“Love/Death” is a work-in-progress. It will consist of 2 separate and distinct stories, intended to be performed together as a single work. Each story will be about 30 minutes long, using a common cast of four; 2 men, 2 women. The stories will be presented in song, as an evening of chamber opera.
My hyphenated working title might be thought to represent the two operas, one being titled “Love” and the other, “Death,” but actually both shows have central characters who must deal with Love and Death in the course of their stories. The eccentricity with which they deal with these universal experiences is magnified by the fact that both central characters are actual historical figures. This blog, I will discuss the story of Mary Mallon.
Mary Mallon, also known as “Typhoid Mary,” was responsible for at least 3 to 5 deaths in the New York City area after the turn of the century, although it is widely assumed that there were many others unaccounted for. She often worked as a cook under assumed names which made it impossible to trace her whereabouts during the typhoid epidemic of 1906-1907. For those unfamiliar with her story, she was a carrier of the disease, never exhibiting any symptoms herself, but able to pass it to others.
I wondered—what if Mary fell in love? Most people do at some point in their lives. Historically, she never married, but what man would last long enough to get to the altar? One serving of dinner and it’s time to find a new fiance.
What a horrible, unthinkable situation for any human being to be in. Every person Mary ever loved dies a horrible death. The real Mary Mallon publicly denied ever being responsible for anyone’s death, refusing to believe that she had the disease, but even if she didn’t accept responsibility, what would her life be like if she watched every person she ever cared for die? Time and time again.
I asked myself:
What would I do if I suspected that falling in love with someone might also be a death sentence for that person?
Could I be strong enough to proactively isolate myself to protect others?
Would the need for human companionship and physical intimacy be so strong that I choose to live my life in denial, risking those around me?