with your blue feathers 
and your long wings. 

 
Here in the joint. 
Here in this place. 
There’s a definite routine. 
A certain time 
A gray time 
A time to get up 
A gray time 
A time to get dressed. 
March to the kitchen.  
(Stomping sound. Change in tone)  
To knead the bread. 
Here In the joint.  (Another change in tone. As if pleading for understanding) 
Here 
Here 

I see you, Blue Bird 

Dressed in your finery.
 

I see you.
 

Your wings are long.
 

 
Come morning, come morning 
I'll shed these gray clothes 
Come morning. 
My time is up.  
I’ll find my good suit, wash my own clothes, 
Bake my own bread 
Come morning. Come morning. 
Come morning. 
Come morning 
We’ll fly away. 

Copyright © Sandra Seaton, 2020 

 

 

This project is generously supported by a consortium of donors to LA Opera's Contemporary Opera Initiative, chaired by Nancy and Barry Sanders.

Carlos Simon's "music opens out words into larger, ineffable vistas."

Matthew GuerrieriThe Washington Post
Artwork for The First Bluebird in the Morning
  1. {{ item.display_day_month }} at {{ item.display_time }}

    {{item.web_contents.Web_Credits_Primary}}

    {{item.web_contents.Web_Credits_Secondary}}

    {{ flag }}