The Voice of Isaac Libretto by Howard Frazin

1. Overture (Genesis 22:1–10)

NARRATOR (Spoken)
The time came when God put Abraham to the test. “Abraham,” he called, and Abraham replied, “Here I am.” God said, “Take your son Isaac, your only son, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and he took with him two of his men and his son Isaac; and he split the firewood for the burnt offering, and set out for the place of which God had spoken. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his men, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.” Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac’s shoulder, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac said to Abraham, “Father,” and he answered, “What is it, my son?” Isaac said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together. When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand to cover Isaac’s face and took the knife to kill his son.

But Isaac, breaking free, held his father’s hand, and Abraham seeing his son, cried out in wonder,

2a. Here I Am: Isaac and Abraham Duet

ABRAHAM
Isaac?

ISAAC
Here I am.

2b. Isaac’s Lament

ISAAC
Where is the lamb? What is this strange place?
Why, father, does your hand hold back my face?
I cannot see you.
Can you not see me?

Are you a stranger? Am I not your son?
Where is mother? Father, what have I done?
Can you not hear me?
I cannot hear you.

These ropes hurt. It is dark. I cannot see.
I am tired, I am cold. Please, look at me!
Oh please, dear father, won’t you hold my hand?

ABRAHAM (Recitative)
Look what you’ve done with your wriggling about.
Be still while I pull the ropes taut again.
Quiet, quiet. Stop crying.
Can’t you see? You’re too young to understand.

ISAAC
Oh please, dear father, won’t you hold my hand?
I am tired. I am cold. Where is the lamb?
You cannot see me. You cannot hear me.
Will you kill Isaac? Shall he be slaughtered?

ABRAHAM
It’s God’s will. Why can you not see, Isaac? 

3. Game Song

ISAAC
Here I am. I’ll be your little lamb.—
Can you catch me? Will you kill me? Shall I die?
Kill the lamb! Slit his throat! Spill his blood!
Come play with me!

ABRAHAM
Isaac!

ISAAC
Here I am. Then I’ll be God. Now, run!—
Can I catch you? Will I kill you? Here I come!
Kill the lamb! Slit his throat! Spill his blood!
Come play with me!

ABRAHAM
Isaac, stop this!

ISAAC
Who am I then? God or little lamb?—
Can you tell me, will you tell me who I am?
I am tired! I am cold! Play with me.
Where is father?

ABRAHAM
Here I am. I am not God nor a lamb!
Can you not hear? Can you not see? I am Abraham!

ISAAC
Kill Isaac! Slit his throat! Spill his blood!
Give me the knife!

ABRAHAM
No, Isaac, no! You are my son.

4. Revelation: Abraham/Isaac Recitative

ISAAC
You can be the little lamb if you want.

ABRAHAM
I won’t be the lamb. I am your father.

ISAAC
With your father, were you his little lamb?

ABRAHAM
Why do you ask me that? I don’t remember.

ISAAC
Would he yell at the sky? Were you frightened?

ABRAHAM
I was a child. I hardly remember.

ISAAC
Now you can be God. I will be your lamb.

5. Abraham’s Lament

ABRAHAM
My God, who is this little lamb, this child
who, for my sake, would let himself be killed?
I cannot see him.
He cannot see me.

Am I a stranger? Is he not my son?
If he kills himself shall God’s will be done?
I cannot hear you.
Can you not hear me?

ISAAC
These ropes hurt. It is dark. I cannot see.
I am tired, I am cold. Please, look at me!
Oh please, dear father, won’t you hold my hand?

ABRAHAM
He cannot see me. I will not hear him.
I was once the lamb. His fear was mine.
Oh please, dear Father, won’t you hold back my hand?

6. Recognition: Isaac and Abraham Duet

ISAAC
You are Isaac’s dear father, my father.
I am Isaac, your son, your only son.

ABRAHAM
Yes, I remember. I remember now.

ISAAC
Here I am. Here I am. I can see you.
Here I am. Here I am. Can you hear me?

ABRAHAM
I want a son;
I have a son to love.

7. Reflection/Chorale

ISAAC
Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the lord my soul to take.