Watch Now: ‘For Life’: A Mini-Opera on Psychiatry by Dawn Sonntag & Kermit Cole


A new 30-minute opera about a young man figuratively “lost in the woods” and his mother, wondering whether to trust the psychiatric system as represented by Dr. Mannsplain, Nurse Grace and drug company representative Eliza Nocebo, is now available to view on the Baldwin Wallace Voice Performance website or on YouTube.


Liam: I’m told to trust. I will. At least I’ll know what I can know. Of course. My mind is broken. That’s why I was lost. I could not see reality. I could not trust my thoughts. Now I have clarity. I see…it’s my fault. I must be compliant. It’s the only way out.

Mother: How do you know the difference between illness, and symptoms caused by “the cure?”

Dr. Mannsplain: It makes no difference. It’s all metaphorical.

Mother: But the potion is hurting him.

Eliza Nocebo: You have no proof!

Mother: I can see it.

Dr. Mannsplain: It’s not harm you see, it’s the potion. It’s working.

Mother: I’m not sure I agree.

Liam: I need to leave.

Dr. Mannsplain: You need to stay.

Liam: But I came here voluntarily.

Nurse Grace: We must keep you here for your own safety!

Liam: Whose safety? I’ve changed my mind

Dr. Mannsplain: Your mind isn’t yours anymore. We change it for you.

Nurse Grace: Take the pill and you can go.

Mother: There must be an end to this nightmare! But no one listens, no one hears.

Chorus: What strength, dedication, courage! We pity you and your broken heart. But you’re not a doctor. You’re not smart! Accept it! Be grateful. Your son must comply. Who are you to question this art?

Mother: Who am I? I will call them out on their lie. Paid by the minute, diagnosed in a moment, ignoring a lifetime of knowing! I saw his face before he was in me. Before he saw light, he saw through my eyes. Their deception only keeps the circles spinning, crushing our souls and our children’s lives.

Chorus: They tell us that life should never be painful, that fear is something to fear. Tree bark and potions, holes in the head, shocking and beating, heating and freezing. They make us inhuman. They make us comply. They promise life, but sold us a lie. I was in pain. The pills suppressed it. But now I can only weep. They told me the pills would give me hope. Now all I feel is emptiness. My ears are ringing, my skin is burning, my heart is throbbing, my thoughts are churning. We only want to live again. They gave us poison to heal us from our pain. But now, we’re moving toward the light, ever stronger, away from the night.

Dr. Mannsplain: We’re not lost in the woods. We’re learning to journey. Together through darkness, through time, we go on. Trees rise above us, spires in windstorms, wind-rustled branches speak of wisdom below. They are anchored by their roots. But we make our potions from bark on the surface, leaving wisdom below. Blind with ambition, I could not see the wisdom below me, or what I did not know.

Eliza Nocebo: How can I help you when you deny science? When you turn away from wealth and fame? I gave you careers, prestige, and a name by creating a portal to madness. Who will go with me? Some will suffer; others will gain untold riches, comforts, and fame! Who will stay here, in sadness? Who will stay here, where life is uncertain?

Mother: Take your potions and cures and get out!

Eliza Nocebo: You are so blind! Denying medicine and science! I curse you with anosognosia!


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  1. I watched the opera this weekend and even though our journey was completely different than the one portrayed here, I found it very evocative, stirring all kinds of emotions and decisions we had made along our own journey…and making me so grateful, somehow, we sidestepped so much that that young man and his mother endured…

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