Click here for Site Index on home page.
by Derek Strahan
EXTRACTS FROM WORKS
All music & libretti copyright protected
"TAKEOVER" LIBRETTO FOR AN OPERA (1989)
You can read the complete Libretto by purchasing it from this site.
DUET FROM ACT ONE, SCENE 7 ANNA, a journalist IVAN, a corporate raider
Everything about this man is ideologically unsound.
Why am I behaving like this?
ANNA (with IVAN)
I have come this far, but I could still retreat.
IVAN (With ANNA)
She has come this far, but she could still retreat.
Everything about this woman is compromising.
Why am I behaving like this?
ANNA & IVAN
LIBRETTO FOR A SONG CYCLE
You can read "Public Poetry Anthology" by purchasing it from this site.
Verse readings of this collection have been recorded in preparation for a "talking book" CD release with soundscaping devised by Derek Strahan & Bob Scott, sound engineering by Bob Scott.
If you will not or cannot be my friend
the more capricious, the more inconstant,
I have known you for an eternity
no one will ever understand you
you know that what exists between us
there is no escape.
Which endures eternally
Such is the nature of life
The first and final agent
"FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH THE DEVIL"
Episodic poem written in 1990 and intended for a symphonic work for baritone & orchestra. Published in 1990 "Public Poetry Anthology".
You can read "Public Poetry Anthology" by purchasing it from this site.
Spoken version with soundscaping recorded for projected "talking book" CD release, along with "Experiences With The Anima" and other verse. The poem explores the reasons for and the psychological reality of a Faustian bargain.
EXTRACT (FINAL 2 OF 5 PAGES)
You know, when you arrange to meet the Devil,
Billowing clouds glowered, black edged,
Unwillingly unrolled they splattered
There was no one there to hear me shout.
I shouted at God
I shook my fist at the coiling black clouds
And I shouted: "Now hear this. Nothing you can threaten me with, No torment after life, No fire of hell Can possibly be worse Than the torment, the hell Which I now experience in this life now. Therefore, I say to you That I do not fear you, I do not fear your anger, your retribution, Your fire or your damnation. I declare that I desire she whom I desire And my desire burns now, today. You know what I want. If you will not allow me what I want, Or if you forbid me to have what I want Or if you forbid me to want what I want Then I will exchange my Will for my Desire. Your adversary may have my Will In exchange for the granting of my Desire". Thus I shouted, shaking my fist. It was said, And it was irrevocable, Because I did not wish to revoke it. In retrospect I can say that, For a time, the will of my desire Overcame the anarchy of her temperament So that, in the confusion of our exchange, There was a kind of love And a kind of hate And a kind of knowledge. But the more remarkable fact is this: That when you cease to fear God, You cease to age. And this is the secret which hides In the legend of Faust. This I did not learn until later. Not until after my Second Encounter with the Devil. To be Continued. "PAST LIFE RECALL" A gender specific poem for the female voice Intended as the libretto for a work for soprano & orchestra. Extract: Three introductory verses incarnating three women lost to history whose true role and importance has been obscured by historical distortion. (2 OF 5 PAGES) HATSHEPSUT Approximately three thousand years ago We were lovers, The most celebrated lovers of our time. My empire encompassed Ethiopia and Egypt. Pyramids were my playthings. My whim was law. My only rival for regal splendour Was you. I could have summoned armies to conquer you, Solomon, But instead, I loved you. History fissured. My identity shifted, slipped And was rewritten, Lost in an historian's limbo, Six hundred years out of time. You are remembered as history. I am remembered as myth. How can I forgive you? MARIAM Approximately two thousand years ago We were lovers, Husband and Wife, The most forgotten lovers of our time. You began life as an unthroned king. You ended your life as an ultimate deity. I have been remembered as A whore. How can I forgive you? MARIE-CHRISTIANE Approximately two hundred years ago We were lovers, The most cryptic lovers in our city. Of course, I played games With other men too, Including my husband whom I once had lured to a brothel Where I in disguise Had him. But with you It was appallingly different. I was your muse, confidante, Adviser to your harmonies. Convention severed our union. I resented your adventures, And you, unable to forget, Were unable to find Anyone else. As you lost your hearing, I lost my breasts. I still loved you But I can never forgive you.
