Opera Scotland

I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky

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John Adams (Born Worcester, Mass., 15 February 1947)


June Jordan





First Performance: Berkeley, California (Zellerbach Playhouse), 11 May 1995.

First Performance in UK: Edinburgh (Royal Lyceum Theatre), 14 August 1995.

First Performance in Scotland: As above.

Scottish Opera première: N/A.



After the large-scale Nixon in China and Death of Klinghoffer, Ceiling/Sky is a piece on a more intimate scale, part chamber opera, part rock musical. It represents a departure from the minimalist styles employed in the earlier operas, and appears to be influenced more by jazz, gospel, soul and rock, as well as typical Broadway styles, without providing music of any particular individuality in any of these idioms. Described as an 'earthquake romance', the basis of the plot is the Los Angeles earthquake of 1994 and the effect it had on a group of residents in one of the poorer areas of the city.



Consuelo, an illegal immigrant (mezzo-soprano)

Dewain, a reformed gangleader (baritone)

Rick, a lawyer (tenor)

Leila, a counsellor (mezzo-soprano)

David, a black preacher (tenor)

Tiffany, a TV reporter (mezzo-soprano)

Mike, a white cop (baritone)


Plot Summary

The earthquake has a dramatic impact on these individuals - all survive, but they are driven to review their lives and alter their actions. Dewain, unsuccessfully defended by Rick, is in prison when the quake destroys the building, providing the title. David and Leila realise they are in love. Consuelo wonders whether to return to El Salvador. Mike accepts that he is gay, and his girlfriend Tiffany then pairs off with Rick, himself the offspring of Vietnamese immigrants.

The Cast

 an illegal immigrant
 a Baptist preacher
 a reformed gang leader
 a counsellor
 a rookie cop
 a lawyer
 a TV news reporter

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