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Coping Mechanisms: An Improvised Opera For Non-Improvising Opera Singers


Coping Mechanisms is a one act chamber opera by Bonnie Lander commissioned by Rhymes With Opera in 2015 for their 2017 spring main stage production. The piece is written specifically for the Rhymes With Opera singers, including Lander, Elisabeth Halliday, and Robert Maril with the intent of teaching Halliday and Maril how to perform free improvisation. Two experiments were being explored from this work: 1) how does one combine free improvisation with classical opera 2) how does one teach opera singers to improvise?

These two questions marked the beginning of a two year workshopping process that culminated with the premier of this eerie, abstract, and engaging opera. This paper describes the narrative and conceptual structures that gave this piece shape, the style of improvisation that resulted, as well as information about the process and success of the piece.

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