In April 2025 Bobbi Jene Smith and Or Schraiber choreograph Cassandra Miller’s celebrated viola concerto I cannot love without trembling for GöteborgsOperans Danskompani. Their new work appears as part of the double bill Dusk till Dawn (3-27 April 2025) alongside Crystal Pite’s Frontier.

Smith and Schraiber’s new work sets out to depict the relentless force that makes people fight to keep hope alive despite their own fragility: in a dance between vulnerability and strength, people do everything they can to avoid becoming numb and remain open to life. It will be lit by David Stokholm and designed by Christian Friedländer.

I cannot love without trembling will be performed live by the Göteborg Opera Orchestra, conducted by Nathan Brock, with the viola solo performed by Emil Jonasson and Franziska Wenzel over the course of the run. The 25-minute work takes its title from the writings of Simone Weil and draws on the music-making of Epirot violinist Alexis Zoumbas, who left his mountainous homeland in Greece for the United States. Recordings of his improvised, lamenting moiroloi, the funeral music associated with the women of Epirus, is another creative impetus for the work.  

It is cast in one unbroken span with five sections (four verses with a concluding cadenza), each one titled after a quotation from Weil: ‘To love purely is to consent to distance’; ‘I cannot love without trembling’; ‘Buried deep under the sound of his own lamentations is the pearl of the silence of God’; ‘Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer’; ‘Stars and blossoming fruit trees: Utter permanence and extreme fragility give an equal sense of eternity’. Writing in The New Yorker, Alex Ross commented:

Simple harmonies cloud over, fixed tones melt into glissandos, squalls of noise blow in. A chaotic humanness animates this zone of the minimalist multiverse, with the singing voice front and center…an experience of bruising immediacy…We end where we begin, with a glimmer of harp, but something colossal has transpired…The atmosphere of lamentation is engulfing…you could hear the work as one more apocalyptic lullaby for an anxious age…This is music that reminds us how to cry. 

The New Yorker (Alex Ross) 17 April 2023