The New Motive Power
Elizabeth Gartman, composer
Susan Bywaters, librettist
As part of the Spring 2019 Opera Scenes Showcase, Lyric Theatre @ Illinois presented scenes from students Elizabeth Gartman and Susan Bywaters' new opera, The New Motive Power.
This opera is a verbatim text piece, as it pulls some of its text from the writings of John Murray Spear. The plot follows Spear, an antebellum Unitarian Minister, as he hears the voices of electric spirits, who tell him to build a new God machine that will come to rule us all. Spear called the machine The New Motive Power, as he believed it would come to create a new power, a new motive, for all people. He predicted the machine would run off invisible electric wires that connected all people in all places, and this connection would be a great globalizing and equalizing force to us all.
Beyond telling this important historical story, this opera asks the question: was Spear right? Did he predict the power of the internet to connect us all? And was the internet the positive force he predicted, or did it lead us to miss the importance of what is immediately around us: our families, our communities, our self-created worlds?
JOHN MURRAY SPEAR- Kevin Lucas
BETSEY SPEAR- Kimberly Ann Ouellette
SOPHRONIA SPEAR- Molly Abrams
MARY- Sadie Cheslak
ELECTRICIZERS- Jessie Ragsdale, Lauren Falk, Thereza Lituma
DIRECTOR- Dawn Harris
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR- Madelyn Gunn
CONDUCTOR- Julie Jordan Gunn
PIANISTS- Alex Munger, Jana Pavlovska