Ghost Variations:

an opera in two acts

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       Mental illness is nothing but complex. Every single soul who suffers deals with it in their own way. There may be overarching commonalities with depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, anorexia, etc., but often the internal cause and thought processes are different from one person to the next. As someone who suffered through anorexia nervosa, and married to a wife who also dealt with anorexia, the differences between our diagnoses was remarkable. For example, I recall numerous obssessive thoughts and panic attacks, whereas Maria had more habitual, inactive thoughts and less terror. Depending on the illness, the intrusive thoughts could be dull, consistent, or — in Robert Schumann's case — erratic.

      The music of Ghost Variations plays off of the inconsistencies and turbulent nature of mental illness, both for the sufferer and those on the receiving end. Multiple themes come into play — themes of love, Robert's hallucinations, Doctoral examinations, and many things in between. But, they are often juxtaposed in short time spans. In a sense, you could say that the thematic development and shifts of mood are unpredictable. Clara, especially, progresses through a multitude of musical situations seemingly all at once, as her hardship is greater than the rest in dealing with Robert's sickness. It can be unbelievably challenging to love someone so dear, only for them to be a state of mind or body that is irreversible. The feelings of helplessness are brutal.

      As a spouse, it requires an immense amount of support, even when the diagnosis is lifelong. Ghost Variations tells the tale of Robert Schumann's suffering, but ultimately Clara Schumann's strength, willpower, and faithfulness to her husband throughout the nightmare of his schizophrenia.

Act I Workshop Livestream Recording

The Act I Workshop took place at The National Opera Center

in New York City, New York, on August 18th and 19th, 2018

Produced by OperaRox Productions


Aria Selections

Cast and Crew

Creative Team
Composer - Tony Manfredonia
Librettist - Aiden K. Feltkamp
Pianist - Peiharn Chen
Music Director - Alicia Lieu
Assistant Music Director - Candice Shaughnessy
​Dramaturg - Brenda Huggins


Clara - Aumna Iqbal
Brahms - Kathryn Parsley
Robert - Nicholas Wiggins
Florestan - Zoe Marie Hart
Eusebius - Liz Bouk
Marie - Allie Altieri
Doctor - David Charles Tay


Brahms - Melina Jaharis
Eusebius - Alexa Rosenberg
Marie - Rachel Weinstock
Doctor - Geddy Warner