Music & Libretto by Michael Kaulkin
based on the novel by J.R. Salamanca

Based on J.R. Salamanca’s 1961 bestseller, Lilith is the story of a naïve young man’s affair with a mysterious, delusional patient at the private mental hospital where he has just started to work as an occupational therapist. Under the manipulative power of the patient, a basically simple man with noble intentions is led to the brink of madness himself.

The story is set in a fictionalized version of the famous Chestnut Lodge mental hospital in Rockville, Maryland where I grew up, and my interest in adapting it goes back many years. In 2008 I had a memorable meeting with Mr. Salamanca, then approaching 90 years old, and received his enthusiastic blessing to pursue this project.

Below are five 1-3-minute clips from an unstaged scene that was presented by West Edge Opera in the 2022 SNAPSHOT showcase of operatic works in progress on April 9 & 10, 2022, in San Francisco.

The scene takes place early in the story. It is the second time VINCENT and LILITH are alone together, but they have already formed a connection. VINCENT has been given permission to take LILITH off the grounds for a bicycle ride in the country. They stop to rest, and the conversation becomes inappropriately personal. VINCENT does his best to behave in a professional manner, despite LILITH’s manipulative power. We witness LILITH’s infectious and joyful fantasy world, but also her ruthlessness, as she targets VINCENT’s weaknesses. By the end of the scene, VINCENT has fallen in love with LILITH, despite her unpredictable – and sometimes cruel – behavior, but has resisted acknowledging it. (Spoiler alert: he eventually succumbs, and the result is tragic.)

Julia Hathaway, Lilith
Julio Ferrari, Vincent
Earplay New Music Ensemble
Dana Sadava, Conductor

For more information about Lilith, including a synopsis and access to view the whole scene, contact me at

“Bicycle Scene” Clip 1 of 5

LILITH, a patient at a small, exclusive mental hospital, has been taken for an excursion by VINCENT, a young attendant who is new to the job. They take a break from a bicycle ride in the country, and her rich fantasy world comes alive.

“Bicycle Scene” Clip 2 of 5

LILITH has found an animal skull on the ground, and VINCENT is horrified to discover that this is the location of a traumatizing event in his past.

“Bicycle Scene” Clip 3 of 5

LILITH rhapsodically imagines a future with VINCENT away from the hospital in her colorful fantasy world.

“Bicycle Scene” Clip 4 of 5

The conversation has become intensely – and inappropriately – personal. LILITH has offended VINCENT, who justifies his world view in this brief aria.

“Bicycle Scene” Clip 5 of 5

LILITH knows that VINCENT is in love with her, and thinks this is the moment when he should admit it. She begs him to tell her, but his response is not what she is hoping for.