• Ellen Reid
  • p r i s m (2018)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)

p r i s m was developed by Beth Morrison Projects, Lyric Theatre @ Illinois Krannert Center, Arizona State University School of Music, Trinity Church Wall Street, and PROTOTYPE Festival. Commissioned by Beth Morrison Projects, Kiki & David Gindler, Linda & Stuart Nelson, and Elizabeth & Justus Schlichting, with additional commissioning support from Nancy & Barry Sanders, OPERA America Opera Grants for Female Composers, funded by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation and the OPERA America Repertoire Development supported by the Opera Fund; the Francis Goelet Charitable Lead Trust; and National Endowment for the Arts – Art Works. This project was made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature, and by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

  • S,A + SATB; 1(pic).0.1(bcl).0/hn/3perc/pf.hp/str(
  • SATB
  • Soprano, Alto
  • 1 hr 20 min
  • Roxie Perkins

Programme Note

Composer’s note:

p r i s m is about the walls we construct to protect ourselves from our own darkness, the lengths we go through to not look at our history, and the enormous bravery it requires to choose to live after a great loss, rather than shut out the world.

p r i s m came out of our interest in creating a piece where a character wrestles with the aftermath of a sexually traumatic event. As Bibi shows, it can be difficult to open up to the small pleasures of the world after a sexual assault, because the body can’t feel pleasure without opening itself to pain. So, for a while (sometimes a long while), it’s easier to not fully live. In p r i s m, Bibi ultimately chooses to live and to take what is rightfully hers. For us, she had to.

p r i s m’s vertiginous juxtaposition of joy, terror, love, loathing and ecstasy demand a vast range of musical styles. It was exciting to discover ways of weaving seemingly disconnected musical styles together through leitmotif and ostinato, and magnifying differences between similar musical styles through use of electronic manipulation, timbre and extended techniques.

The pain and joy of this piece come out of my own lived experience.

Ellen Reid


Librettist’s note:

With this piece I wanted to portray Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as I have experienced it: as a prism through which you watch the world that you once understood dissolve into a place of danger and mystery where time is not linear, language distorts and takes on new meaning, your body freezes and reacts without logical thought, and everyday banalities such as color become seductive, hallucinatory vortexes that lead you into memories from which you might never escape.

p r i s m’s non-chronological triptych structure, invented vocabulary, fractured sense of time and space, and vivid use of color as emotional triggers give the audience a window into the sensory experience of living with PTSD. Through Bibi and Lumee’s story, I was particularly interested in exploring how color can emotionally structure repressed memories and how trauma can corrode language.

p r i s m examines how the mind compulsively attempts to narrate and make sense of the things that it cannot bear to face. At what point do the stories we tell ourselves to cope become more harmful than the trauma that they disguise?

Roxie Perkins




More Info

  • Ellen Reid in Amsterdam
    • Ellen Reid in Amsterdam
    • 25th July 2023
    • In March 2024 Dutch National Opera will present the world premiere of The Shell Trial by Ellen Reid and Roxie Perkins, based on the prize winning play De Zaak Shell by Rebekka de Witt and Anoek Nuyens.