Angels of the House is a new multimedia opera, set in 19th-Century London, that explores themes of women’s rights, reproductive rights, and domestic trauma. Conceived, written, scored and co-directed by CFA undergraduates Shambhavi Mishra and Sophie Carpenter during the COVID pandemic year, Angels of the House was supported in part by Grant #2021-036 from the Frank-Ratchye Fund for Art @ the Frontier. (Below: 90-second trailer; 105-minute full production.)
Set in London, England in the 1800s, Angels of the House is a two-hour opera that follows the fictional friendship between two real-life women: Caroline Norton, an acclaimed women’s rights activist, and Arabella Decker, a working-class, soon-to-be mother. Each day, the women’s place in society is defined by the patriarchy, as when Norton’s proposed “Custody of Infants Act”, brought for consideration to the House of Lords in 1839, is rejected solely because she is a woman.
Angels of the House presents complex social issues and feminist histories through the lens of 21st century creative media, exploring the mores and policies of the past while connecting their effects to the present day. The opera explores challenging themes including mental and physical abuse, women’s rights, reproductive rights, and miscarriage. Behind the scenes, the opera’s female-centric cast and diverse crew breaks barriers as well, showcasing talent in a field where this is still quite rare.
Angels of the House was conceived prior to the COVID pandemic, and then developed against the backdrop of lockdown. Many unforeseen changes and constraints compelled Carpenter and Mishra to extensively reimagine its production, eventually shift gears to a fully online presentation. Ultimately, the project’s technological elements intertwine with the music composition, set design, and other audiovisual elements to represent persistently problematic social issues with a modern point of view. In this way, Angels of the House bridges history, law, culture, art, and technology in a media format that young and old viewers can relate to and learn from.
Cast & Crew
Produced & Co-Directed by Shambhavi Mishra & Sophie Carpenter
Lyrics by Sophie Carpenter
Music by Shambhavi Mishra
Arabella Decker voiced and acted by Kristina Costello
Caroline Norton acted by Kate Smith, voiced by Sophie Carpenter
Kyran Decker voiced and acted by Michael Madison
US of Caroline Norton & promotional vocals by Faith S. Snyderman
Flute performed by Cheryl Zhang
Viola performed by Sara Frankel
Harp performed by Alice Statham
Piano performed by Winfred Wang
Trombone performed by Liz Maday
Tuba performed by Ethan Marmolejos
Upright Bass performed by Drew Brunson
Electronics performed by Shambhavi Mishra
Academic Advisor: Annie Hui-Hsin Hsieh
Production Manager: Kanvi Shah
Costume Designer: Veepra Mishra
Production Visuals edited by Sophie Carpenter
Production Audio edited by Shambhavi Mishra
Funded and Sponsored by The Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry & College of Fine Arts
Recorded on location at The Carnegie Museum of Art, with permission.