All rights reserved Copyright (C) 1994 Derek Strahan
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Civilisation has not gradually evolved in a slow and
continual progress towards perfection. It has moved in
cycles, interrupted by frightening global cataclysms which
have left their mark on the human psyche. The human race
remembers these in myth, but, in its terror, has sought
comfort in fantasies of empowerment, principally the fantasy
that the disasters were caused by its own wickedness. This
fantasy gives the human race the illusion that it can
prevent disaster by adherence to moral codes enshrined in
what has come to be known as religion. This is not said to
question the supremacy of the Intelligence which creates and
which is the Universe. It is said to suggest deficiencies in
human understand of that Intelligence. Although, ostensibly,
the purpose of religion is to enable humans to be controlled
by God through revelation of morality, the real purpose of
religion is to enable humans to control the behaviour of God
through propitiation and adherence to moral codes!
Unfortunately the moral codes evolved for this purpose have
a rigidity in excess of the requirements of social
regulation. The rigidity is a symptom of human fear of
failure (because failure will lead to catastrophe).
Unfortunately (again), in failing to live up to the demands
of such codes, human terror is compounded by a double sense
The last two dimly remembered cataclysms were:
1) The expulsion from Eden (or Paradise): actually a drastic change in climatic conditions, possibly caused by an axis tilt or a slippage of the earth's crust, perhaps triggered by an earlier cosmic intruder.
2) The Great Flood (or the end of the Ice Age), again cause by a drastic climatic change (for the purpose of this opera, presumed to be an asteroid strike in the Gulf of Mexico caused by an unusual celestial conjunction).
Characters in the opera cycle will show awareness of these issues, and we will observe at first hand the evolution of some of these attitudes in reaction to events.
SECONDARY THEME: In its efforts to achieve self-regimenting social organisation, the human race has constantly experimented with different social structures. At either extreme are matriarchy and patriarchy, each a means of empowerment of one sex at the expense of the other. These are, obviously, an expression in macrocosm of the eternal conflict between female and male individuals, which is the microcosm. The macrocosm is much slower to change than the microcosm! That is to say, it is much easier for individuals than for systems to find a balance between each other's desire to control and dominate. Individuals can sometimes achieve this in a lifetime but the lifetime of a social system may span hundreds, possibly thousands of years, and it may even require a global cataclysm to bring about change. Unfortunately, with the cataclysm comes loss of culture.
In integrating the two themes outlined above, the dramas on which the opera cycle is based will explore the interaction between the macrocosm and the microcosm.
An implication of the "story" will be that we, the human race, are still experimenting and striving to create conditions of justice and fairness for ourselves, for each other. An important part of this process lies in the casting off of illusions about ourselves, and in facing up to the facts, the truth about our past. Unless the truth is disclosed and accepted, we are doomed to repeat the cyclical errors of the past.
STYLE - APPROACH TO MATERIAL: A quasi-realist approach:- mythic figures will be treated as real people, just as real explanations will be found for mythic events. Dramatis personae will include characters from both upper and lower strata of society. This will provide a core of "anchor" characters - ordinary people through whose perspective extraordinary events are witnessed and experience - to balance the presence of rulers.
The libretto will include both declamatory or narrative passages and passages in the vernacular, making individuals accessible to and recognisable by audiences.
The staging of catastrophic events will be presented in such a way that they can be shown on stage! For example, at the close of "Eden In Atlantis" the events of the cataclysm are all seen as events happening in the night sky. At minimum, this requires the use of the stage backdrop as a cyclorama on which, through techniques of lighting and projection, the events can be "painted" in motion. Smoke and explosions are a staple of theatrical excitement. The "shaking" of scenery and stage props to simulate seismic effects is, admittedly, a challenge, but the spectacle of Eden on fire is seen by the characters from a high mountain ledge. At maximum, staging this event allows for the fullest possible use of new technology. At minimum, the events being also described vocally in the libretto, the singing of these passages can occur against a backdrop of lighting and smoke to suggest "sulphurous fires". The importance of the scene lies not only in its visceral effect but also in the emotional reaction of the characters to the destruction of Paradise. The motivating agents to portray this are libretto and music, and the performance thereof. Visualisation is the prerogative of the producer and director. Hopefully, they would respect the compose/librettist's desire for a quasi-realist treatment!
DRAMATIC STRUCTURE: Each
opera will present a self-contained story, but all willbe
thematically linked. In each there will be three levels:
Prodigious events, heroic deeds, betrayals; rulers and their rebellious progeny; priests, priestesses, functionaries and their political intrigues; the leaven of the common people; and, in each opera, a primary relationship which struggles for fulfilment.