Scenario for an original opera for multimedia
by Derek Strahan
Documentation for the complete libretto, 3rd Draft.
You can read the complete Libretto by purchasing it from this site.
table of contents
what is meant by this?
A brief overview of music theatre by Derek Strahan
Before the 20th century music theatre was divided into two main streams. The highest form of the art was grand opera which was through-composed (meaning that all words in the libretto were set to music and sung). Grand opera, was understood to comprise both 'opera seria' ('serious' or 'tragic' opera), and 'opera buffa' ('comic' opera) though both of these terms began as informal designations, as used in correspondence between professionals.
Next rung down in the artistic pecking order were popular entertainments in which sung segments were interspersed with passages of spoken dialogue. In German-speaking countries (by the late 18th-19th centuries) these were known as 'singspiel' and were written and sung in German (whereas 'opera seria' was always written and sung in Italian). The Spanish 'zarzuela' has the same structure.Two of the best known German 'singspiel' are Mozart's "Abduction From The Seraglio" and "The Magic Flute", the latter having been written as a popular entertainment for performance in a Music Hall (as distinct from an Opera Theatre). These two works of Mozart neatly illustrate the dual nature of the 'singspiel', bridging popular and elitist forms of music theatre. Beethoven's 'Fidelio', though in style and content a grand opera, is, in fact, a 'singspiel' in two respects: the libretto is in German with spoken dialogue, and it has a happy ending!
Beethoven aside, the lightweight 'singspiel' evolved into the German form of operetta, which was an established form by the beginning of the 20th century, and was adopted universally, resulting in operettas being written in most European languages.
Developments in music theatre in the 20th century are linked to the development of new technology, and to the increasing democratisation of entertainment by means of the phonograph, radio, cinema and, later, television. Thus, operetta, in the US, evolved into "the musical", combining "book" (story and dialogue) and "music" (song & lyrics). The early musicals were closely related to operetta in story and style but, from Jerome Kern's "Showboat" onwards, increasingly reflected modern topics (racism in "Showboat") and absorbed the pop music of the day. Soon, with the advent of sound in cinema, movies drew on theatre for content, and, as a result, stage and movie "musicals" became increasingly co-dependent each helping the other to market the same "product" on stage, screen, radio and records. Lately, the co-dependent equation, though still applying, has been inverted, with "product" first developed as a film original, now being co-opted for the stage ("42 Street", "Calamity Jane" and, lately, "Singin' In The Rain").
The role of the full-length animated cartoon in this evolutionary process has not (to my knowledge) been adequately acknowledged, in the sense that this form of entertainment is the only form of music theatre which is unique to the 20th century, since it is totally dependent for its existence on technology. Yet it has always been in the vanguard of development! The "operetta" style of music both in the soundtrack score and in the Churchill-Morley songs written for "Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs" quickly gave way to a more hybrid musical content (which was there from the beginning in cartoon "shorts") reflecting evolution in Broadway stage shows and in pop music; and in the final years of the 20th century, the Disney studios have moved well ahead of other music theatre establishments by creating product intended for simultaneous release in various media, namely, cinema, conventional musical stage and "on ice" shows. The use of the "on ice" format is of interest: the reason why it is an appropriate medium for re-staging animated drama is because the movement of characters on ice allows for almost the same degree of mobility displayed by the cartoon equivalents!
With digital technology animation has assumed a new role in film drama, since it is increasingly used to provide elements of ersatz realism, where success is measured not by the cartoon quality of the images, but by their ability to merge totally with photographic reality.
