“Prunella” is a musical theater adaptation of the story of Prunella—an Italian version of the Rapunzel fairy tale from around 1880. It is a two-act, three-principal (soprano, soprano, baritone) show existing somewhere between musical theater and chamber opera, for a small ensemble (strings, percussion, piano, some electronics). For this project I have assembled the script/libretto from nineteenth century source materials, and composed all incidental music and songs in an experimental style somewhere between theatric and operatic. The Prunella story is recognizably similar to that of Rapunzel, popularized by the Brothers Grimm, but the archetypal tale is far more ancient: over a dozen independent versions of the Maiden-in-the-Tower (ATU type 310) story exist (across six countries and more than a millennium), and I find Prunella to be one of the most unique and captivating. Her situation is not one of circumstantial moral luck, but of consequence; there is a garden, but it is not within walls, and not without danger; there is tragedy, but there is greater malevolence; there is a witch, but she is not alone; there is no prince, but instead, the entrapped son of an oedipal mother; there are no healing tears, but there is greater and more catastrophic magic; ultimately, there are the roots of something familiar—something so familiar we have collectively retold its story for hundreds of years, and across continents—but simultaneously, something unique.
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Haley, Leif, "Prunella: An Experimental Musical" (2022). Research Days Posters 2022. 93.