Merricat Blackwood is a young woman who deserves an opera.  The moment she appears in Shirley Jackson’s novel We Have Always Lived in the Castle, we know she’s a survivor.  Raised within the suffocating gender expectations of the New England establishment, she’s been pushed into mental instability. She rebels by constructing a personality that subverts the role society wants to impose on her.  Instead of being “sugar and spice and all things nice”, Merricat embraces a more dangerous persona: the witch.  And that’s how her story is told: from her own, very particular perspective, in which everyday events cast mythic shadows; this may be rural Vermont, but there are ghosts here, strange enchantments, talismanic magic.  Merricat’s one ally is her beloved sister, Constance, with whom she enjoys a games playing relationship of eerie domesticity.  But beyond the faded gentility of their family home, allegations about poisoning and murder swirl...

An opera adaptation of We Have Always Lived in the Castle must be as unconventional, funny and unsettling as Merricat herself.  We want to seize upon the opportunities this story presents: casting from outside the usual world of opera (Björk, for instance, would make a sensational Merricat, and so would either of the members of the band Let’s Eat Grandma), using a chorus that could be amateur rather than professional (and might be offstage), writing for an ensemble which has more in common with a Tom Waits big band than a classical chamber orchestra, finding new forms which express Merricat’s complex interior world of rough magic, and the sisters’ strange relationship of playful ritual.