Broken Strings




Dramatic text for a one-act ‘opera’, originally intended by composer Param Vir as companion-piece in a double-bill with his earlier one-act Snatched by the Gods (text, William Radice); but now beginning an independent existence. (I put ‘opera’ in quotes because it’s a word that ‘P.V.’ and I both feel has cultural resonances that are alien to what we’re trying to achieve; we think more in terms of ‘music theatre’.)

Publishers: Novello

Because in this piece the action on the space is itself centred on musical performance, and on questions of excellence, and because also of the revelationary nature of the story, the dramaturgy was particularly difficult to achieve. There are three distinct ‘frames’ of music in play: the outer music of our ‘opera’ itself; the inner music of the play within our ‘opera’; then, gradually burning these away, the transcending music that, as each string breaks, the intensifying visions bring... And what is one to do when the last string breaks? After seven complete re-workings, the Broken Strings dramaturgy can boast the most hard-won quality of all: it looks as obvious and simple as falling off a log. (No marks to the British music critic who asserted that it is ‘wrong’ to begin the action of an opera before the music starts.)

Commissioned by Hans Werner Henze for the Munich Music Theatre Festival in 1992, the double-bill was directed by Pierre Audi for Nederlandse Oper, Amsterdam, and first presented there and subsequently at the Munich festival that same year. It has since enjoyed several further productions - at the Almeida Music Festival, London, and at Scottish Opera. It has also been seen in other productions in Belgium and Vienna, and in a revival of Audi’s original production in Holland again. In Berlin in 1996, Broken Strings was paired with Holst’s Savitri. In 2001, the original production was again revived, and toured to Rotterdam, Antwerp and Rouen.

The libretto is published, in programme booklet form, by Scottish Opera, Glasgow, G2 4PT.

Currently in development with Param Vir, a full-length music-theatre piece, seeking support from a major opera-house; also, in one act, Black Feather Rising, commissioned by the Netherlands ensemble Stichting Octopus, and scheduled for production in October 2008.