On a personal level, Joan's friendship with the young acolyte Lucius in the papal court forces her to confront her beliefs about God and her mission. As part of a fiery trio that ends of the first act, Louis schemes to depose the newly-elected pope, Anastasius, and install his own candidate, the ambitious Cardinal Nicholas.
As the second act begins, Louis and Nicholas' plans are thwarted when Joan herself is elected pope by popular acclamation. We watch her accept and live out the radical job that her life in the Church has thrust upon her. She battles with Louis for control of money and land. She finds tragedy in the loss of the innocent love of Lucius. When her real identity is discovered, she is brutally murdered in the streets. Ranks close, and the Church determines that it will forever preserve itself as an inviolate masculine power.
The centrality of religion is axiomatic to the world of Pope Joan. Questions of faith, morals, and politics are inseparable. What is the nature of the faith experience? What is the role and responsibility of the Church in the definition of one's personal experience of faith, miracles, and healing? What leadership role did the Church choose in 855 A.D. that still defines its essential nature and way of relating to the community of believers?
The paradigms that form the human quest for meaning, truth and community are direct results of the Church's definition of itself, then and now, and each believer's relationship to the institution as it spoke for them in the past and will speak for them in the future.
With its use of period and ecclesiastical accents to flavor a pop score, the music of Pope Joan guides the listener through the very human stories it tells. Set against the backdrop of the pageantry and ritual of the Vatican, Pope Joan explores themes both ancient and in today's headlines: the longing for a meaningful spiritual experience, the quest for means to express faith in both words and actions, and the impact of women in power.