The Touch: A Black Box Opera
By Nolan Stolz

Please listen to the demo recording: a collage of excerpts from the seven scenes. Although the entire opera lasts forty-five minutes, the excerpt lasts less than seven minutes.



When two people are meant to be together, eventually they will end up together.


ERIC: mid-thirties; business man, reasonably successful with a good job, nice home with nice furniture. He cannot deal with the everyday issues of life, made apparent by the piles of trash in his living room and his struggle with alcoholism.

YOUNG ERIC: mid-twenties; suave, well-dressed, he meets a girl that will eventually stop his fast lifestyle.

ERIC: mid-thirties; dressed in gentle white robe, has no recollection of a
(IN AFTERLIFE) previous life, knows not how he arrived this strange place. Evelyn names him Eric, showing that he is actually a reincarnation of Eric.

ALLISON: twenty-one years of age; conservative yet beautiful, wanting to settle down and get married, finds Young Eric exciting, yet still wants to tame him.

EVELYN: twenty-one years of age; dressed in gentle white robe, has no recollection of any previous life, but is quite content with a new one. She was named by a fellow spirit, which is custom in this afterlife. It is to be concluded from the final scene that she is actually the spirit of Allison.

****For the purposes of this webpage, the libretto has been shortened to include only stage directions and the lyrics that appear on the demo recording excerpts.****

Scene One

ERIC's living room. Piles of papers strewn about the floor. The coffee table is filled with dirty dishes, and a shot glass already filled with whiskey. There is a large trash-can overflowing with trash.

Enter ERIC, dressed in dress pants, dress shirt with sleeves gently rolled up with a recent, wet stain, tie very loosely tightened. He is noticeably drunk, having just spent hours at the bar after work. In the right hand, a briefcase. In the left hand, a bottle of whiskey. He is sick of his job, because he has no motivation to live. His only reason to work is to pay the bills. Basically, ERIC is unhappy with his life. He feels that his only reason to exist was to be with ALLISON, but she passed away. Now that she is gone, he misses that life too much. He just wants to feel her touch again, like the first night they met.

An exceprt from the recording: “Sipping a slow death, drowning my life away, drinking my last breath.Why? I hate my life.”

Later in the scene, ERIC sings, “Allison, let's go back in time and relive the life we once had. I just want to feel your touch again!”

ERIC drinks the pre-poured shot of whiskey, curls up on the couch cradling the bottle, and falls asleep. Lights black for scene change.

Scene Two

A bar approximately ten years ago, couch is turned around, 2 bar stools are placed in front of it, so it now doubles as a bar.

ALLISON is sitting at the bar. She wonders what she is doing in a bar since she is unfamiliar with the bar scene and does not drink. She is bored with her current lifestyle and is in search of excitement for the first time in her life. She just turned twenty-one years of age, and she is curious what the bar scene is like. She is determined that she will never meet a good guy in a bar, because she cannot imagine herself with a man that frequents bars.

An excerpt from the recording:

“Bartender! One glass of water, please.
My first night on the bar scene: is this what it's like?
I'm in search of excitement, but it doesn't feel quite right.
See, I am just a curious girl looking for something new.”

Scene Three


ALLISON sees Eric and falls for him. She wonders if she is just looking for excitement in life, or is genuinely interested in him. In order to meet her standards, he would have to slow down his life. He sees ALLISON, and is also captivated by her beauty, but he is too concerned with his fast lifestyle. He wants nothing to do with her, and resists her.
She feels that she must touch him, so she does. Her touch convinces him that he could slow down his life to be with her for the rest of his life.

An excerpt from the recording: YOUNG ERIC sings to himself, “I have never seen this girl before, and I'm here ’most every night (and day.)
To use my skills on such an innocent girl, it wouldn't seem right, (anyway.)

Another excpert, when ALLISON is skeptical about her attraction to YOUNG ERIC. “Oh no! Nuh-uh. What am I thinking? He’s really not at all my type. It’s because it is my first time, not what I'm really like.”

YOUNG ERIC sings, “But she keeps looking over at me, for once maybe I'm the prey. I must resist temptation, pretend.”

And together they sing, “pretend to know not what to say.”

ALLISION takes three steps towards him and sings, “But I will touch him anyway.
For what do I have to lose? He is the one I must choose.”

Scene Four

ERIC's living room.

Enter ERIC only in his boxer shorts, holding a picture of ALLISON. He cannot stand to be alone anymore. He misses the life they had together and sees no point to go on living without her anymore.

An excerpt from the scene: “The mem’ry of your touch is fading, fading, mem’ry is fading, fading. I need you to touch me again. The mem’ry alone will no longer do. It's as if I never knew you. The years we had as husband and wife: they seem like a blink of an eye in this horrific life. I'm throwing away all these years without you.”

Scene Five

The Afterlife. The stage is completely empty.

Enter ERIC IN AFTERLIFE, dressed in a gentle, white robe. He has no recollection of a previous life, knows not how he arrived this strange place, so he leaves to learn where and why he is here.

ERIC IN AFTERLIFE opens the scene with “What is this place that greets me this day? Have I been here before? I cannot say.”

Scene Six


She recognizes his voice. Although she has no recollection of a previous life, the voice reminds her of a man she once loved. She feels that she must touch him.

In the excerpt, she sings, “I must find this voice. I must find this man. I must find my man and touch him, touch him, touch him.”


Scene Seven


Once she touches his face, he remembers the touch: his first and only memory from his previous life. They insist they know one another from some other time and place, but look forward for a new life together. It is assumed by the audience that Evelyn is the spirit of Allison.

EVELYN names him ERIC, and they touch each other.

EV: Yes, Eric. I want to feel your touch for eternity.

EIA: Yes! This is our destiny!

EV: To be together after all this time, it was just meant to be!

EIA: Our destiny!

EV: All this time that I've been searching for the one, I have found you!

ERIC IN AFTERLIFE and EVELYN exit, hand in hand.

Special thanks to Kalin Kirilov, the sound engineer, Jordan Bemrose (mezzo soprano), David Fertal (tenor), Dr. Dan Cathey (clarinet and bass clarinet), Jamie Keesecker (horn), Jonathan Vetter (‘cello), Jonathan Glawe (bass), Alexis Gibbons (piano), Jeff Tinsley (percussion) who worked so hard on the demo recording. Also thanks to Ben Olsen for videotaping the sessions and to Harvest Mondello, the photographer. Thanks to Jessica Watson for the interest and support at the beginning of the compositional process. Thanks to Jessica Rudman for suggestions about the music, and to Jessica Styler for input on the libretto. Thanks also to Theresa Ryan for discussions of the definition of "black box theatre" and encouraging me to coin the phrase "black box opera" as a compositional form. Thanks to University of Oregon professors Dr. Jack Boss, Dr. David Crumb, and Dr. Robert Kyr for their support and guidance.


ProQuest document ID: 1394663551

ISBN: 9780549159124


Compositions of Nolan Stolz