Score Pricing
Want to commission a piece?

Everything for Dawn, episode 6 (2021)

for 6 solo voices, violin, viola, bass, piano, drumset | 00:25:00

by Melissa Dunphy | text by Krista Knight

There is no score for this work currently available. Please contact the composer for more information.

Commissioned by Experiments in Opera.
In celebration of their 10th Anniversary, Experiments in Opera premiered Everything for Dawn, an epic new video opera series featuring ten episodes, each written by a different librettist/composer combo. A web streaming series of daring ambition, Everything for Dawn is the epitome of what Experiments in Opera stands for—fun, intimate storytelling, with a strong feeling of an artistic community at work.

The team of writers in the EiO Writers’ Room who collaborated on the libretto for Everything for Dawn includes Jason Cady, Adrienne Danrich, Lauren D’Errico, Krista Knight, Jerry Lieblich, and Jerome A. Parker.

The ten composers who will each be writing a 20-minute episode of the full opera are: Clarice Assad, Jason Cady, Melissa Dunphy, Miguel Frasconi, Paul Kerekes, Phil Kline, Pauline Kim, Aaron Siegel, Kamala Sankaram, and Matthew Welch.


Everything for Dawn is an original coming-of-age story spanning the 1990s. Dawn is a teenager dealing with the impact of her father’s suicide. Her personal tragedy becomes public when his paintings become celebrated as “outsider art.” With each episode written by a different librettist/composer pairing, the opera is an examination of the ways we seek solace in a broken world, community intersectionality, and the rationale for making art.

Everything for Dawn was designed from the beginning as a work that would accommodate multiple voices and aesthetic styles. PART ONE of the opera (episodes 1–3 set in 1997) takes place in a suburban Detroit home, where a college-aged daughter (Dawn) and her mother discover a box of paintings by Mac, their father/husband, who has recently committed suicide. They are conflicted about what to do with the paintings, but eventually give a local curator permission to show them in her gallery. PART TWO of the opera (episodes 4–7 set in 1995) takes place a few years earlier in the mental health facility that the father had been in prior to his suicide. In the facility, he discovers painting through an art therapy class and it helps him to deal with his depression and PTSD from the Vietnam War. PART THREE of the opera (episodes 8–10 set in 2001) picks up after the end of Part One when the father is hailed by the art world as a star of outsider art. Throughout the work, the main themes of family ties, mental illness and the art world are teased out and reconstituted as the opera culminates in an ensemble scene in a New York art gallery with most of the cast together to contemplate the legacy of a complicated man.

Everything for Dawn features a cast of 8 singers and an orchestra of 5 instrumentalists including the New York City ensemble Bearthoven. This 10-part video series premiered in Spring 2022.

Press Quotes

"[In “Everything for Dawn,”] there’s this sort of unspoken undercurrent in the libretto of what happened that landed him in there. It’s something that really hurt Dawn. So there’s that weirdness of being the child of a mentally-ill parent. You don’t want to be angry at them for something they can’t control. But at the same time, it did hurt you and you have no recourse. It’s so frustrating, because you don’t feel like you can say anything about it directly. If you do, it enters into this huge complicated argument of, 'You hurt me, but you couldn’t help it because you were sick, but was that really you or wasn’t it?' " [VAN Magazine]

"To me, this project was a chance to explore all of this stuff and try to also share some of the complication of it—the fact that it’s not all doom and gloom. I wanted there to be light-heartedness as well in my episode. I have memories of laughing with my mother in mental hospital visiting rooms or having trivial arguments over bullshit in hospital visiting rooms. There are some insane stories that my mother would tell about other mental patients that I remember to this day, which were hysterical. If you put them out of context, it’s almost horrible that we’re laughing about the events at a mental hospital. But that’s humanity, you know what I mean?" [VAN Magazine]

Experiments in Opera’s Writers’ Room project is made possible by an OPERA America Innovation Grant, supported by the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation.

Everything for Dawn was featured in Season 3 of the Opera Philadelphia Channel in 2023.

Artwork by Lauren Kolesinskas.

Visit the official Everything for Dawn, episode 6 website.


  • 07 May, 2022: Experiments in Opera at The Museum of the City of NY, New York, NY