Sweat


A full-length a cappella opera for 5 soloists and chorus
Produced by Center for Contemporary Opera & Urbanvessel
Music: Juliet Palmer
Libretto: Anna Chatterton
Director: Giselle Ty
Conductor: Lidiya Yanskovaya

Premiere: October 26-27 2016, National Sawdust, Brooklyn, New York

“Made in Bangladesh, Vietnam, Italy, China, India…the U.S.A.”  Who sews our clothes, who makes our shoes? Where do they live? How much are they paid? What would you dream of, sewing sleeves all day? Is life better in the village you left behind? Sweat is a kaleidoscope of characters and stories collected from factories around the world. Plunging headfirst into the ethical conundrums of the garment trade, the work offers a window into the lives of the unseen millions who work to clothe us and the high-flying designers whose fantasies feed the fashion industry.

During my childhood my mother sewed my clothes, keeping me at the forefront of seventies fashion. She was especially proud of her sewing lineage: my great-grandmother had been a professional tailor in the tiny town of Takaka in New Zealand. Not only did she earn a living making clothes, but she created the costumes and the choreography for the local musical extravaganzas.

Now my clothes are made by workers I will never meet. Chances are they are women who live very different lives from mine. I will never hear the stories of how these women came to work alongside thousands of others sewing shirts, jackets, skirts and pants. Those stories may end in death — as they did in Bangladesh in three separate tragedies involving hundreds of women in one year alone.Read more.

Funding Credits:
Commissioned by Soundstreams Canada with the support of the Ontario Arts Council.
Workshop 2013 supported by Opera.ca, Soundstreams Canada and Urbanvessel.
Premiere production supported by the Canada Council for the Arts & Center for Contemporary Opera.

Photo: Workers in a garment factory in Jiaxing, China (2008) by flickr user memn. Creative Commons license.