At this point, it is pertinent to make the comment that film itself has always been a form of music theatre, whether or not the film has been a straight drama (with spoken dialogue) or a "musical" with words both sung and spoken (as in the old 'sing-spiel'!). It is also pertinent to note the debt which film music owes to opera, especially to Wagnerian opera, which Wagner himself regarded as a new form of theatre, and to which he applied the label 'music drama'. In one of the ironies of music history, Wagner's innovations were brought to Hollywood by a generation of emigre Jewish composers who were forced out of Europe by the anti-semitic policies of the Nazis. Prominent among these was Eric Korngold, a former pupil of Richard Strauss. Korngold had achieved success in Germany with several operas, before being obliged to seek refuge in the US, where he applied his skill as a post-Romantic composer in a series of sound tracks for Warner Brothers, including several Errol Flynn action adventure films.
Turning our attention to live stage productions, new technology has also bridged the gap between stage and screen. Improved stage machinery allows faster scene changes. Increasingly, digitalised backdrops on screen replace painted canvas flats. The result is stage productions which in their mobility, emulate the pace of screen drama. Stage musicals make significant use of such innovations to compete with the kind of excitement which screen offers audiences. Opera productions, especially in Europe, reflect this tendency, especially where the producer is also a film director, as in the case of Peter Greenaway.
Another instance of film convention feeding back into live opera is in the use of sur-titles (the projection onto a screen above the stage of a translation of the words as they are being sung - sometimes in English to English being sung!). This device originated in Canada, and it was in response to public satisfaction with the use of sub-titles in filmed opera, and to demand for an equivalent in live theatre.
To sum up: there is now a freely-flowing interaction in staging techniques of music theatre between screen and live theatre, and this applies as much to grand opera as it does the lowliest form of popular music theatre. It is with all of this in mind that I have decided to call the first libretto in my proposed "Atlantis" 4-opera cycle, an opera for multimedia, meaning that the "product" is intended for production in any media in which music theatre is commonly presented, whether live or recorded. The nature of the story is such that any production, whether on stage or for film, will need to make use of digital technology in order to bring to life the fantastic backdrops against which the action of the drama takes place.
Dealing as it does with the planet as it appeared in a different geological age, with now extinct monsters, and with the effects of world cataclysm, it should be presented in any medium with the same degree of verisimilitude that is found in science fiction screen dramas. It seems to me perfectly logical to write an original opera intended for production in all available media, and to call this an opera for multimedia.
Scenario for an original opera for multimedia by Derek Strahan
Cast of characters and Community context
Time: Approx 20,000 B.C.
The Earth - The axis is closer to the perpendicular, the orbit is closer to the Sun, which rises in the East, eternal summer prevails from pole to pole, and there are two moons.
This is the Golden Age of mythology.
Celestium - a city in what will become Antarctica, now free of ice, and the centre of an advanced civilisation with knowledge of metals, crystal and optics, which is a world maritime power.
Eden -an isolated settlement in a mid-Atlantic island (much later to become Atlantis) organised on matriarchal principles, ruled by a Queen, where inheritance is matrilineal, males have no rights of paternity, and (to prevent any claim of such rights) long term heterosexual relationships are discouraged, and paternity is hard to establish. Consequently gay and lesbian relationships have equal social status with heterosexual ones. As everywhere on the globe, the island is lush, fertile and an abundant variety of life forms flourish, including large and dangerous predators among which are found small colonies of dragons (dinosaurs) which are slowly being hunted to extinction. The warrior/hunter class, comprising both males and females, has high status. The community and its sacred places are walled for protection.
LUCIFER - a dissident scientist, formerly a resident of Celestium, now banished to Eden, A man of inquiring mind and of impatient temperament. Is surprised to find himself in love with Eva.
EVA - a young and beautiful Adami, in love with Daemon. A woman of high intelligence, but of no special social status.
ADAM - son of Iahu, in love with Eva. A man of impetuous and jealous nature, a stereo-typical amoral, self-serving alpha-dominant male who wishes to rule Eden himself.
IAHU - Queen of the Adami, of the Hunt, of the Forests, and of the Two Moons. A woman of autocratic manner, a dogmatic defender of matriarchy.
