The World Is One
a one-act chamber opera for children
Commissioned by ROK: Reimagining Opera for Kids, Kimberly Carballo, artistic director,
and made possible by an Indiana University New Frontiers of Creativity and Scholarship Grant.
Setting: war-torn Syria, present-day
a young Syrian girl, the voice of fantasy
high baritone or tenor
AMI’s brother, the voice of reality
mezzo-soprano (or soprano)
parent of AMI and ATA, the voice of compassion
by Terry Pinaud
AMI is a pretty sixteen-year-old. She lives with her mother and younger brother in their family home. She is in her bedroom leafing through an old magazine when she spots a full-page advertisement of Disney World.
She has never been to Disney World. She starts to imagine what the rides are like, the thrill of being among happy kids from all over, the joy of hearing their exuberant shouts, all signaling the freedom she could experience being among them. Her imagination runs free. There is little else to do. Although it is the middle of the school year, there is no homework because there has been no school. In fact, leaving the house at all has been difficult.
Her brother, ATA, who has been sulking, intrudes uninvited, catches his sister daydreaming about Disney World. He ridicules her. Why does she waste her time on dreams that cannot possibly come true? He reminds her of their family’s situation. Their father left home to join the struggle, and has not been heard from in a year. Their older sister and her husband escaped to Europe months ago having promised to be in touch as soon as possible, and yet, there has not been a word. He points out the window. Their house, on the outskirts of Palmyra, Syria, once surrounded by beautiful homes, palm trees, a nearby market is now one of only a few structures standing in the rubble. The most recent skirmish between government and rebel forces has left little from the neighborhood. These are the realities that ATA points out to his sister.
AMI is incensed. An argument ensues between brother and sister. Until finally, MOTHER has to intervene. Her chastisement issues from the kitchen where she is busy preparing dinner with what little she has. As night falls, however, there are distant sounds of explosions, sirens, and the roar of engines of armored vehicles. The family eats in silence. Brother and sister help MOTHER with clean-up as all three quietly get ready for bed. Exhausted but scared, they cannot fall asleep. Explosions seem to be nearer. All three are huddled in AMI’s bedroom now. ATA mumbles about war, about civil war being the worst kind of conflict that pits brother against brother, friend against friend, neighbor against neighbor. MOTHER quiets him: Every war is a civil war. One world. One Earth.
The phone ring startles all three, and MOTHER leaves the room to answer. She runs back to the bedroom, announcing in joy that it is her older daughter, her firstborn, calling from France. She and her husband have made it. They have found a family who has offered them all sanctuary. The first step is accomplished. Now, they are secure and maybe they can find safe passage for the rest. The family rejoices. Even ATA is overcome.
AMI reminds her brother that sometimes, when friends and neighbors let us down, strangers can be called upon to help. Their sister waits for them. As does a world in peace. And with luck and love, peace can be contagious. It will come once again to within their borders, to their neighborhood.
A small triumph in the grand scheme of things. But they accumulate and that is where hope begins.
SCENE 1: AMI’s Dream
SCENE 2: ATA’s Reality
SCENE 3: A Siblings’ Quarrel
SCENE 4: MOTHER’s Meal
SCENE 5: The Family’s Phone Call