Future Perfect – a modern tale of transcendence inspired by 1,300 Chicago youths is a new opera produced by Working In Concert and developed by Bellissima Opera. The librettist is Christine Steyer and the composer is David Shenton. The full-length opera, Future Perfect, will premiere in Chicago in June 2022.

Future Perfect​​, a modern fairytale, tells the adventures of the intuitive and curious Miranette who leaves a forbidding society which has lost its connection to the outside world. Along her journey, Miranette meets a colorful cast of characters who teach her invaluable lessons while in turn, she inadvertently engulfs them in a web of quantum entanglement―a state where anything is possible.

Future Perfect – The Inspiration.

The opera Future Perfect is drawn from five years of workshops with Chicago youth in seven schools. With the help of professional musicians, poets, and artists, students participated in writing and drawing workshops exploring the concepts of separateness, inter-connectedness and transcendence.

Read below about the 2014-19 workshops with 1,300 Chicago youth inspiring Future Perfect.

Costume designs for Future Perfect from workshops with 6th & 8th graders at Kinzie Elementary.

Future Perfect – Synopsis© 2020 Christine Steyer

PROLOGUE–
Here and Now

A video is projected showing images of repeated patterns found in the micro and macro universe. As it is being shown, the cast “Crowd” comes on stage to watch. A narrator recites that sometime ago a terrible event wreaked havoc in the lands, and in the case of Properboro, power was seized by a few and a fence was built around the small city to eliminate contact with the outside world. However, for one inhabitant, Miranette, curiosity for what was beyond the fence would prove too great to contain.

ACT 1, Morning in a small city named Properboro, set in the near future 

The Crowd of all ages walks in rigid formation offering generic pleasantries “Good Morning to one another. Miranette, a silent young girl, runs off and Paloma, a teenager, follows her, but soon returns alone. Twelve Adults from the crowd tell of four strange occurrences that happened in recent days. The Crowd listens. Everyone agrees that three of the occurrences should be reported at once, but that the fourth one should not, as it was void of specific facts.

Youths who have broken free from the crowd meet in a cave. By venturing beyond the fence into the forbidden zone, the Youths were inadvertently responsible for the strange occurrences. Paloma enters looking for Miranette. They hear the Crowd shouting Miranette’s name and run out to see the fuss. The Crowd scolds “Miranette” for her shortcomings and for removing insignia demotions pinned to her sash—an item all youth are required to wear. Paloma tries to intervene, but the Crowd threatens to send Miranette away if she misbehaves again.

The Crowd exits and Miranette gives Paloma her journal to help explain her actions “Don’t Label Me.” Miranette then shows Paloma a string of crystals with a medallion she found but Paloma scolds her for keeping any object found beyond the fence. Miranette indicates she is ready to run away as Paloma is called back home. As Miranette sets out, she is met by the Youths who, having suspected her intention, give her a jar with chrysalises, a monkey named Jingle, seeds and a conch shell. Miranette leaves. Paloma shows up right after, undecided what to do.

ACT 2–Outside of Properboro, a few hours later

Miranette and Jingle come across Asintmah and Oxóssi instructing their children, Anahita and Tāne, on the power of imagination “In a World Without Limits.” As Miranette partakes in the lesson, Paloma shows up ready to take her back, but instead converts to joining Miranette. The Children are told to take Miranette, Paloma and Jingle to meet Rosetta who might know more about the Miranette’s crystals.

Rosetta, a woman with extraordinary hearing, introduces the travelers to a world of sound. With the use of an earhorn, Miranette indicates she can hear the universe, which then Rosetta describes to the group “The Universe Sings”. Miranette plays her conch. Rosetta becomes fascinated with it and Miranette trades it for a bird-whistle. Rosetta says she knows where Miranette, Paloma and Jingle can find a group of unruly artists who make things like the crystals they have. She warns, since it is far, they will need transportation.

Rosetta introduces Kai, Edeyrn and Iscovan to the group. The Men confess that though they greatly admire the chivalrous age of knights, they find that acknowledging one’s vulnerable side can also be a great source of strength “If You Take the Time to Know Me”. Jingle climbs up a tree and shakes some fruit to the ground. He sees another monkey and stays behind.

Kai, Edeyrn and Iscovan give Miranette and Paloma scooters to assist them with their journey. Rosetta warns them not to get separated. Miranette says goodbye to Anahita and Tāne.

Miranette rides but gets separated from Paloma, and then, lost. She blows her bird-whistle for help. The sky turns dark and it begins to rain. Miranette sits under her umbrella and unscrews the lid on the jar with the chrysalises. She eventually falls asleep.

It is morning and Two Butterflies unfold their wings in the morning sun. They fly over to Miranette and wake her. Miranette joins them in a short dance.

Baubo, wearing a Dragon head, enters unnoticed looking for the rest of her Dragon. They startle each other. Baubo tells Miranette and the Butterflies how much she loves to laugh “LMBO!” Baubo can’t understand anything Miranette is tries to communicate about being lost. The Butterflies fly off.

