Spring / a chamber opera
Workshop performance presented by American Opera Projects
Jennifer Goode-Cooper, Blythe Gaissert, Blake Friedman, Adrian Rosas
Music Direction by Kelly Horsted
South Oxford Space
Brookyln, New York
09.28.2018 / 09.29.2018

Spring is a collaboration between Ordway and the Algerian scholar, journalist, and novelist Meryem Belkaïd. The opera, which is told from the perspective of the four ancient winds of North Africa, is based on the 2011 Tunisian Revolution and the ensuing tensions between democracy and chaos, religious freedom and Islamism, activism and terrorism, and peaceful protest and civil war.

Based on first-hand witness accounts, Belkaïd's vibrant polyphonic text explores the psychological realities of life before, during, and after the revolution. Her words capture the polyglot essence of life in North Africa, moving effortlessly between English, French, and Arabic in this intense look at the personal sides of protest, revolution, and political development.

This New York workshop performance is presented by American Opera Projects as part of its Composers and the Voice program, an opera development laboratory that has supported the creation of new works for the dramatic stage since 1988.

28 and 29 September 2018
South Oxford Space
Brooklyn, NY


Spring is currently in development with support from American Opera Projects, the Bates College Department of Music, and the Bowdoin College Department of French and Francophone Literature. 


Spring is a multimedia portrait of the radical transformation of the public life of a city that is brought about by the end of a dictatorship. In two acts separated by a short interlude, the piece explores the impact of both dictatorship and nascent democracy on the physical and psychological lives of individual citizens.

The libretto, which is written in English, French, and Arabic, is not a narrative retelling of historical events, and nor does it advocate for specific political outcomes. Instead, it is a descriptive work based on first-hand witness accounts of the January 2011 Tunisian Revolution collected, organized, and adapted by a Tunisian author, scholar, and journalist with both local and international perspective.

The first act depicts daily urban life under a dictatorship. Then, a brief intermezzo entitled “Dégage!” represents the revolution itself (the chanted slogan “Dégage!” means “Get out!” and was ubiquitous during the main period of street protest). Finally, a second act reveals post-revolutionary public and private life, gesturing toward a possible hopeful future while acknowledging the intransigent social and political problems that remain unresolved.


The four archetypal winds of the ancient world—indicated here by their traditional North African names— bear witness to the transformation of a city through protest and revolution. They speak with one another as they watch the citizens going about their lives (sung in English). From time to time, the perspective shifts, and one of the Winds speaks as a particular citizen (sung in French and Arabic). In these moments, the Wind gives voice to the personal concerns of an anonymous individual who is both responsible for and swept up in a large-scale social reorganization.

Duration: 90 minutes


HARMATTAN, lyric soprano
ZEPHYR, mezzo-soprano
SIROCCO, tenor
GHIBLI,  baritone

Clarinet, trumpet, harp, piano, 2 violins, viola, cello, bass. 


Creative Team

SCOTT ORDWAY is a composer, conductor, and Assistant Professor of Music Composition at Rutgers University best known for his extended works that fuse vocal and instrumental music with original text, video, digital soundscape, and experimental theater. His music has been called “exquisite” by The New York Times, “a marvel” by The Philadelphia Inquirer, and “an American response to Sibelius” by The Boston Globe, and has been presented by leading American and international festivals and institutions with current projects in New York, Paris, Frankfurt, Tucson, and San Antonio.

MERYEM BELKAÏD is a Tunisian scholar, novelist, and journalist. She has written about the Arab Spring for Slate, The Huffington Post, and Mediapart, and taught at the University of Tunis, La Sorbonne, and Bowdoin College, where she is currently Assistant Professor of French and Francophone Literature. Her research and creative work focuses on the literature, cinema, and politics of the Maghreb.