CAITLIN ROWLEY
composer

ENO Mini Opera: At draft’s end

Well, I’ve got to the end of the draft! I was beginning to think it would never happen, but I’m there. It was about 7’30” long, so I’ve made a couple of cuts and tightened it up a bit to pull it in under the 7 minute mark. ENO said a few seconds over is allowable, but I wanted to see if I could make it fit without compromising the structure, and I think it’s actually better for it.

I’ve had to make some quite significant cuts in the second half of the libretto to get to this point. It kind of hurt to do it, because I think the libretto as a piece of writing is well balanced, but with the music there were just bits that weren’t working. I could see that there wasn’t enough time to include all the words anyway, so once I realised that I also didn’t really know how to handle the chorus of Politicians’ text properly, and given the difficulty in sourcing male voices – having struggled to find a tenor for the role of the Journalist and at that point only having been able to recruit altos for the choral parts – it seemed a better idea to cut it and just keep The Inspector’s words from that section.

This, of course, makes the role of The Inspector even more central than it was before. The character of the innocent dominates the opera, encircled by the smaller, malevolent roles of The Advisor, The Journalist and the chorus of Journalists. I’m hoping Charles doesn’t mind too much 🙂

I’ve also cut a small section out of the final aria. I wanted to reuse ideas from the first aria, so that the whole wouldn’t seem too rambly, and to reinforce the repetitions in the libretto, and the section “An animal in the trap of its own life, a creature fallen into the gap of its own existence” didn’t sit comfortably – it felt like it was going to draw the material I had out too far, make it feel like I was belabouring the point. Plus, of course, that pesky time-limit.

The part I cut to bring it in under the time-limit is actually a pretty significant piece of text and I hope I haven’t done a disservice to understanding what’s going on by removing it. It appears at the end of the second draft recording that’s up on Soundcloud – “I whispered doubts”. I did really like the end of that section, but the beginning was meandering a bit, and once I’d drafted the end there were quite a lot of sections which were The Inspector singing about how he’d been misrepresented. By the time the Politicians were cut, there was another one too, so I think the drama works better without this section and what I have for “It couldn’t be me” I think is better than what I had for “I whispered doubts” so I’m hoping it’ll all come out in the wash.

So that’s the draft done. I can’t quite believe I’ve actually written 7 minutes of relatively coherent music in about 4 weeks. That’s a first. Length has never been my strong suit – pretty much everything I’ve ever written has tended towards the miniature, so I’m quite pleased with this.

Of course, now I have a mere week in which to flesh out and orchestrate the accompaniment, receive recordings from the principals and chorus, and assemble all those bits into a coherent whole. So the whole thing could still fall flat on its face. Wait and see…

I’m still desperately seeking choral singers! As you can tell, it’s a small part – why not give it a go?

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