The main subject of the opera is schizophrenia, the psychological crisis undergone by Clara, the heroine. Without a doubt this is a subject exceptional in an operatic work, yet at the same time one highly characteristic of the past century, in which arose thorough scientific studies of this serious mental illness.
The atmosphere of The Mother of Black-Winged Dreams makes reference on a literary and theatrical level to expressionism, aspiring to extract and disclose the innermost experiences concealed within the individual. There are in the text too references to American culture and history, including popular cartoons, allowing us to discern in the psychological problems which beset Clara a source in the form of childhood trauma.
The Mother of Black-Winged Dreams did not come about in a manner typical of opera. Hanna Kulenty, holding ready in her imagination the entire emotional and dramatic layer of the work, turned to the librettist, Paul Goodman, with a suggestion for a text on the subject of schizophrenia. It could therefore be said that the music was first to appear. Kulenty interfered in the text, demanding such features as multiple repetitions in order to obtain the effect of a verbal and musical mantra. She aspired to a blend of theatre and opera, for she is taken to be an opponent of traditional opera. In this no doubt lies the origin also of the double cast.
The Mother of Black-Winged Dreams was presented to the public for the first time on 9 December 1996 at Theater im Marstall in Munich, the press stressing the suggestive power of the music. Following the success of the opera at the Münchener Biennale, Hanna Kulenty began to be regarded popularly as one of the most eminent among Polish composers.
Article by Thea Derks (Dutch only)
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