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The Mission Opera will present the West Coast Premiere of Girondines, an opera written by acclaimed Native opera singer Kirsten C. Kunkle (Muscogee) and composer Sarah Van Sciver, at Canyon High School Performing Arts Center in Santa Clarita, California, on October 28 and 29. 

“Girondines” is based on a true story of a secret society of six French Revolution women. Together, they are friends, intellectuals, feminists, revolutionaries, and even considered radicals. The women wrote essential works and set of major events of the Revolution. Three of the women are executed by guillotine and three barely survive political upheaval. 

“I wanted to make this story interesting, believable, and authentic,” Kunkle told Native News Online. “I wanted it to resonate with people far beyond the French Revolution. What makes it worthwhile is that there are six viable roles for women that are not about someone being a wife, mother, nun, or love interest. It’s applicable to many situations that still exist for women nowadays.”

The title “Girondine” is the feminine form of the movement’s name. The opera’s titular characters are based on real women, including artists, writers, and scientists. The production consists of 12 roles, all of which are women. 

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Kunkle and Van Sciver created the opera during the pandemic. Kunkle wrote the libretto, or the opera’s text and Van Sciver composed the music. 

“We never got to work in person until we were two weeks out for the first premiere of the opera in concert version on the East Coast last year,” Kunkle said. “We did a lot of email and phone calls and created this opera together. It was challenging but worthwhile.”  

Kunkle will be playing the role of Charlotte Corday, who indicted, judged, and executed the radical journalist Jean-Paul Marat by murdering him in his bath. Despite her aristocratic background, Corday was an avowed republican who believed Marat and his Jacobin allies were corrupting the soul of the Revolution. Following her death, she became a revolutionary martyr. 

“I created this story, and I hope it is something that people like,” Kunkle said. “It ties together women in a way that is not how we normally see women. I think that it is really exciting for the performers, and truly anyone can enjoy it if they go in with the idea that I am going to hear music I have never heard before. You will leave humming the melodies.” 

Kunkle is a leading Native American soprano in today’s classical music world. She commissioned and premiered sixteen original compositions, including one of her own, based upon the poetry of her ancestor and a highly acclaimed poet of the Native American Muscogee Nation. 



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About The Author
Kaili Berg
Author: Kaili BergEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Staff Reporter
Kaili Berg (Aleut) is a member of the Alutiiq/Sugpiaq Nation, and a shareholder of Koniag, Inc. She is a staff reporter for Native News Online and Tribal Business News. Berg, who is based in Wisconsin, previously reported for the Ho-Chunk Nation newspaper, Hocak Worak. She went to school originally for nursing, but changed her major after finding her passion in communications at Western Technical College in Lacrosse, Wisconsin.