DAEMON - a young and valiant warrior/hunter of the Adami, in love with Eva.
Supporting cast at Eden
KISH - a male Food Bearer for the Adami, a gay man who thrives on gossip, and is of volatile temperament. The lover of ...
ETANA - also a male Food Bearer, who shares Kish's interests, also gay, but is more grounded in his emotions and cautious in his assessments.
Kish and Etana belong to the largely gay section of the Eden community, who, lacking the warrior temperament, opt for the role of being cooks and waiters, and who enjoy the prominent role they play in the frequent Ceremonies and Festivals by which the Calendar of life in Eden is marked.
TIAMAT - a senior female Guard of the Queen, a devoted warrior, with a keen sense of politics, an Amazonian physique, a lesbian and a lover of ...
QINGU - also a female Guard of the Queen, a devoted warrior, devious in temperament, an Amazonian physique, bisexual, involved with Tiamat, by affection and with Ashur, for advantage and information.
Tiamat and Qingu belong to the warrior section of the Eden community, in which there are gay, lesbian and bisexual factions, with few fixed partnerships and many ambiguities. They all enjoy the high status in the Eden community which their warrior/hunter role confers on them. Heroic deeds and high achievement have greater importance than personal attachments, though these are frequent.
ASHUR - a male Guard of the Queen, physically robust, but easily influenced in his allegiances, bisexual, and involved with Qingu, by affection, and with Adam, for advantage and self-advancement.
ANU - a former Guard of the Queen, presently Consort of the Queen, his term of marriage about to end.
NIMRUD - currently a Guard of the Queen, soon to be appointed the next Queen's Consort.
Supporting cast at Celestium
FIRST, SECOND, THIRD JUDGES - Leading Judges at Lucifer's heresy trial.
Chorus: At Celestium
Judges, Council and Guards at heresy trial in Celestium
Chorus: At Eden
Adami, Queens' Acolytes (female), Queen's Contenders (male), Food Bearers, Guards (male & female) and Council (male and female).
VISUAL FX FOR THE OVERTURE: Outer space approaching earth, showing earth with two moons, and showing land forms on earth with variant configuration due to different placement of poles and different sea level. Approach over (what is now) Antarctica, showing mountains, rivers, vegetation and major settlement, the city of Celestium.
VISUAL FX FOR THE PROLOGUE: Approach continues, showing impressive buildings in greater detail, reaching exterior of the Observatory and moving to entrance of Great Hall. Collapse of Great Hall and telescope. Burning Eye demonstration.
SET: Great Hall at Celestium/telescope above suspended on platform (interior).
FOR ACT ONE
SETS: Garden of Eden (Walled Garden of Solitude)/seascape beyond (exterior)
Path to Lucifer's Cave (exterior)
Central meeting area in Eden (exterior)
FOR ACT TWO
VISUAL FX: Lucifer's vision of future cataclysm.
Uses of Burning Eye - demonstration and battle with dragon
Battle with dragon (dinosaur) on clearing at forest edge (exterior)
SETS: Central meeting area in Eden (exterior)
Walking through settlement of Eden (outdoor)
Judgment Hall in Eden (exterior)
Clearing at forest edge/seascape beyond (exterior)
FOR ACT THREE
VISUAL FX: Cataclysm: approach of comet, collision with second moon, rain of meteorites, rain of larger meteor fireballs, ignition of fires in Eden, storm, approach of thunder clouds, electrical storm, approach of successive giant tidal waves, immersion of Eden and extinguishing of fires.
SETS: Lucifer's cave (interior) with panorama looking out to Eden below, ocean, sky with two moons (exterior)
Ceremonial area in Eden / seascape beyond (exterior)
Hut of confinement in forest (exterior)
Where was Eden? When did it exist? A muddle deconstructed.
