On June 11, 2023, CÅRABOO – the true story of a false princess – had its world premiere in Lake Forest, IL.
Jim Stephenson conducted the International Chamber Artists chamber orchestra in a new score he created after the libretto by Matt Boresi.
The one-act opera featured the vocal talents of Jessica Usherwood, soprano (Princess Cåraboo), Emily Fons, mezzo-soprano (Mrs. Elizabeth Worrall), and Jonathan Johnson, tenor (Manuel Eynesso).
The premiere can be seen here.
More about CÅRABOO:
When a lost princess from the enchanting – if impossible to locate – island of “Javasu” stumbles onto the grounds of a Regency era English manor she turns polite society on its head, forever changing the lives of the American-born wife of the local magistrate and the mysterious Portugese sailor come to rescue her.
Based on actual events from 1817, “Caraboo” is a delightful romantic comedy which comments on the folly of fetishizing unfamiliar cultures.
Our contemporary media has focused lately on con artists, particularly female con artists, like counterfeit heiress Anna Delvey, ersatz blood test mogul Elizabeth Holmes, and bogus humanities professor Rachel Dolezal. Audiences are transfixed by their schemes and by the bugs in society that the con artists are able to exploit. Princess Caraboo – actually a serving girl fed up with drudgery and extreme poverty – played to the prejudices of the gentry of her day and found a way to escape her social station.
Caraboo appears on the grounds of an estate in Gloucestershire, strangely garbed, speaking an untraceable language, and performing a fascinating dance from her native land. She is discovered by Mrs. Worrall, an American-born society lady who wed a rich Englishman to live out her own fantasies of being a princess. Through a clever game of charades and linguistic legerdemain, Caraboo convinces Mrs. Worrall and her set that she is genuinely a princess recently escaped from the clutches of pirates. Mrs. Worrall revels in the popularity she gains from housing this errant royal, and Caraboo lives in style on the estate.
When a sailor, allegedly from Portugal, and who claims to have been to Javasu, arrives to take Caraboo home, the phony princess fears her luck has run out. Left alone, however, the sailor reveals himself to be a servant from Bristol, and she a servant from Devonshire. They discuss the struggle in their lives and express their admiration for one another’s ploys and soon fall in love, agreeing to work together to maximize the potential of the Caraboo plot.
Mrs. Worrall, overhearing their exchanges, grows sympathetic to their plights. She has raised funds to allow them to sail back to “Javasu”, but suggests they perhaps visit her home country of the United States first, because “they’ll believe anything there.” The new lovers depart for their next adventure, and Mrs. Worrall, mentally liberated by having watched Caraboo take control of her own fate, picks up Caraboo’s “Javasuvan” dance and song, contemplating what life might yet hold for her.
Jim Stephenson writes: “I found myself interested in this story because
a) it’s a comedy, and I found myself wanting some levity to portray;
b) it’s a true story that still carries relevance in today’s world. Perhaps even moreso;
c) the intrigue involved and made-up language both interested my musical brain very much.”
For more information on the score or libretto, please contact Jim Stephenson at ComposerJim@gmail.com.