Four Youths enter costumed as the Dragon body. Baubo and the Youths convince Miranette to be the Dragon’s tail “Be the Tail!” With Baubo as the head, Dragon leaves for the 113th Annual Dragon Parade.

The Dragon arrives at the library and laboratory of Baubo’s friend Leggo and his dog Chumpy. Miranette discovers a strange book in the library containing writings on that back of an old chart. Leggo shares one of the writings, “The Seraph.” Miranette gives Leggo her journal to add to his collection. Miranette notices that the old chart corresponds to the medallion on her crystal necklace.

Leggo is just about to tell everyone the meaning of the medallion, when Chumpy hears arguing in the distance and runs off. Miranette chases after her on her scooter. Chumpy and Miranette come across Juniper, Verbena and Ember arguing about what color to paint the new bridge for the solstice celebration. Another woman, Flanna, is hammering on the bridge. Juniper, Verbena and Ember try to convince Miranette that their color is the best “Blue, Purple & Yellow.” Miranette approaches Flanna to resolve thequarrel. Instead Flanna, joined by a Dancer, tells them of her troubled experience with another color “Red is a Trick.”

During Flanna’s tale, the image that Miranette has sensed for so long finally appears and she shows it to Flanna. The Four Women surround them and everyone comes to peace.

Chumpy points to the soil and Miranette plants the seeds she received from her friends. She drapes cloth of all four colors on the bridge indicating to the Women it can be painted in all the colors. Flanna notices Miranette’s necklace and confesses some time back she felt compelled to send it downstream sensing it would reach the right person. The Women let Miranette select whatever clothes she likes from a trunk. When she goes to change. Paloma arrives, relieved to find Miranette’s scooter. The Women tell Paloma that Miranette is safe.

Miranette emerges in clothes of various styles. Suddenly the light of the solstice shines on her crystal headdress creating a kaleidoscope of color. Miranette, Paloma, the Women and some Birds swirl around in the wash of color.

Miranette falls into a deep sleep. In her dream, the Plant comes to life and the Crowd from Act 1 appears and dance rigidly. The Twelve Characters from her journey join in andthe dance starts to loosen. The Birds lead Anahita, Tāne, Jingle and Chumpy on a floating island as parts of the Dragon trail behind. The City Folks form a flower mandala from their umbrellas and then a strong wind, brought about by Two Butterflies flapping their wings, disperses it. Miranette emerges center and inspires the Youth and Paloma to join her in aspiring for a better world “Transcendence.” Everyone joins in.

Miranette awakens from her dream. She is surrounded by Paloma, the Women, the Animals. The eight other Characters she met on her travels arrive, having been drawn to the brilliant light. Miranette finds her voice and together Everyone feels that whenever humans, like particles, interact with one another, they can never be independent from each other. And because of that quantum entanglement, change can manifest at “200 Million Cells,” the average rate of cellular regeneration per minute in each person.

EPILOGUE–Outside of Properboro, two generations later

Six Youths walk through the forest looking for the legendary Miranette, whom they heard about from their grandmother, Paloma. They believe they see Miranette and run into the audience to meet her.

Curtain. The End.

FUTURE PERFECT WORKSHOPS with 1,300 Chicago-area Youths

The five years of Future Perfect Project Workshops (from 2014-2019)
were entirely funded by a grassroots campaign generating
donations from individuals and local organizations.
Thanks to all who supported and participated in this program.

Bellissima Opera Outreach—A Powerful Day at Senn High School in Chicago that would inspire 5 years of workshops

1/24/2014

Tenor Franco Martona and I performed opera excerpts for five classes on October 24 at Nicholas Senn High School in Chicago—one of the city’s most racil diverse schools. We also invited two poets, Maureen Kwiat Mexhenberg and Reginald “RJ” Eldridge to share their poetry with the class. Afterwards, students were told about The Transcendence Project. In addition to them hearing singing and poetry, our other purpose that day was to lead each class in writing exercises that dealt with words like “diversity” “inter-connectedness” “transcendence” as well as what the impact of being labeled feels like and what would a perfect future world look like.

Their writings, we explained to the students, would help us to construct the libretto (the opera’s text that the music is set to) for the third opera in our triptych: Future Perfect.
To their teacher, Diane Piette’s surprise, about 23 students came up to share their work with all of us. Apparently, some of them hadn’t said a word all year and yet they found themselves sharing their deepest pain and most intimate thoughts with their classmates. When asked how it made their classmates feel to hear these stories, the listeners often cited feelings of greater compassion towards those that spoke as well as relief to know that they weren’t the only ones that struggled along the turbulent road of high school life.

That’s the power of telling out stories!

Christine Steyer
Artistic Director, Bellissima Opera
Founder, The Transcendence Project

Future Perfect Workshop Details: 2014-2019
Bellissima Opera Artistic Director & Project Producer – Christine Steyer
​Bellissima Opera is indebted to the poets, musicians, teachers, volunteers and 1,300 students who gave their time and talents to this project.


