Opera Prize 2020


12 / 13

The Listeners

The Norwegian National Opera & Ballet

The Listeners


The Listeners is a proposed new grand opera from composer Missy Mazzoli and librettist Royce Vavrek based on an original story by Jordan Tannahill and inspired by the phenomenon known as The Hum.

The Listeners is an opera about our desperate desire to belong, our search for community and meaning, and the power of charismatic leaders who exploit these desires.
A middle-class mother living in a southwestern US suburb notices a “hum,” a high-frequency environmental noise that only a select few people, “the Listeners”, can hear. A community organization quickly forms to solve the mystery of the hum, but when a de facto leader suggests a spiritual significance the meetings become increasingly cult-like, ritualized experiences. It becomes clear that this community of “Listeners” is on a collision course of destruction.

This opera examines the lengths to which we are willing to go in order to find a sense of place and purpose, and the way in which charismatic leaders can exploit these needs to their own ends. An enduring part of our American identity is a sense of deserved and inevitable success and happiness. When this imagined future collides with the realities and struggles of everyday life, dazzling and predatory leaders offering a “quick fix” can easily prey on the vulnerabilities of the lonely and lost.

More about "The Hum": 



Artistic Team

Royce Vavrek

Royce Vavrek


Lileana Blain-Cruz

Lileana Blain-Cruz

Artistic Director

Co-producing Partners

Opera Philadelphia

United States


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