The Genesis of an Opera

Composer Chip Michael and I had decided we wished to produce an Opera together; something fresh, vital, modern and exciting! We knew that we wanted the rhythms of the story to resonate with modern life, and yet to hold historic truths and be truly indicative of human nature both past and present. Every good story begins with the "What if..." and the story of an opera is no different. In our particular case the What if sprung from the realization that of the entire pantheon of the Greek Gods, Fate is the last one standing. No one swears by Apollo any more, or prays to Zeus, but people all over the world still refer to their fate, greeting dramatic events with a fatalism that has changed little since the days of ancient Greece. So... What if... the Fates looked up from their weaving one day and realised they were the last Gods standing?

Enter Chorus: "It wasn't always like this. This. I mean the cave, the weaving. Fate didn't always take these three aspects, hideous parodies of womanhood - Virginal Child, Pulchritudinous Mother, Withered Hag. Once they were all young, strong, glorious in the divinity of their birth - proud daughters of Zeus himself and Themis, the lovely Goddess of Necessity. Oh, how they shone! Three daughters, one incarnation - Fate. Atropos, the Inevitable One, the knower of things that are to be. Lachesis, the Measurer, knower of things that were, and sweet Clotho, the Manifest One, knower of things that are."

"Oh, such gifts had these daughters of Zeus! They could dance, sing, play upon the lyre. They could paint, sculpt and weave. They could ride and hunt, wielding bow and falcon with deadly grace. They invented the seven letters of the Greek alphabet, an unparalleled gift to the humans. And how they fought! In the legions of the Gods there were few with their bravery. When Zeus clashed with the Titans, his daughters, along with the rest of the Pantheon fought to beat the monsters back, and Fate killed two of the giants, a feat even their brother Apollo couldn't match."

"It was jealousy of these accomplishments which led Apollo to complain to Zeus. ’How could Fate possibly be doing their job and properly looking after the Human Race', he whined. 'After all, the humans have been breeding fruitfully for hundreds of years - years that Fate has spent gallivanting with the court, making merry and (rightfully so) fighting at your side. With so many more humans to look after, how, mighty Zeus, can she ever find time for it all?'"

"Zeus was wise to Apollo's ploy and knew that the motive for this slander was envy, but still, a seed was planted. Before long Zeus doubted the girls. Their appearance at a banquet or a hunt would be greeted with genial questioning that soon turned to approbation. It was in less than the turn of a human's paltry lifespan that the paranoia planted by a petty sibling grew into the rage that caused Zeus to banish his favorite daughters to their rocky tomb. Condemned to do nothing with their talents and gifts but spin, measure and cut the glittering threads of human life spans."

"The Fates fought the boredom of their confinement, weaving the human threads into a tapestry of astounding beauty. They sang to each other and composed great poems and plays using their alphabet. They danced and trained with sticks in place of their swords. They speculated, dreamed and wished after the life they would lead when Zeus came to his senses. But the years became decades, slipped into centuries and stretched to millennia - and Zeus never came. Over time the singing and storytelling dried up, the dancing and training stopped. Fate began to focus the entirety of her intelligence on the gigantic tapestry of humanity. The great blue world shrunk to the dimensions of a tiny cave off the cliffs of Mt. Olympus and the glittering play of threads by torchlight."

"And now? Centuries, eons later? I ask myself if maybe they have been alone too long. What would have happened if they had looked up from their weaving long enough to notice that Apollo and Zeus had both fallen away lost in the mists of time. Fate are the last of the old Gods to rule. Don't get me wrong, the others are still there, it's just that only Fate has kept her place in the hearts and minds of man. Only Fate. I have observed through the years, content at last that this is the final chapter of a glorious history. My job? To tell that history - to portray in some small way the sense of God-head, the majesty and the glory that resided, resides, in the person(s) of Fate. Only Fate is not cooperating. The days when Gods walked among men are over, gone, dust! But Clotho has different ideas."

And from that germ of an idea our opera has grown. Our Clotho re-christens herself Chloe and heads to earth to experience life and to understand the humans whose destiny she weaves. Her sisters throw off their mother/hag aspects and join her. Together the three fates will discover what it means to be human, and along the way discover their own humanity.

Comments

Rob said…
Eddie - if you haven't read this you'd probably enjoy it.

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