Nicholas Senn High School, Chicago: 10/24/14

Teacher: Diane Piette
Artists:
Maureen Kwiat Meshenberg, poet, writing exercises
Christine Steyer, soprano
Franco Martorana, tenor
Videographers: Paul Geiger and Rebecca Keehner
Typist: Jeanette Mancusi
Writing Prompts:
Labels
Opposite of Love
Speaking One’s Peace
Unsung Heroes
Pick any Word


Brookdale Senior Center, Ages 7-26, Oak Park: 10/18/15

Artists:
Maureen Kwiat Meshenberg, poet
Juliana Engle, crafts
Christine Steyer, soprano
Videographer: Brian Bator
Craft Project:
Students decorate sashes and armor shapes for costume pieces


Nicholas Senn High School, Chicago: 1/13/17

Teacher: Diane Piette
Artists:                         
Maureen Kwiat Meshenberg, poet & writing exercises
Reginald Eldridge, poet
D’angelo Robinson, student poet facilitator
Imani Brunson, student poet facilitator
Christine Steyer, soprano
Franco Martorana, tenor
Anatoliy Torschinsky, piano                               

Typists: 
Jethra Kapp
Molly Allsheid
Diane Scott
Jim Price                                    
Susan Huizinga     
Writing Prompts:
Every Picture Tells a Story
If You Were King, Queen or Ruler for a Day
The Colors in Your Life
In a World Without Limits I Would…
At a Rate of 200 Million Cells Per Minute, I am Becoming…
Who am I? I am…


Lane Tech College Prep High School, Chicago: 4/3/17

Teachers: Paul Carrera and Mark Carrera                        
Artists:
Maureen Kwiat Meshenberg, poet & writing exercises
Christine Steyer, soprano
Franco Martorana, tenor
Anatoliy Torschinsky, piano
Karen Tlusky, sound                                          
Typists:
Cindy Senneke
Jim Price
Catie Withers
Susan Huizinga                    
Writing Prompts:
If I Could Live My Life Out Loud
The Most Beautiful Sound
The Universe Sings
Diversity Heals 
My Space Capsule
Choosing to Transcend
A Message to Future Generations
Change Begins with Me                                             
My Song for Humanity


Lincoln Elementary, 3rd Grade, Oak Park: 5/9/18

Teachers: Claire Bartell and Julie Anderson         
Artists:                         
MG Bertulfo, poet, author & writing exercises        
Christine Steyer, soprano                             
Videographer: Cory Andersen                     
Typist: Susan Huizinga                    
Writing Prompts:       
My Superhero of the Future
Crazy Plants
Too Much Technology–People Forgot
Stadium Invasion
Mysterious Mural


Lane Tech College Prep High School, Chicago: 6/4/18

Teachers: Paul Carrera and Mark Carrera                                    
Artists:
MG Bertulfo, poet, author & writing exercises
Christine Steyer, soprano 
Sugar Blue, harmonica
Mark Burnell, piano                                                             
Videographer: Christine Steyer                   
Typists: Anneliese Ayers and Katie Rub
Writing Prompts:
The Mandala is My Universe
I Release My Mandala
My Blues Song Is
If You Take Time to Know Me, You Would…


Al Raby High School, Chicago: 6/12/18

Teacher: Teneisha Huley                    
Artists:
Carlos Jiménez Flores, poet & writing prompts       
Christine Steyer, soprano                             
Videographer:  Paul Geiger                    
Typist: Christine Steyer
Writing Prompts:
Love of Self                
Love for Other
Love of Other Things


Unity Temple, Unitarian Universalist Youth, Various Ages, Oak Park: 7/29/18

Teacher: Juliana Engel           
Artists:                         
Paul Geiger, narrator
Christine Steyer, soprano 
Peter Storms, piano
Videographer: Paul Geiger
Craft Project:
Students discover the chrysalis and the butterflies and create their own


John Kinzie Elementary, 6th Grade, Chicago: 5/9/19

Teacher: Shannon Torres                    
Artists:
Shannon Torres
Christine Steyer, soprano                             
Videographer: Regina Janczyszyn                           
Craft Project:
Students design costumes for opera characters


Unity Temple, Unitarian Universalist Youth, Various Ages, Oak Park: 7/28/19

Teacher: Juliana Engel                
Artist: Susan Sensemann, visual artist
Videographer: Juliana Engel                       
Craft Project:            
Students create a flower mandala and study the concepts of impermanence


John Kinzie Elementary, 8th Grade, Chicago: 10/7/19

Teacher:  Shannon Torres
Assistant:  Regina Janczyszyn
Artists:                        
Juliana Engel, artist & project workshop leader
Christine Steyer, soprano                 
Videographers:           
Christine Steyer
Juliana Engel                       
Craft Project:              
Students design costumes for opera characters

“Transcendence” 
 
Transcendence.
What we’ve done before 
doesn’t serve us anymore.
 
Like a tree’s unwanted leaves
my tears fall down.
Like broken-heart shaped needles
my tears fall down.
Transcendence.
 
I pray for a better day
I may never see.
I cry myself to sleep,
I need help along my way.
 
Transcendence.
What we do today
The world is yearning for.
 
 Transcendence.