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'Vireo' Character Profiles

The characters of "Vireo," the opera. Photo by Bernie Wire.
Photo: Bernie Wire.

Vireo, the groundbreaking made-for-TV opera, is now available for streaming. Watch the 12 full episodes and dive into the world of Vireo through librettos, essays and production notes. Find more bonus content on KCET.org and LinkTV.org.

About Vireo

Vireo (played by soprano Rowen Sabala) is a fourteen year old girl genius. Lives in the 16th century, born in the 19th, does forward roll into the 20th. Listens acutely, feels the pain of hearing what she can’t contain, expanding to include what’s beyond her, sometimes complicit with power, often enraged by cant.

In Episode One: The Blow

In 16th century France a young woman named Vireo carries coals home from a neighbor's house; she hears a disembodied voice. The Voice (mezzo-soprano Laurie Rubin) speaks to Vireo of the scope of the plague at hand, and of the difficulty of knowing and holding one's place in the fires of time. The voice leaves, and Vireo falls into a fit. Vireo's Mother (mezzo-soprano Maria Lazarova) and a Priest (baritone Gregory Purnhagen) examine her. Watch Episode One

In Episode Two: Mercury

The Priest concludes Vireo is possessed by spirits, sent under a witch’s command... But the Priest only pretends to be a priest; he is a doctor in disguise, coddling his patient in order to study what he calls Vireo's anachronistic delusions. Raphael (tenor Ryan Glover), the Doctor's callow assistant, is instantly infatuated by Vireo, drawn to what he sees as the glamor of madness. Sequestered in a tower, Vireo watches a witch the town is burning at the stake. Vireo hears the Voice, now from the dying woman. The Voice stresses that there is so much left to learn: as horrible as the plague-struck world may seem, it requires our breathless, hopeless attention. Vireo wonders if she herself is becoming a witch. Watch Episode Two

What's to come...

Vireo tries to escape but is caught and subjected to an assaultive array of tests by the Doctor; Raphael’s attentions to Vireo grow increasingly amorous; the plague continues and we hear a dying cow's lament; and Vireo meets her virtual twin, Caroline (soprano Emma MacKenzie), who has no trouble embracing the attentions of the public and the medical establishment.

Soprano Rowen Sabala plays the role of Vireo. Read her Q&A here.

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About The Mother

Passionate in defense of her daughter, eager and over-eager for her daughter’s “cure,” The Mother (mezzo-soprano Maria Lazarova) is unable to accept the power and scale of Vireo’s (soprano Rowen Sabala) mind and soul as anything other than anathema. Concerned but not compassionate – she can’t share a passion to which she can’t relate, which frightens her, which is confirmed as a problem; a passion which she envies, an anomaly that draws power to power.

In Episode One: The Blow

The Mother's daughter, Vireo, has fallen into a fit after hearing a disembodied voice. The Voice (mezzo-soprano Laurie Rubin) has spoken to Vireo of the scope of the plague at hand, and of the difficulty of knowing and holding one's place in the fires of time. The Mother and a Priest (baritone Gregory Purnhagen), who is not really a Priest but a Doctor coddling his patient in order to study what he calls anachronistic delusions, examine Vireo. Watch Episode One

In Episode Two: Mercury

The Priest concludes Vireo is possessed by spirits, sent under a witch’s command... The Mother, confused, will attempt to accept whatever frame the Doctor provides. Watch Episode Two

What's to come...

The Doctor and Mother will pursue a runaway Vireo, catch her, and subject her to an assaultive array of tests; the Mother is further seduced by the Doctor's authoritative position and laments Vireo's growing estrangement.

shape

About Raphael

Raphael (tenor Ryan Glover) is a romantic young man who becomes infatuated with Vireo. He believes himself infatuated with knowledge, but is confused about what knowledge is; confused as well about what infatuation is. What he mistakes for love is a yearning to be free of “knowledge” and selfish desires. But with limited self-awareness, he misses transcendence and settles on hyperventilation.

In Episode One: The Blow & Episode Two: Mercury

Vireo (soprano Rowen Sabala) falls into a fit after hearing a voice's (mezzo-soprano Laurie Rubin) premonition of plague and is taken by her mother (mezzo soprano Maria Lazarova) to be examined by a Priest. But the Priest (bariton Gregory Purnhagen) only pretends to be a priest; he is a doctor in disguise, coddling his patient in order to study what he calls Vireo's anachronistic delusions. Raphael, the Doctor's callow assistant, is instantly infatuated by Vireo, drawn to what he sees as the glamor of madness.

What's to come...

A runaway Vireo will be caught and brought back to be tested by the Doctor; Raphael’s attentions will grow increasingly amorous and after delivering Vireo to boarding school, Raphael will sing his undying love up to her window.

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