Live Recording of A House in Bali Premiere in Ubud, Bali, June 2009
Act 1 Scene 1: Paris 1932
PARIS 1932 – Composer Colin McPhee has returned to Paris, following his first short trip to Bali. Blocked artistically and alienated from western culture, he realizes he must return to the island to document the traditional music.
Act 1 Scene 2 (Part 1 | Part 2)
SAYAN RIDGE – McPhee and his friend Kesyur arrive in the village of Sayan, where they survey the land and plan the house. Kesyur reminds McPhee that it is the wrong season for building, and that he has not sought the approval of the villagers or the gods, but the construction proceeds nonetheless.
Act 1 Scene 3 (Part 1 | Part 2)
BANGUNAN/HALANGAN – The villagers build McPhee’s house, albeit at a tropical pace which baffles and infuriates McPhee. They then barricade him inside for violations of adat. At first angered, he threatens to go to the Dutch authorities, but, on Kesyur’s advice, eventually agrees to join the banjar and make annual contributions to the village. A house ceremony begins as the scene ends.
Act 1 Scene 4
RESEARCH – McPhee transcribes gender wayang, Walter Spies paints, while Margaret Mead takes photographs and analyzes her data. All three muse in counterpoint on the nature of their research, and on its relationship to Balinese culture.
Act 1 Scene 5
MANDI SUNGAI – McPhee and Spies come upon village boys bathing in the Ayung River. A flash flood suddenly surges through the valley, and McPhee is saved by the boy Sampih, who guides him to shore. Taken with the boy, McPhee asks to have his parents brought to him.
Act 2 Scene 1
MAMPIR – Sampih and parents visit the house, where McPhee offers to give the boy employment. After some reticence and various misunderstandings, Spies suggests that McPhee offer to take Sampih for a ride in his car, at which point Sampih overcomes his shyness and agrees to join the household.
Act 2 Scene 2
DANCE LESSONS – The cook Rantun attempts unsuccessfully to teach the boy how to do various household tasks, but he is too energetic and distractable to concentrate. McPhee offers to arrange for Sampih to have dance lessons, and summons Nyoman Kalèr to teach him. This too proves disastrous, and Spies suggests instead Camplung, a girl from Bedulu, who would be more patient and attuned. She arrives and teaches Sampih kebyar dance.
Act 2 Scene 3
DEPARTURE – McPhee sleeps while Mead writes her book, Balinese Character, and a traditional kekawin singer warns of bad tidings and war. Leyak appear in the fields of Bongkasa, a sure sign of misfortune. McPhee then receives Sagami, a disquieting Japanese visitor, who may or may not be a spy. Sampih has meanwhile become a polished performer, which delights Spies but perturbs McPhee. No longer able to control the boy, he realizes he will always remain an outsider and must return to America. He makes preparations to leave, directing Durus to dig up the flowers and plant them at home. As he departs, a Dutch police officer arrives, arresting Spies on morality charges.