A consensus seems to be emerging over the past decade about the actual location of "Eden" as suggested by archeological findings of the second half of the 20th century. These seem to confirm beliefs voiced in ancient Sumerian texts. which equate "Eden" with an area called "Dilmun" referred to as the "land of cedars", and "which was also seen as the abode of the gods, and was placed by the ancient Akkadians and Sumerians among the Mountains of the Upper Zagros, which stretched from the borders between Iraq and Iran to the very banks of Lake Van, and even further west into the eastern Taurus range." (*) Contemporary maps thus place "Eden" in northern Iraqi Kurdistan.
This is the region in which early neolithic peoples developed a high level of culture between 9,500 and 5000 B.C. In his recent book "Gateway to Eden", Andrew Collins develops the thesis that this culture was implanted by migrants who fled Egypt following disastrous flooding of the Nile area which coincides with wider world wide climatic changes associated with the end of the Ice Age. These are also described as the end of the Quaternary Age, and referred to in Hebrew Scripture and other mythologies as the Great Flood.
Collins and other writers further suggest that this "Elder" culture was "implanted" in the Nile at a much earlier age, by the same people who built the Sphinx, now thought by many to date to the end of the Astrological Age of Taurus: which would put its construction to pre-10,000 B.C. When it was originally built it had a lion's head. The present head is disproportionately small to the lion's body, and the weathering of the Sphinx and its enclosure are now attributed to water, not to wind; and the period of inundation and heavy rainfall which would have caused such weathering coincides with the period immediately preceding the sudden appearance of "civilisation" in "Eden".
This thesis creates a conflict with Hebraic scriptures, since, in these, the events described in Genesis take place before not after the Great Flood! The Flood is said to have destroyed a high civilisation which developed after humanity rebuilt culture following its expulsion from Eden. However, if the "Eden" of "Dilmun" was named after an earlier "Eden", then there is no conflict. (Ironically, the name "Dilmun" was itself later given to an island in the Persian Gulf now named Bahrain. In the annals of exploration in our own civilisation, the traveller's habit of naming places in distant lands after places in their "home" country, is well established. It is a human characteristic.)
This allows us to presume that there was an earlier "Eden", and that its identity in the Torah and Christian Bible (as belonging to a place and time of paradise) links it to other similar descriptions in other mythologies of a "Golden Age": a time when nature was bountiful, a time before Man had to "till the fields". This suggests a geologically different age of worldwide eternal summer. But only in Hebrew mythology is this place and this time linked to the emergence of the First Man and the First Woman. In other pre-existing mythologies, the Golden Age is not necessarily the first age of humanity, but only its best. Moreover, the deity who presides over the Eden of the Bible, Jehovah, has a prior existence as a female Sumerian goddess, Iahu. It is tempting, therefore, to regard the Biblical account as partly inspired by patriarchal polemic, especially as in it, woman is given a subservient role.
What is quite clear in all mythologies is that Golden Age came to an end, and re-entry to it was barred.
This suggests that the earth it represents came to an end, and that the end referred to is the end of an Age. Thus, in "Eden in Atlantis" I have chosen, as Paradise, an island, and as its leader, a woman named after a god, or after whom a god was later named; and as the community she ruled, one organised by women. I have retained the four principal persona of the scriptural Eden story, and have followed logic in developing their characters in accordance with the modified terms of reference as outlined above. Thus God (who "walked with Adam") becomes the female leader of Eden. Adam, the creation of God, is her son, who jealously wishes to rule in her place. The Serpent is given the name of the rebel angel, Lucifer; and he, as the bearer of forbidden knowledge, is a dissident scientist, who has already been banished from his home in another land for the crime of disobedience: that is, he has already fallen from Heaven. Eve, being both beautiful, intelligent and of lowly station, is loved and desired by both Adam and Lucifer.
Other characters in this story give extra dimensions to the society and locality of Eden. Eve's first love, Daemon, is named after an elemental nature spirit. Homosexual characters of each sex provide social logic in a society where paternity does not confer ownership of progeny. There is another serpent, in the form of a dragon, one of the many monsters for whom this Age was also a paradise of plenty.
(*)Chapter 16, "Gateway to Eden", of "Gods of Eden" , Andrew Collins, Headline Book Publishing, 1998