top of page

greek national opera / alternativ
e stage 2021

Ada, could be followed by Augusta King, Byron, or Lovelace, important last names but mere appendices to an immortal first name, one of the few. Ada was first rendered an icon in the 1970’s when Alan Turing decided to name his pioneering computer program after her. A kind of Tutankhamen - she was brought back to life the moment her name was recalled, was spoken, written, voiced and thereby rendered immortal. And now she is in every Rebel Girl story, Dr Who program, or cartoon web series on female mathematicians and has become the heroine of an age that despises math, but depends on it.

Who was she? Besides a name. The daughter of romantic poet Byron, yes. Famous for being the victim of his absence and his scandalous ways. The proud bearer of a neat name. A tidy one. Orderly. And short, like her life was? A palindrome. Female mathematical genius. Multi-talented musician, poet and scientist. Defier of the Victorian age and all of its pudic limitations. The inventor of the first algorithm. An enchantress of numbers and fairy and bird lady whose mystical capacities at discerning her world and envisioning the future are mind blowing. Gambler. Adulteress. Opium addict. She died young, like her father, who she never met but insisted on being buried next to.

This contemporary opera whose libretto, based not only on the exciting correspondence between Lady Lovelace and the inventor of the Analytical Engine Charles Babbage, but on the wide ranging effect and influence of her “intuitions” and “vision” for where his Machine could lead humanity, her interpretations of Menabrea’s paper on the Bernoulli numbers and the significance of the intersection of poetry and mathematics, art and science, the mental and the physical.

Ada was herself a mix of virtuous fairy and rebellious fiend. She felt she could freely accumulate debts, gambling passionately on horses, "swearing unabashedly", as Stein says, "almost ignoring her three children", but felt the  need to hide her purchases of geometrical tools and work notebooks, "constrained to buy them anonymously".


This is the crux of the issue surrounding the female laboral redemption experience: she pursued what resonated with her interests and capacities, with caution and curiosity and diligent hard work. She persevered and was at last recognized, by her "employer", her “superior”, Charles Babbage, as well as by the world at large (but that came later). Ada was known for her fast and curious mind and vast culture, but nobody intuited to what point her thought processes and ability to process information had consequences, no-one could predict how it would lead to the way we process reality today. Ada, mother of the internet age that rests in peace in Victorian London, in a grave that bares her name but no sign of her brilliance.

Disraeli wrote his 18th century novella Venetia without knowing how far what fascinated him would reach, Dickens, read to her at her deathbed. First of the female mathematicians, Mary Somerville, believed in her capacities, inspired and encouraged her to progress.

A mother’s girl at first sight, in the clean, clear light of day, her discipline drove her towards a life she could excel at. The darkness was fathers, the absent one, molding her fear, and her pain, and her sorrow, from within.

Who were these two Adas, musically? Poetically? Philosophically? And how did they fit together to form the creator of the  algorithm, not the Earth mother, but the techno mamma, whose technological birth was painful, who died in “child birth”... never lived to see her brainchild.

What if she were looking back on herself and her life , from today’s perspective, what would she say? Sing? Write? Feel?

Ask Ada, not Siri.

Ask someone who really understands and who was there, before.

And ask her in the lightest, most opiate way.

Leaving the heaviness and dullness of science to its fields.

Speak to the whole man at once, or whole woman, too, of course. As the two parts of Ada, the light and dark, interweave the way a jacquard loom might with at its heart, a human creation, but in its cloth, a lot of the machine about it.

The concept of time will be explored, time in mathematics, time in poetry, time in beauty and time in creation, Ada’s decomposed womb hadn’t the time to finish what it started (actually this comprehension of her mortality and hence inability to see all that she could envision be put into practice might have been what caused it to ail) - and more than one philosopher has asked himself/herself what if Ada had at least lived longer? What if she’d been allowed to thrive in her career? Been backed financially by the British government herself in order to pursue her experimentation and develop fully what she knew could one day exist, what would the world be like today?

Limited to doing everything in 36 years like father - time enough to bring us here today, reading on our time machines, exchanging timeless thoughts and theories, quickly and quietly, painlessly in the hopeful event that there is still more to explore and that the world will continue despite the chaos and catastrophe.

The two Adas or two sides A and B of Ada are identical and yet different. The way the two A’s in her name are. The same symbol, denoting a different entity, however. One is a capital letter and the other is not, it is smaller and it comes later, living in the shadow of the d in the middle of her name, not quite symmetrical after all. Because it is a first name.

Simple sounds Ahhh dahhh, the first that babies pronounce. Conscious and subconscious, day, and night, they interrupt each other continuously in the rhythmic way of a loom pedal (with time being unreal, it will nevertheless last one hour and the structure will be the number 36).

Both Ada and her dAda share this age of death.
And 3 is half of 6
Odd followed by even
36 Bernoulli steps...

The two Ada’s could symbolize the division of her roles and identities. The one’s accepted by society, and the ones that weren’t, that were forced to be occult and especially in Victorian times, where there was a huge split between what was visible and invisible (unlike today where everything tends to verge on the transparent, evident, laid out before us on a plate for each other to see and then immediately shared with hardly anything to hide, for what time could be spent to develop anything of any interest or intensity if one is merely showing all that is at once? As quickly as possible).

False or real, both are lacking in acquired interest. Politicians, artists and scientists are today living in an ever-present, continuous fight for attention in the immediate dimension and any real power seems to lurk underneath in the hands of the computers or machines and their mastermind programmers, sometimes the algorithm knows more than its inventor and often the results are unknown and lead to inhuman (because these are no longer man made, but mathematically made?) consequences.

So who is in charge?

Whether the outcomes of mathematics and their numbers are godly due to the beautiful patterns and order that exist veiled lightly but remain there ruling our universe and ourselves… Or are they demonic? The devil’s luck! Ada would say. For the outcomes are often unpredictable. Where will Ada’s ability to program lead us, aside from literally to the moon and back, in terms of our humanity?

Chaos theory and mesmerism, phrenology and the multiplication of pseudo-scientific, pre-freudian attempts at grasping our human reality still seem fresh and the seeds of her very own Monster of Frankenstein, our Internet, with a capital I, Frankie's sister, were carefully planted back then, two centuries ago, as Ada was born just before the year without a summer, the year Mary Shelley wrote her terrifying masterpiece. Ada's first summer was no summer at all but more of an apocalypse of climatic trouble and dark ideas.

cyber feminism.jpg

composer Yannis Kyriakides, text theodora delavault, visuals darien brito, singer michaela riener, conductor gregory charette

June 2021 / Alternative Stage / Greek National Opera

Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, World premiere / Commissioned by the GNO Alternative Stage

Cycle “Odes to Byron” As part of the tribute to the 2021 bicentennial of the Greek Revolution

norway story


bottom of page