Paradise-on-Earth? New opera envisions Revelation’s next chapter





BROOKLINE — Act 3 of composer Julian Wachner and librettist Cerise Lim Jacobs’s new opera, “REV. 23,” features a book-burning. Accordingly, last week, cardboard boxes of mass-market paperbacks and library discards could be found tucked away in a corner of the vast atrium of Jacobs’s Brookline home, all ready to make their stage debut at John Hancock Hall, where the opera will premiere Sept. 29 at the tail end of the Boston New Music Festival.

But first, the books had to escape being devoured.

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“They just stick their little snouts in there, pick one, and shred it.” Jacobs, an energetic lawyer-turned-librettist, was referring to her two basset-hound-size miniature pet pigs, who have a voracious appetite for paper.

Prop-eating pigs aren’t the only unconventional thing about this show’s journey to the stage. The opera, an existential farce that newly dubbed production company White Snake Projects describes as the “hitherto unpublished last chapter of the Book of Revelation,” is roughly 1½ hours long with no intermission. The cast has been rehearsing in Jacobs’s home since late last month.

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Baritone Michael Mayes, who sings the role of Lucifer, said he enjoyed the expansive rehearsal process, which left room for input from the cast. “Instead of having one person in the room who says this is how it goes, it’s a group sort of divination of what this piece is,” he said. “It wasn’t set when we got here.”

Maybe such a process is fitting for a work concerning matters that no human can authoritatively know. It all began, Jacobs explained, when she wondered whether her late husband, Charles Jacobs, was “up there.” “I thought maybe he won’t even be happy up there because of the fact that he’s an incorrigible,…

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