Pilgrimage: A New American Opera

Act 1:

And Then There Was One / The Wise Man / Sanctuary / If I’d Only Known I / Jesse / There’s Nothing Around To Care For / Learn To Breathe / The Chemistry Of Stars / Confessional I / Requiem / Lazarus And The Liquid Tomb / Revelation

Act 2:

If I’d Only Known II / Behind The Curve / Crusade / Confessional II / Oceans Of Her / The Ministry Of The One True Faith / Born Out Of Aliens / Messiah / And Then There Was Two / Absolution / Original Sin



Just before dawn on the outskirts of a small, far-eastern Moroccan village, Lazarus learns of his father’s death from a voicemail left by his ex-wife, Agnes.  AND THEN THERE WAS ONE  She tells him she is coming to Fes and asks him to meet her there in 48 hours.  Well into his sixth year of self imposed exile, Lazarus takes stock of his situation.  THE WISE MAN  He is alone, running from nothing and unable to let go of the past.   

Ten-year-old Lazarus prays in church, his mother watching closely behind.  SANCTUARY  Afraid to go home, he prays for his father to go away.  Lazarus’s father, a construction worker, Vietnam Vet, alcoholic, and former drug addict is a terrifying presence in the house.

A sand storm prevents Lazarus’s driver, Jahir, from readying Lazarus’s things for the drive to Fes.  Lazarus, however, stands outside in the stinging sand as if to will it away, thinking with regret of Nikolas, a young man who made a terrible choice.  IF I’D ONLY KNOWN

Eight years earlier, Nikolas, a seventeen year old boy living in a low income Los Angles neighborhood, pulls himself out of bed and stands in his cluttered room.  JESSE  Firing up his laptop, he sees an e-mail from his brother, Jesse, who’s stationed in Afghanistan on his second tour of duty.  After reading the e-mail, Nikolas storms out of the house.  Taking in the slow decay of his world, he heads to his dealer, Granny’s.  THERE NOTHING AROUND TO CARE FOR.

Agnes, a respected and successful songwriter in her late thirties is on the plane in London waiting to take off on her way to Fes.  She remembers meeting Lazarus on “Later…with Jools Holland” where he was promoting his debut album.  LEARN TO BREATHE

Agnes and Lazarus  fall in love and become the darling couple of the music world.  Finding a more receptive audience in Europe, Lazarus moves to London and they marry.  After a few years, Lazarus becomes a European rock star, his career culminating in a giant show at Wembley Stadium.  THE CHEMISTRY OF STARS  However, after the show, a very inebriated Lazarus hits another car, as he drives home in the early morning, seriously injuring the driver.  While he is in jail, terrorists bomb the London Underground.

When Lazarus returns home, Agnes tells him that his mother is dying and he needs to head back to the U.S..  Lazarus, filled with anger over the “incompetence” of the other driver, the bombings, and the risk to his career, prepares to leave.  Agnes contemplates the life they’ve made together.  CONFESSIONAL I

Back in the U.S., sitting at his mother’s death bed, a drunk and very angry Lazarus mourns.  REQUIEM  As his mother dies, he witnesses her soul leave her body.  Convinced it is a sign, he renounces the bottle and his past ways for a new life.  LAZARUS AND THE LIQUID TOMB  Christening himself the Demon Phoenix, he vows a return to the one true faith.

One year later, Nikolas slouches on the living room couch, digesting the news of Jesse’s death in Afghanistan, while his parents bicker in the kitchen and his girlfriend sits uncomfortably next to him.  Coming to the conclusion that it might be time to kill himself, Nikolas heads to Granny’s with his girlfriend.  As Granny readies an unusually large order of Oxycontin and moans about how cute Jesse was and what a good customer he had been, Nikolas’s attention gravitates toward the voices on Granny’s radio.  REVELATION  Slowly absorbing the words, he feels a deep shift inside.  Without a word, he exits Granny’s house.  If the world isn’t going to change for him, he will change it himself.


As Jahir brings him ever closer to Fes, Lazarus stares into the red flickering sun sinking into the sand.  When was his own path diverted?  IF I’D ONLY KNOWN II  At which point did he lose his way?  And where was this path leading him to now?

After his conversion, Lazarus writes a book detailing his experiences and how he came to interpret God’s message.  He embarks on a nationwide book tour to not only promote the book but also jump start his ministry.  BEHIND THE CURVE  Agnes reluctantly agrees to remain in the U.S. and accompany Lazarus on the tour, but begins to grow increasingly concerned about his well being as his sermons grow more incendiary and the crowds more extreme.

Spreading the message of Lazarus and the One True Faith, Nikolas slowly assembles a following of teenagers, naming them the Children’s Crusade.  After meetings in backyards and parking lots in and around the Riverside area, they converge on mosques and Muslim businesses, vandalizing property and harassing individuals.  CRUSADE

As news spreads of the Children’s Crusade’s activities, pressure increases on Lazarus to disavow their crimes and help bring order.  He agrees to reschedule his book tour and immediately goes to Los Angeles.

While in L.A., Agnes discovers she’s pregnant.  She tries to convince Lazarus to end the tour and return back to London.  He dismisses her claiming the work he is doing is bigger than both of them.  He walks out of the hotel and heads to the bookstore before she can tell him about the baby.  CONFESSIONAL II

As Nikolas gathers his followers in a parking lot adjacent to the bookstore and begins to preach, Agnes exits the hotel and gets into a taxi on her way back to London.  OCEANS OF HER

Lazarus appears in the bookstore to a roar and slowly makes his way through the bewitched crowd, shaking hands and offering salutations of peace.  THE MINISTRY OF THE ONE TRUE FAITH Finished with the greetings, he heads to the stage and briefly addresses the crowd about the Children’s Crusade.  Afterward, the large crowd has turned into an orderly line waiting patiently to get their books signed.  When it’s his turn, Nikolas places a book in front of Lazarus.  After asking for confirmation on his instructions, Nikolas leaves the bookstore and walks slowly home.  BORN OUT OF ALIENS

Carefully placing pipe bombs into his backpack, he catches an empty bus to the neighborhood mosque, and as evening prayers end and the people gather outside, Nikolas presses the trigger.

Alone in a dark church, Lazarus questions God and the miracle he thought he witnessed.  MESSIAH

Lazarus meets Agnes at the hotel in Fes, where she tells him of their six-year-old son.  AND THEN THERE WERE TWO   Lazarus can no longer hide from the wreckage of his past.  He can no longer hold back the flood of guilt and shame.  He cries out for his mother, who appears, lifting from him the weight of the past.  ABSOLUTION     

As afternoon prayers are called throughout the city, Lazarus walks to the hotel pool, removes his sandals and submerges himself in the water.  ORIGINAL SIN     

Having found some semblance of peace, he feels ready to give his son what he never had:  a father ready to let go and be there for his child.  Meeting his son for the first time in the hotel lobby, Lazarus is ready for this next chapter in his new life.



One response to “Pilgrimage: A New American Opera

  1. Pingback: The Waste Land… | Atom Fellows

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