The Canticle of the Black Madonna

A new opera in two acts

By Ethan Gans-Morse &
Tiziana DellaRovere

The Story


The Canticle of the Black Madonna is a work of art that provides an environment for healing through music, poetry, and rituals that catalyze the restoration of the human soul. As told through Tiziana DellaRovere’s beautiful and poetic libretto, the story takes place in modern Louisiana at the time of the 2010 oil spill as Adam, a war veteran suffering from PTSD, returns home from Afghanistan to his young wife, Mara. The narrative unfolds through the dramatic tension created by Adam’s symptoms of PTSD, the destruction of the environment from the oil spill, the shock and confusion of Mara, and the mystical realm of the Black Madonna.

As these elements collide with each other in a seemingly destructive way, their redemption is found through love and the grace-filled compassion of the Black Madonna. Adam is faced with the challenges and scars of modern warfare, but his struggles are those of all men: coming to terms with himself as a husband, father, son, provider, and guardian, while reclaiming his shattered sense of his own innate goodness. His wife, Mara, struggles similarly with contemporary issues of ecological destruction, her husband’s war traumas, and the tension between supporting her husband and protecting herself from his violent outbursts which threaten her very life.

Mara serves as a universal depiction of the challenges that women face as the sustainers of life. Like Mara, many women react to the horrors of war and environmental devastation with a tangible pain which they feel on both a personal and collective level. The Black Madonna, representing the Divine Feminine, is the compassionate aspect of the Divine who suffers with and within humanity, and at the same time contains the resolution of all conflicts through the soothing embrace of Her infinite wisdom and love.

A central theme of The Canticle of the Black Madonna is that when we are faced with challenges too large to overcome as ordinary individuals, we reach for the realm of the sacred and long for the healing embrace of the Universal Mother, the mysterious, merciful love of the Black Madonna. This healing embrace is more than a literary, religious, or psychological metaphor; it is a living, tangible connection with a vibrant life-force that each person carries within. Many of us, during our darkest nights, discover a sense of inner grace, a mysterious force that saints and mystics have explored, which we can only express through art and poetry. This ineffable divine presence ultimately holds the key to true, lasting healing and the revitalization of the human soul.

As artists, we know that these ineffable parts of our existence are profoundly real and crucially important to our happiness and the health of our society. Art is much more than entertainment. It reconnects us with ourselves, restores our wounded self-image, and reaffirms our passion and belonging to the world. It is our hope that the Canticle of the Black Madonna will be a unique, restorative event for all those who experience it.