Counterstream Radio
Inspect the unexpected
Media on Demand
Browse Music and Interviews

Inheritance – A Chamber Opera

America's complicated relationship with guns is our Inheritance.


Conceived in late 2015 as a collaboration between composer Lei Liang, librettist Matt Donovan, artist Ligia Bouton and soprano Susan Narucki, Inheritance is a chamber opera that revolves around Sarah Winchester, the eccentric widow and heiress to the Winchester rifle fortune.  According to popular belief, Winchester imprisoned herself in her labyrinth-like home to seek refuge from the spirits of those killed by the same weapons whose manufacture and sale gave her a life of indescribable wealth.  The legends surrounding her life are impossible to extract from her actual history; to the collaborative team, the contradictions speak to America’s inability to separate fact and fiction in the contemporary debate about guns and gun violence.

Events in Winchester’s life – whether the stuff of legend or plain-spoken truth – are one aspect of Inheritance.  These episodes are juxtaposed with contemporary events, moments ripped from headlines that play out on grand platforms of news and social media, which seem to be interpreted differently in the eye of each beholder.  In this way, Inheritance seeks to explore America’s violent legacy and deeply complex relationship with guns.

With music by composer Lei Liang and libretto by poet Matt Donovan, Inheritance is a seventy minute work in one act for four voices and chamber ensemble.  Inheritance will be premiered in October, 24, 2018 at the Experimental Theater of the Conrad Prebys Music Center at UC San Diego with soprano/producer Susan Narucki in the role of Sarah Winchester.

Renowned conductor and percussionist Steven Schick will lead an ensemble of virtuoso musicians, including clarinetist Anthony Burr, bassist Mark Dresser, guitarist Pablo Gomez, harpsichordist Takae Onishi,and trumpeter Stephanie Richards.  Stage director Cara Consilvio directs the production that features multimedia design by artist Ligia Bouton.

Performances of the opera will be coupled with public discussion in collaboration with the Institute for the Arts and Humanities at UC San Diego.  The opera will be recorded for CD and video release following the production.

Inheritance  has earned major grants from the Creative Capital Foundation (2016) the University of California at San Diego (2017), the UC San Diego Department of Music, and the National Endowment for the Arts (2017).  In 2018, Inheritance earned a grant from New Music USA.  Inheritance is a co-presentation of ArtPower and the Department of Music at UC San Diego

Project Media

“Rose” – Scene Three of Cuatro Corridos, a chamber opera
Like this? Login or register to make a playlist of your favorites pieces.

Cuatro Corridos is a chamber opera that addresses human trafficking across the U.S. Mexican border. In the third scene, Rose, a policewoman, is reading a statement to the press about the capture and arrest of the Salazar Juarez trafficking ring. She begins by stating the facts of the case and describing the raid in which she and her fellow officers liberated nineteen Mexican women. But then, she challenges her listeners: “Do you ask yourselves, gentlemen, what till happen to these women?”

2016 Bridge Records. Info: www.cuatrocorridos.com

Xiaoxiang – Saxophone Concerto (Lei Liang)
Like this? Login or register to make a playlist of your favorites pieces.
Features: Lei Liang

This concerto focuses on a Chinese villager whose husband was killed by a local official during the Cultural Revolution. Without the means to seek justice, she decided to take revenge by wailing like a ghost in the forest every evening. Months later, both the official and the woman went insane.
Inheritance will include similar sounds that serve as active forces, haunting and conversing with Sarah Winchester, like the unseen spirits who haunt her mansion, engaging in dialogue with her and serving as reminders of her own complex grief.

Start and End Dates



San Diego, California

Project Created By

San Diego, California
With luminous tone and distinctive artistry, American soprano Susan Narucki has earned critical acclaim for over two decades. She has appeared with the Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Netherlands Opera, San Francisco Symphony, MET Chamber Ensemble, on the Great Performers Series at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall with conductors such as Boulez, Levine, Salonen, Tilson…

In Collaboration With

San Diego, California
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Production Designer
Santa Fe, New Mexico


Leave a Reply