“Ada” is an opera about Ada Byron, Countess of Lovelace (1815-1852,) one of the most spectacular characters in computer history. She was the daughter of the poet Lord Byron and Annabella Milbanke. Five weeks after Ada’s birth, Annabella separated from Byron and was awarded sole custody. Fearing her daughter might follow in her father’s notorious footsteps, Anna reared Ada to be a mathematician and scientist. Like Byron, Ada embarked on a Romantic quest very much at odds with the prevailing Victorian ethic of restraint. Though her medium was mathematics, she rejected the notion that virtue lies in conformity, believing instead in a higher ethic of knowledge and ambition. At the age of seventeen, Ada met the inventor Charles Babbage and became smitten with his new invention, The Difference Engine. Ada, the “Enchantress of Numbers,” melded her father’s Romantic visions with her mother’s mathematical genius to develop the prototype of modern computer language. She is often cited as ‘the first programmer.’ She died of cancer at the age of thirty-seven, and is buried next to the father that she never knew in life.
“Ada” provides a nexus of old and new, traditional Romantic themes and contemporary digital vocabularies. The music is a hybrid of Romantic lyricism and modern dissonance. The libretto weaves tapestries of numbers and Byronic flights of fancy into a story that is simultaneously timeless and timely, the journey of a woman who defied Victorian constraints to usher the industrial age into the digital age. Ada was a brilliant imaginative pre-conceiver, a woman very much ahead of her time who valiantly wrestled with the constraints imposed upon her.