For Life

Presentation of the 36-minute mini-opera by Dawn Sonntag and Kermit Cole
Followed by discussion.

Commissioned and filmed for the 2021 Baldwin Wallace Conservatory/Cleveland Opera Theater Operas in Place festival, the mini opera For Life sheds a critical light on the medicalization of human suffering, bringing patients, family members, medical professionals, and support systems into dialogue and raising the following questions:

  • What role do pharmaceutical companies play in creating a web that ensnares both patients and medical professionals?
  • What is the appropriate response to symptoms of stress and trauma by medical professionals, family members, society at large?
  • Can medical professionals extricate themselves from pressure to prescribe? Are they willing to do so?

Composer Dawn Sonntag is a family member of three victims of psychiatric medications and misdiagnoses. Librettist Kermit Cole is a therapist, filmmaker, and cofounding editor of Mad in America. Their collaboration on this project was inspired by their experiences observing the devastating effects of a health care system that rewards liberal psychopharmaceutical prescribing with financial and social prestige. Filmed under Covid restrictions and masterfully edited by artistic director Scott Skiba, the opera was performed by students of the Baldwin Wallace Conservatory in Berea, Ohio. The video can be seen here.