"S'ALTRO CHE LACRIME", from Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito
With Kimberley-Ann Bartczak, Piano

Filmed on July 29th, 2022

The Baumann Centre - Victoria BC, Canada

TENEBRIS
Produced by Pacific Opera Victoria and Christ Church Cathedral

“As a classical singer, it’s rare that you are given complete artistic freedom in your work. Most of our careers consist of “sing this because there is work available” or “this is what the director is asking for”. So, when given the opportunity to create something with very few guidelines and limitations, I was utterly terrified. And excited. But mostly terrified. How on earth could I even figure out where to start?

I toyed with the idea of creating something that reflected my personal struggles with mental health but was worried about doing something so personal. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to put that out in the world, and I didn’t know if I could present it in a way that people would understand. I had spent so many years not talking about my depression, not because I was ashamed, but because I wasn’t comfortable bringing attention to myself in that way.

In the weeks leading up to my recording deadline I spent a lot of time calling my friend (and fellow ACEQ member) Chelsea to brainstorm ideas for our projects. I brought up my thoughts on basing my project on my own experiences with mental health, as well as my concerns about it being too personal, and she helped me to see the possibilities:

C: “Is there a song that you listened to that helped you? Or something that you relate to strongly?”
A: “Well, sometimes when I was having a really rough day, I would just lie on the floor and stare at the ceiling, and sometimes Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater would start to play in my mind. I don’t exactly know why, but I suppose it’s because it’s one of my favourite pieces of music and was something that I had listened to thousands of times, and so it helped ground me back in reality for a moment. But Chels, I can’t do the Stabat Mater, it’s a duet.”
C: “Well, why not?”
A: “… Why not?… Why not!”

And that was it – the seed was planted, and everything started to fall into place in my mind.

 

The final product, Tenebris (Latin for “darkness” or “prison”) is a narrative between two versions of myself: the one that feels like backseat driver in my life, and the one that tries to remind me that I am still there even if I can’t see it in the moment. I was so fortunate to be able to film the entirety of the video at Christ Church Cathedral in front of an incredible stained-glass window, which adds an extra visual element of colour and light that features prominently in the final cut.

 

While this project reflects my own personal experiences, my hope is that people will find different meaning in and connection to what they see and hear, as depression and other mental health disorders manifest so differently from individual to individual. My goal has been to create something that would reach people emotionally, and the idea that I could reach even one person was what gave me the strength to share my story. This has been a personal journey more than ten years in the making, and it’s certainly not over yet.

 

And so, I would like to dedicate this project to anyone and everyone who is affected by a struggle with mental health. Whether you are someone who is experiencing it first-hand, or you are close to someone who is, or you are someone who has not yet been able to face your darkness and give it a name, this is for you."             

                                               – Ai Horton, April 2021