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Wilmington Concert Opera Premieres Sarah Melnick’s Girondines

six women dressed mostly in black and red, standing outside under a lattice work
The Wilmington Concert Opera (WCO) in Wilmington, Delaware, premieres 'Girondines,' a chamber opera with music composed by CalArts alum Sarah Melnick née Van Sciver. | Photo: Wilmington Chamber Orchestra

This weekend (Oct. 21-23), the Wilmington Concert Opera (WCO) in Wilmington, Delaware, premieres Girondines, a chamber opera about six women from the French Revolution. Sarah Melnick née Van Sciver (Music BFA 16) composed the music, programmed electronics for soundscapes, and will be the pianist and music director for the premiere production. WCO Artistic Director and Co-Founder Kirsten C. Kunkle wrote the libretto.

Girondines is inspired by the story of real French revolutionaries who presumably met in secret before the Reign of Terror—the late 18th century period of state-sanctioned violence and mass executions—and supported each other through the political upheaval in France. All six of the revolutionaries are women, with three surviving the Terror and three meeting their fates at the guillotine.

In an interview with Opera Wire, Melnick discussed the “musical language” of Girondines.

The musical language of this opera reflects my love for and fascination with many genres and forms. Kirsten’s libretto prompted me to craft distinct motifs for each of our six characters and to feature certain tonalities, techniques, and musical grammar. We have consonance and dissonance, aria and recitative, hockets and hooky melodies, syncopation, and sound art. Kirsten gave me gorgeous words and clear prompts, as well as trust, freedom, and encouragement to overlay my own ideas, syncopation, and colors.

Mirroring the history in Girondines, Melnick and Kunkle created roles for women both on stage and in the creative team. (The cast includes WCO Executive Director and Co-Founder Marisa Robinson originating the role of Marie Anne Pierrette Paulze Lavoisier and Kunkle in the role of Charlotte Corday.)

Performances take place Oct. 21 and 22 at 8 pm and Oct. 23 at 2 pm at Presbyterian Church of the Covenant in Wilmington. Performances are free and open to the public. Because of the historical content, the opera is recommended for those ages 13 and older.

Picture of Christine N. Ziemba

Christine N. Ziemba

Christine is the director of Content at CalArts, responsible for the Institute's editorial in both print and online platforms. In addition, she oversees CalArts' social media accounts. In her spare time, she writes about the Santa Clarita food scene at

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Wilmington Concert Opera Premieres Sarah Melnick’s Girondines