Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Gardner McFall to speak at Richard Hugo House

Post by Amelia Librettist Gardner McFall (left)

On April 26, I will speak at Seattle's Richard Hugo House about autobiography as it appears in the personal essay and memoir. However, life experience has also influenced the poems contained in my two books The Pilot’s Daughter and Russian Tortoise. Most recently, it has informed the libretto for Daron Hagen’s Amelia, which Seattle Opera premieres May 8 with story and direction by Stephen Wadsworth.

While the story Stephen Wadsworth crafted contains plot elements that don’t correspond precisely with my life, those differences and, indeed Amelia herself, who became my mask while I was writing the libretto, provided the means by which I could explore and depict the emotional truth of my experience. And that is what the writer is really after: authenticity and discovery. I was fourteen when my Navy pilot father, who had served one tour in Vietnam, was lost at sea. Like Amelia, I lived for many years with questions, ambivalence, and a deep sense of life’s fragility. My journey from loss to recuperation is what I accessed when working on the libretto.

Richard Hugo writes in The Triggering Town: “Quest for self is fundamental to poetry.” It is also fundamental to forms like the personal essay, memoir, and, in my case, the libretto for Amelia. I look forward to meeting members of the Richard Hugo House community on April 26 at 7 pm.