In The Island of the Ugly Sisters, every action and reaction involves love or death.
For love, Alice, Henry, and Luke rescue the shockingly ugly sisters from the flooded island on which they have been abandoned. For love, Alice befriends them, protecting them from the fear and prejudice of the townspeople.
Swept up in the capriciousness of love, Luke unmasks the ugly Sophronia, only to discover the beauty of his dreams. For love, he gives her his dead mother’s name. For love, she embraces death to save him. For love, he follows her, finally, into the unknown.
Shadowing every act of love is death, portrayed in the French manner as an old woman. Alice, despite her generous heart, suspects that the sisters may indeed be servants of darkness, the opposite side of love’s coin, as do the townspeople. Death, after all, arrives with the sisters, and when the mob tries to kill them, they die instead.
Sophronia’s intimacy with death so terrifies Luke that he fears for his own humanity. In the end, Alice worries that death’s portal into their world was her own dreams.
This ancient and macabre dance leaves us with basic questions about our own human existence. How much lower than the angels are we? What is in a name? Why do we trust beauty and fear ugliness? Given the inevitability of age and dust, why do we travel with such joy life’s perilous road?
Ultimately, in The Island of the Ugly Sisters, love triumphs over death, albeit tragically, and so goes the timeless beat of opera and our lives.