SPA, A Joy of Woman’s Desiring


Oh, My Pretty Sofia (Claire Layden, soprano, Karen Schwartz, Piano)

It Has to Be (Caroline Mallonee, Soprano, Jacob Greenberg, Piano)



A Joy of Woman’s Desiring

Story and Music by Michael Dilthey

Libretto by Karen Sunde

At its heart, this opera is a tragic story of infidelity. While class and race sometimes keep us separate, the trials and tribulations of relationships happen to us all. There is turmoil in the lives of two women attending a day spa, and this conflict is mirrored in the lives of two Hispanic women who work there. Despite the differences between the women, their circumstances bear familiarity with universality.

The employees, Lupe and Sophia, are friends, but Lupe has had a brief tryst with Sophia’s husband, Pablo. The guests, Nora and Joanne, are also friends, but Joanne is experiencing her first taste of love with Joe, who is married to Nora. Lupe and Joanne need to find a way to admit their cheating to their respective friends; Sophia and Nora do not know of these infidelities, but they are going to discover all very soon.

The opera begins with a chorus of women singing of the joys of going to the spa. They laugh at their husbands’ worries and the everyday drama in their lives. Soon, Joanne and Nora break away from the group and prepare for their morning massage. Under the skillful hands of their masseuses, Sophia and Lupe, the two guests catch up on their lives and Joanne shares that she has a new lover named Joe. She is quietly convinced that the relationship between Joe and his wife has been over for awhile. She’s simply waiting for Nora to admit it. She sings the aria “It Has to Be” to her friend.

Nora announces that she, too, has news. She is going to rejuvenate herself and rekindle the spark that was once in her marriage to Joseph, a spark that had been lost for some time now. Surprised, Joanne must find a way for Nora to see ‘the writing on the wall’ and break off her marriage.

In the lives of their masseuses, Lupe, a seasoned ‘Carmen-like’ woman, cares a great deal for her young friend Sophia. When Lupe was out late one night at a bar, she witnessed Pablo womanizing with every girl in the place and decided to intervene on behalf of Sophia. One thing led to another and an old flame between Pablo and her was fired up and she took him to bed. Now she needs to find a way to tell Sophia that Pablo is not ready for his new marriage to Sophia. To further complicate matters, Sophia needs to work extra hours to save for her new life with Pablo and her unexpected pregnancy. While Lupe is telling Sophia to see Pablo for what he is, Sophia is trying to tell Lupe that they will soon be a family.

After another chorus and aerobics class, Joanne and Nora decide to play tennis. During the game, Joanna reveals her new lover is currently married, but the marriage is really over. Lupe observes the match and senses something is wrong. She sings of the strength in women and how they must endure the weaknesses of men. After the game, Sophia and Lupe argue over Pablo’s character flaws. Sophia slowly realizes that the storybook vision of her life is false. Left alone, she cannot bear this reality and tragically takes her own life.

In the second act, all of the guests are preparing for a wonderful dinner from the famous chef “Andre” and sing in anticipation. Joanne is looking for Nora and Lupe is looking for Sophia, despite preparing the hall. When Nora enters, dressed for dinner in a stunning gown, she is angry and decides to tell Joanne that married men are ruthless and she must break off her affair with this “Joe”. Joanne is going to confront Nora and tell her that her Joe is also Joseph, Nora’s husband. The truth is told in a beautiful duet, leaving Nora furious. At the height of this tension, Lupe finds Sophia dead on a laundry table and screams. Seeing all, Joanne and Nora are horrified that something like this could happen over a man and they comprehend that their friendship is more important than what they thought was ‘love’. The chorus carries the dead body of Sophia to center stage and mourns her loss as the opera comes to a close.