20:00, Mon 21st – Tue 22nd June 2021 at The Round Church
Easter May Week
two women (both alike in dignity) - Marcella Keating
“My dear …”
Two women begin the opera in love, but separated. Their love for each other is all-encompassing, and beautiful. As they vocalise their relationship, those around them begin to take notice, commenting on their relationship and verbalising some of their fears. Questions are raised as the men’s voices grow louder and more discordant, with shouts and echoes rippling around the auditorium with waves of hatred. As the two women and their relationship are torn apart by these fears and comments, the voice of one of the women breaks through, singing about memories of their relationship. As the discord gives way to calm, silence, and stillness, the two women finally embrace, surrounded by a chorus of their and the men’s voices, now representing a more loving world.
two women (both alike in dignity) takes selections from the letters of Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West, updating them to create a timeless love story which draws on generations of lacking LGBTQ+ representation in the media and on the operatic stage, exploring how society looks down on LGBTQ+ love. In placing female-oriented stories on the operatic stage, and ones in which the women are not victims and do not die, two women attempts to empower the audience whilst acknowledging the history of pain built into these communities.
“Yours ever …”
Esther: a voice for the voiceless - Mary Offer
After a decree is passed condemning the Jewish race to death, Esther selflessly risks her life to face the King, becoming a voice for those who would otherwise be abandoned at the edge of society. Guided by God, love, and her faith in humanity, Esther uses her intelligence and humility to make her case to the King, but will she be able to save the Jews? Queen Vashti was banished for her disobedience to the King, and Esther could face an even worse fate, especially as the King’s advisor Haman is a scheming megalomaniac willing to murder an entire race for the sake of his own hubris.
A tragicomic opera exploring the tensions and inequalities of ancient times, yet still applicable today, Esther: a voice for the voiceless depicts the extent to which authority ruled, ruthlessly oppressing minorities such as women and Jews. One of only two female-centred books in the Bible, and perhaps the only to depict a rebellious woman, Esther shows courage in a proto-feminist manner, becoming a voice for those who would otherwise be voiceless in the face of power. She boldly risks death in order to save the Jews, facing scrutiny from Haman but remaining constant in her faith, displaying strength of character and defying expectations for a woman of her time.
Esther: a voice for the voiceless conveys a timeless message of the importance of recognising and empowering the oppressed: an issue which remains at the heart of our culture today and has a potent poignancy for our current times.
The Jackal who pretended to be a peacock - Katrina Toner
‘Ardour is for a Prophet and God’s Friend;
Impudence suits impostors who pretend,
To draw men’s eyes towards themselves with pride,
Then claim, ‘We’re blissful!’ though they’re glum inside’
Rumi was a thirteenth-century Persian poet, and his Masnavi is one of the most significant works of spiritual poetry. It is grounded in Sufi philosophy and comprises stories and poetry that convey a sense of the spirituality and introspection.
The Jackal who pretended to be a peacock explores the ideas of truth and illusion through two stories presented in parallel in book three of Rumi’s Masnavi. The audience is guided through these fables by an omnipresent narrator. The first story describes a jackal who falls into a vat of oil and poses as a peacock, whilst the second details the escapades of a man who finds a sheep’s tail and uses it to grease his moustache in an attempt to create the appearance of having partaken in a feast. The two stories unfold in parallel and reach their climaxes as the protagonists’ deceptions are exposed. Throughout the opera, the drama is interspersed with introspective passages in which the voice of God relates the action to more abstract contemplations regarding the real and the false. Fragments of these philosophies are repeated in the original Farsi.
Concepts such as truth and illusion are particularly relevant today. This opera considers these ideas through a classical and spiritual text, allowing for a sense of distance and reflection. This meditative aspect of the opera is counterbalanced by delightful surrealism and Rumi’s subtle satire. In decontextualising the fables through simple costumes and pared-down set design, this production seeks to lend their moral lessons a universal quality.
The libretto is adapted from Jawid Mojaddedi’s translation.
The Masnavi, Book Three, Jalal al-Din Rumi, J. A. Mojaddedi (translator)
© Jawid Mojaddedi 2013
The moral rights of the author have been asserted
Reproduced with permission of the Licensor through PLSclear